A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

February 23, 2008

The Scent of A Woman (or in our case a female alpaca)

Cosmo demonstrates the Flehman Response

I have often thought that cats and alpacas are similar in personality.  Both prefer to come up to you when they are ready rather than have you approach them, both love to lounge in the sunshine, and it seems that they also share a similar behavior in scenting females of the species.

Recently we received a newsletter from The Sundance Ranch Feline Sanctuary that is also located in Clovis, New Mexico.    The Sundance Ranch Feline Sanctuary provides a much needed resource for domestic cats and kittens in our area.  In the Q & A section of the January/February issue of the Sundance Ranch Newsletter the question was regarding the strange expression cats get on their face after smelling something.  The answer addressed the “Flehmen Response” and got my attention as alpacas too exhibit the “Flehmen Response”

In the picture at the top of this post you can see our Suri alpaca Cosmo giving a lovely demonstration of the Flehmen Response.    This strange pose occurs when a male alpaca smells the urine of another alpaca and often occurs at the alpaca poop piles.  The alpaca doing the smelling will throw his head back and curl his upper lip back at the same time which helps to seal his nostrils and draw the scent over a receptor on the roof of the alpacas mouth called the Jacobsen’s Organ.  As the scent is drawn over the Jacobsen’s Organ the alpaca can detect if the urine he is scenting is from a female alpaca who is receptive to breeding.

If the alpacas were all kept together the male alpaca would find the receptive female alpaca and breed her, but we are careful with our breeding program and keep the male and female alpacas in separate pens.

Sometimes I will see our male alpacas exhibiting the Flehmen Response at their own poop pile; very occasionally I have seen a female alpaca exhibit this behavior. 

I must admit to get the picture at the top of this blog some staging was necessary.  All I had to do was wheel in a wheelbarrow full of poop from the girl’s pasture and the boys started sniffing and posing for me.  Of course the boys were sorely disappointed that a visit from the girls did not follow the appearance of the wheelbarrow, but never mind, it won’t be long until crias start to arrive and then the girls will be ready for a visit from the boys (well the select few boys anyway, sorry Cosmo we don’t have any Suri girls for you).  Until that time the boys can continue to practice the Flehman Response at their own poop pile and dream of the girls in the pasture across the driveway.


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