Breeding for color

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May 5, 2024
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Does the kits color come more from the buck or doe? If I'm trying to come out with a certain color would I need a doe and buck of the same color, then would I come out with more of that same color? Thanks
Will it always be random? Like albino new zealands or new Zealand reds, aren't they a specific color and only that color as long as they are bred to one of it's kind?
If the whole line of both parents is only REW then it's highly likely that the Kits will be REW
But it also covers up a lot of others colors and sometimes a color could sneak in from far down the line
That's quite a can of worms :D.

Some colours are erecessive, like REW, some recessive like agouti vs. black. [Edit: got that wrong the first time, REW is not dominant]

Then there are other factors, I bred two agouti rabbits - and got quite a diverse litter. Both carried black (recessive), and non-extension, also recessive. Once you know what genes your rabbits have it's just number crunching to get to know the probabilities of certain colours to emerge. Some genes are visible, others you can only find by test breeding. Knowing the heritage helps a lot.

Thread about my two wildies:
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Will it always be random? Like albino new zealands or new Zealand reds, aren't they a specific color and only that color as long as they are bred to one of it's kind?
My current red New Zealand parents just produced 50/50 REW and red. Same buck to a different doe previously produced two REWs to six reds. I was going to sell or cull for meat the REW doe from the first litter, but she is the one that would always come to the front for me to pick her up and hold her. We would sit in the rocker on the patio and she would sleep on my chest for 30 minutes at a time while I petted her. She is now a nice big sweet lovely girl and I am keeping her, creepy eyes and all! 🥰
Every rabbit has two copies of each gene, one copy from each parent. Each of the main color genes has a scale of dominance. A dominant gene only needs one copy to show that color. With more recessive color options, you either need two of the same recessive gene, or a copy of a more recessive gene to go along with it. With rabbits that have been bred generation after generation for the same color, color tends to be more predictable, as there are less hidden recessives in their gene bank. With crossbred rabbits, or purebred rabbits that have been bred to a variety of colors for the last several generations, there could be a real alphabet soup of genetics, which means the litters could have a wide array of possible colors.

Agouti rabbits, like reds, castor, lynx, opal, chocolate agouti, and chinchillas--have the dominant agouti gene (coded 'A'). They only need one agouti copy. Agouti rabbits have light eye rings, light inside the ears, light belly, light around the nose; the individual hairshaft has multiple bands of colors.. There are two other options on the agouti gene. The most recessive is non-agouti, or self. These rabbits have no light agouti markings, and the hairshaft is all one color, even if gets lighter towards the skin. If you mate two self colored rabbits, you can only get more self colored rabbits. 'Tan' rabbits, the otters and martens, seem halfway in-between the two. They have the light agouti markings, but not the bands on the hairshaft. Tans are recessive to agouti, but dominant over self.

The black gene (coded B) is dominant, the only recessive option is brown, which we call 'chocolate' in rabbits.

The color gene (coded C) actually has five options, in descending order of dominance:
  1. Full color--both black and yellowish pigment factories are in working order, so whatever the other color genetics are, they can function properly. This would include all the normal agouti colors like red, fawn, castor, lynx, opal, as well as the tortoiseshells. Other self colors could be full color or chinchilla, since they are dark pigment only. Dominant over all the other choices.
  2. Chinchilla--the black pigment factory is in working order, but the yellowish shades are reduced or eliminated. A chinchilla rabbit is really a castor/chestnut agouti, but the yellowish middle band on the hair can't print yellow, so it is pearl white instead. Red/fawn rabbits become ermine/frosty, tortoiseshells become pearls. Dominant over sable, himi and REW.
  3. Sable/shaded--the black pigment is reduced, turning black into dark sepia brown, no yellowish pigment is produced. Red/fawn rabbits are ermine/frosty, torts become pearls, but the dark colors are dimimished as well, with more of a sepia tone. Dominant over himi and REW.
  4. Himalayan/Californian/pointed white--color is only produced on the cooler points (ears, nose, feet & tail), the rest of the body prints no color at all, just white. Dominant over REW.
  5. Red/ruby eyed white REW--no color prints at all, just albino white, totally recessive. If you mate two REW rabbits, they each only have this recessive REW gene to pass along, and you'll get REW babies. If you mate blue-eyed white to albino REW, the REW will stop all color, including the blue eyes. REW rabbits can genetically be any color at all, a harlequin, a broken, a red, a chinchilla, any agouti, any self or marten or anything--but REW padlocks the pigment factories, and those colors can't print, you just see a white sheet. If you mate REW to anything more dominant (which is anything but REW), that opens the Pandora's box of all those hidden colors, and you can get quite an array of possible kit colors.
The same goes for the Dilute gene (full color or reduced color) that turns black into blue or chocolate into lilac. Dense color is dominant, dilute is recessive.

The last main gene is called 'Extension', and deals with how the dark color is extended down the agouti hairshaft banding. It also have five options.
  1. Dominant black is said to only be common in a few breeds, where the dark color goes all the way down the hairshaft, looking like a self.
  2. Next down is steel, where the agouti bands are stuck clear out on the tip of the hair. You notice the yellowish band near the tip (called gold-tipped steel) or the chinchilla/sable pearl band (called silver-tipped steel).
  3. Normal extension, where the colors extend down the hairshaft normally. These are all the standard agouti colors, and the self colors would be here, too.
  4. Harlequin, where the bands on the individual hairs become patches of dark and light on the skin.
  5. Non-extension, the most recessive, where the dark color just plain doesn't extend down the hairshaft, the main body hair is yellowish. This includes red, orange, fawn, and cream agouti, as well as the tortoiseshells. In chinchilla/sable rabbits, the main body hair will be pearl white when they have the non-extension gene.
So, to figure out what possible colors you will get in the litter, you need to know what colors are in the background of the parents, and then figure out what you would get as possible offspring. You can have fun spending a lot of time working this out by hand, or go online to one of the rabbit color calculators, plug in the parents' colors, and see what colors are possible. The more you know about the parents' colors, the closer you can guess what kit colors are possible.

For instance, a chestnut/castor agouti is A_B _C_D_E_. That means they have at least one dominant copy of each of the five main color genes. But, that underscore shows there is a companion to each of those genes, and since just one copy is enough to make that color show up, we don't know if they have a second dominant copy or a recessive hiding in there. Hidden recessives are what can really make alphabet soup of a litter. If each parent has a hidden recessive in each place, and each one happens to donate that recessive to an offspring, you could end up with a non-agouti, chocolate, chinchilla/sable/himi or REW, dilute and maybe harlequin or non-extension. That might be a lilac tortoiseshell, an albino REW, or a lilac magpie harlequin. Wouldn't that be a surprise from two black agouti (aka castor or chestnut) parents?

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