ABC(and D and E) of Color Genetics
You may ask why I write about color genetics?
I am not an expert in any genetics, but I have a simple way to explain
the principles of color genetics for English Angora.
I am not going to use big words, so relax and follow my
The color of rabbits are determined by 5 letters: A, B, C, D, E.
Wild rabbits carry color genetic make up of AABBCCDDEE which appear as chestnut
agouti. Over thousands of years, mutations occured. In addition to all capital
letters genes, some genes of lower letters and lower letters with subscripts show up.
There are some rules to remember:
- The capital letter genes, in
principle, are the dominant genes. The lower letter genes are recessive
to the capital letter genes.
- A rabbitís appearance is determined by
the dominant gene, it may carry copies of recessive gene that we do not
- A sire and a dam with the appearances of all reccessive genes can
not produce offsprings with dominant gene.
- The bunny will obtain one
gene from the sire and one gene from the dam.
With the above in mind, Iíll discuss the ABCDE in 5 series, all the
letter are arranged in the order of dominance.
A Series: determines Agouti (A) or non-agouti (at or a)
- A stands for Agouti: Since A is dominant, all agouti patterned rabbit
carries at least one A gene. Examples of Agouti colors are: chestnut
agouti, chocolate agouti, chinchilla, opal, fawn, etc.
- at stands for tan or marten pattern. Tan and marten pattern are not
accepted in Angoras. It will not be discussed here.
- a stands for non-agouti: a is recessive to A, that means an Agouti
patterned rabbit may carry a gene but a non-agouti rabbit will not
carry A gene. Examples of non-agouti colors are: black, blue,
chocolate, lilac, tort, blue tort, pearl, ... etc.
B Series: determines Black (B) or brown (b)
- B stands for black. There are only two variations of black: black and
blue. If a rabbit is a black or blue, the rabbit must carry at least
a B. Whether it is a black or blue will be determined by the D
- b stands for brown. In Angora, we call it chocolate.
There are two variations of chocolate: chocolate and lilac. If the
rabbit is chocolate and lilac, the rabbit must carry two b genes. b
is recessive to B, so a chocolate or lilac rabbit can not carry B.
Whether the rabbit is chocolate of lilac will be determined by the D
C Series: determines Colored (C), dark chin (cchd), sable (cchl),
himi (ch) or Albino (c)
- C stands for colored: Most of the regularly colored rabbits carry
C. If you see a black, chocolate, chestnut agouti, tort, ....
rabbit, you can be sure it carries at least a C gene. C is dominant
of cchd, cchl, ch, c.
The second gene may be a C or any one of the four lower letters.
- cchd stands for dark chinchilla. Chinchilla is a colored rabbit but
does not carry a C, sort of an exception to the rule. A special
notation for the chin - gene is cchd, a chinchilla rabbit cannot carry
C since cchd is recessive to the C gene. cchd
is dominant of chl, ch
and c, so the second letter to cchd may be cchd
or any of cchl, ch and c. In order to get a
chinchilla rabbit, it has to carry a A for agouti gene. If not, it may cause a
non-agouti rabbit to have wrong eye color.
- cchl stands for light chinchilla. It is more correct to think of it
as a sable gene. If a rabbit carries cchl and combines with A, the
color of the chin is muddy with brownish, reddish tinge- a very poor
chin color. However, the sable color needs a brownish reddish tinge.
cchl is the gene which makes the right color. Sable requires non-agouti
a to be combined wtih cchl. If the rabbit carries
two cchl, in Angora breed, it is called dark sable. If one
cchl with ch or c, it is a regular or light sable.
Both cchd and cchl rabbits do not carry the true color
gene C, so some of the eye colors tend to have a ruby glow.
- ch stands for himi or pointed white. ch gene
covers the colors on the rabbitís body and only allows the colors to show on the points.
So the rabbit has all appearance of a white rabbit except the points. There
is no color in the eyes. The eyes appeared to be pink, what we see is
actually the blood vessals.
- c: stands for albino. The appearance of the rabbit is ruby eye white.
The rabbit may carry any of the genes in A, B, D, E series,
but the cc genes act like a white sheet covering all other characteristics of the
color genes. c is the most recessive in the C series. Breeding two
ruby eye white rabbits will result in nothing but ruby eye white.
D Series: determines Dense color (D) or dilute color (d)
- D stands for dense color. Black, chocolate, chestnut agouti are dense
colors, the rabbit must carry at least one D gene.
- d stands for dilute color. Blue, lilac, opal are dilute colors, the
rabbit must carry two dd genes.
E Series: Es, E, ej, e
- Es stands for steel. As a general rule, mutated genes are
recessive to the original gene. Es is an exception to the rule.
This is a mutation but takes dominance.
Es acts differently from other genes - it modifies
the color rather determines the color. I have not seen a steel English
Angora in all my years of raising the breed. There are steel French
and Satin Angoras. When combined with Agouti gene, it look like a
very dark chestnut or wild grey agouti. The easy way to identify a
steel is to look at the tummy. A chestnut or wild grey agouti has
white or light color tummy, a steel has a dark tummy. When combined
with a gene, it look like a black rabbit with brown hairs stick out
- it is a disqualification.
- E stands for extension. When a rabbit carries at least one E gene,
the color of the rabbit extends from base to tip. Black, blue,
chocolate, lilac, chestnut agouti, opal, chinchilla, .... all of these
rabbits has extended colors.
- ej stands for Japanese, not relevant to Angoras.
- e stands for non-extension. Tort, blue tort, choc. tort, lilac tort,
fawn, cream, pearl, all these rabbits have something in common: they
are colored rabbits but the body color is different or lighter than the
point color. They all carry two copies of non-extension gene ee.
As a result the true color of these rabbits are not extended to the
body, only the points carry the true color. Example, a tort is a
black rabbit whose black color is not extended over its body.
The above is a very simplified version of basic color genetics. I did
not cover red which requires rufus gene, broken which requires En
gene and blue eye white which requires vv gene.
If there are color genetics experts out there shaking their heads when
reading this article, please excuse me. Over the years, I found out
that if I tried to use all the big and correct words in genetics to
explain the basics, I got lost and most people got lost. When I use
this method, I was able to help many of my fellow breeders to understand
the basics and got interested in mapping out the color genetics of their own
With the above in mind, letís apply some of the principles in the
following three examples:
- A blue tort:
It is a non-agouti, therefore aa. It is a blue, a
variation of black, therefore B-; we put a - after B because B is
dominant of b, so it is possible to have either a B or a b following the
first B. It is a colored rabbit, therefore C-; the second gene may be
a dark chin, a sable, a himi or a REW. Blue is a dilute, therefore
dd. Tort is a non-extension, therefore ee. The general color
genetics for a blue tort is: aaB-C-ddee.
If you breed this rabbit to
another rabbit and give a REW bunny and a chocolate bunny, you will have
enough information to put a b in the first blank and c in the second
blank. The reason is that it requires a b from sire and a b from
dam to make a chocolate and a c from sire and c from dam to make a
REW. This blue tort will have to carry a b and a c; and thus the
genetic mapping of this blue tort is complete.
- An opal:
Opal is a agouti, therefore A-. The Bís, Cís,
Dís are the same as a blue tort. Opal is an extended color, therefore E-.
The general make up of an opal rabbit is A-B-C-ddE-.
If this opal rabbit has one non-agouti parent or offspring, the first
blank can be filled with an a, if the opal has a chocolate parent or
offspring, the second blank can be filled with a b, if the opal has a
white parent or offspring, the third blank can be filled with c, and
if the opal has a tort parent or offspring, the last blank can be filled
- A black, a tort and a chestnut agouti have essentially the same
color genetics with only one variation:
- black: aaB-C-D-E-
- aa for non agouti;
- B for black, - means it may carry another B or b
(remember, B is dominate of b);
- C for colored, - means it may carry another C or
cchd, cchl, ch or c,
- D for dense color, - means it may carry another D or dilute
- E for color is extended, - means it may carry another E or
- tort: aaB-C-D-ee
Everything is the same as black except the
color is non-extended. The appearance of the rabbit is black points
but the body is beige.
- chestnut agouti: A-B-C-D-E-
Everything is the same as black except it carries a dominant agouti gene.
For color references please check my photo gallary:
- Write up the color genetics of these three set of examples by using example (3) above.
- Blue, blue tort and opal.
- chocolate, choc. tort and choc. agouti.
- lilac, lilac tort and lynx.
- The sire and dam are both black, is it possible to have the
following bunnies? Why?
- ruby eye white.
- chestnut agouti.
- himi (pointed white)
- A blue is bred to a blue tort, is it possible to have the following
- ruby eye white.
- choc. tort.
- lilac tort.
- A REW bunny comes out the breeding of a tort and a blue tort. Map
out the color genetics of the tort, the blue tort and the REW bunny.
- A chinchilla bred to a REW and results in a sable bunny. Map out
the color genetics of the chin, the REW and the sable bunny.
If you do the homework and wish to know whether your answers are
correct, you may email me at BettyChuEnglishAngora@yahoo.com and I'd be happy
to grade your paper.
Copyright © 1998 - 2009 and thereafter by Betty Chu. All rights reserved
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