Blue-Eyed Whites – not as black as they are painted

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The real truth about blue-eyed white Alpacas

A great deal of controversy and prejudice exists in the Alpaca industry regarding the use of blue-eyed white alpacas for breeding. A blue-eyed white is an all-white alpaca with blue eyes, which are often deaf – although around 20% have normal hearing. Many alpaca breeders (usually those who have not studied this phenomenon) believe blue-eyed whites should therefore not be used for breeding, and the NZ Alpaca Association has gone so far as to call blue-eyes in white alpacas a fault – not a disqualifying fault ie blue-eyed whites can still be registered, but if they are shown, their blue eyes will mitigate against them. This stand completely ignores both genetic evidence and the fact that nearly a quarter of blue-eyed whites can hear.

What is the disadvantage of hearing loss to the alpaca? In a herd situation, alpacas learn to take their cues from the other herd members, to the degree that many owners of blue-eyed whites are often unable to determine whether their alpaca is deaf, or not. Therefore, one has to assume lack of hearing is not a great disadvantage, except perhaps where the alpaca is not kept in a herd situation (less than 3 alpacas). The alpaca suffers neither pain nor discomfort as a result of deafness.

So is there a use for blue-eyed white alpacas, or should breeders cease to use these animals for breeding? Interested breeders in both Australia and USA, who are also trained geneticists, have revealed much about colour inheritance in blue-eyed whites since early 2000. The evidence that there is no gene for blue-eyed white is over-whelming. Instead it appears that the combination of at least two genes bestowing unpigmented cells (especially a combination of grey & white spotting) in one animal, creates an “overload” of unpigmented cells creating a semi-albino alpaca. Thus, mating a blue-eyed white to a solid coloured alpaca (excluding solid white) will result in a coloured cria which is not deaf.

Coloured daughter of a blue-eyed White

Coloured daugter of a blue eyed white

Grey – a common result of mating a blue-eyed white to a solid black.

     

Further, the relationship of blue-eyed white to grey is now well-established, and  grey alpacas often result from the mating of blue-eyed whites to solid black alpacas. So if you want to breed greys – the most difficult of all alpaca colours to produce, but also one of the most popular – blue-eyed white females definitely have a place in your herd.

However, it must be agreed that deafness is not a desirable trait, so the deliberate breeding of blue-eyed whites should be avoided. The attached articles below go into this in some depth, but simple rules of thumb are:

  1. Do not mate blue-eyed white to blue-eyed white
  2. Do not mate greys to white-spotted animals, or to solid whites.
  3. Do not mate blue eyed whites to greys
  4. Do not retain blue eyed white males for breeding
  5. Do not mate white spotted animals to other white spotted animals
  6. Do not mate white spotted animals to multi or fancy animals, or other white-spotted animals.
  7. Do not repeat a mating which produces even one blue eyed white.

 

If you follow the rules, your blue-eyed white females will produce attractive white spotted cria, or those highly desirable greys.

Further Reading:
Alpaca World Magazine – A Better Use for Blue Eyed Whites
Dr Andrew Merriweather PH.D and Mrs Ann M Merriweather, Ph.D – Blue Eyed Whites