What is a Paco-Vicuña?
by Phil Switzer
Paco-vicuña have probably existed in small numbers ever since the Incas’ ancestors created the alpaca breed many years ago. Essentially, male vicuñas would mix with herds of alpaca and breeding would occur. The first known case of humans breeding vicuñas to alpacas intentionally occurred in the 1840’s by Father Don Julio Cabrera. He raised a herd for a considerable length of time. Cabrera had some success, but he failed to have the resources needed for the project to continue.
In 1911, Z.R Gallegos reports that there were several attempts at crossing the alpaca with the vicuña, but that all had failed because the 50-50 crosses were continually bred back to alpacas. Therefore, the vicuña gene was diluted and by the third generation most, if not all, traits were returned to alpaca. Gallegos suggested a concerted breeding program for a specific specialized paco-vicuña, but the project was not undertaken. In 1927 A. F. barker suggested a similar project be undertaken, but once again, the resources were not made available.
Professor Escobar of Peru ran an experiment in the mid 1960’s crossing vicuña and paco-vicuña. His experiment was cut short by the sale of the ranch he was using, but he did conclude the paco-vicuña had significantly finer fleece than the alpaca. Also, he found the paco-vicuña had a longer staple than the vicuña as well as less secondary hairs. He concluded that previous attempts at raising paco-vicuña, that involved breeding a male vicuña to female alpacas and then taking the F1 generation and breeding them back to other alpacas, diluted the breed with alpaca genetics. This eventually led to the breed reverting back to an alpaca. Escobar said the best approach would be to create an entirely new breed where the early generation is bred back to other paco-vicuñas as well as all subsequent generations.
We have taken Escobar’s advice to heart. We have been breeding for an entirely new breed of animal with distinct vicuña-like characteristics and never breeding back to full alpaca. Our paco-vicuña breeding program has concentrated on the exquisite quality of the fleece with high priority given to fiber fineness and density.