Complete Rabbit Colour Genetics Guide

Introduction

*If possible it is recomended this article be viewed from a computer instead of a phone*

This article is a complete guide to rabbit colour genetics featuring every known gene in rabbits using easy to follow instructions and pictures. As a responsible breeder, knowing your genetics can be a very good tool to have. I get so many questions in the rabbit world like “can I breed this colour to this one” or “what will I get with this pairing”. Though quality, health, and personality are more important then colour, you should still have knowledge of the colours you are working with. This way you will know how to pair colours together. By not having the knowledge required, you can actually mess up colours. Pairing rabbits that shouldn’t be paired together making unshowable colours, or ruining the colour all together. I see this all the time in the rabbit world. It is a shame when you have a quality rabbit that cannot be used just based off colour. This article will explain everything in a simple way for everyone to understand. I suggest you read the entire article as if you don’t it may seem confusing. If you have any questions feel free to contact us. 

Getting Started

There are some key things you need to know about how genes work before we actually get into the colour side of it. All genes are seperated into “groups” called chromosome locations. These separate the different genes which all have different affects on coat colour. The two base colours in a rabbit’s coat are black and yellow, thats it! That is where all these genes come into play, they can make colours, turn colours off, plus all the modifying genes like rufus factors. They change how the pigments on the hairshaft express themselves. The 5 basic gene sets called locus in all rabbit colours are A, B, C, D, E. There are more as well, but we will get to those later in this article. Alleles are the variations of a specific gene, in each gene set the rabbit has 2 alleles, one of which is always passed on (they get 1 from each parent). 

The Basics

The first thing you need to know is all rabbits get 2 copies of each type of gene (allele). This goes back to the colour locus A, B, C, D, and E. In each of those groups, a rabbit gets 2 genes. It could be 2 of the same gene, or 2 different genes. They get 1 gene passed on from each parent. 

Which brings us to this, each gene in a locus is either dominant, recessive, or can have incomplete dominance. And every gene in a locus is sorted out into an order of dominance. This is a key thing you need to understand which a lot of people don’t. I will use the the A locus of genes as an example, however we will get more into all the gene locus later on. The genes in A are A, at, and a. When talking about genes we capitalize genes that are dominant, and genes that are lowercase are recessive. Genes are actually really straight forward when you understand them, you cannot change the way they work, there is no guess work involved its like math.

Dominant genes: When talking about genes, all genes in their locus have a level of dominance. Genes that are completely dominant are at the top of the “pecking order”. When a gene is dominant it will always express (show) in the coat. Either the rabbit has this gene, or it does not. It cannot be hidden behind the scenes or carried. In the case of the A locus, A(agouti) is the most dominant gene. 

Recessive genes: When a gene is completely recessive, it is at the very bottom of the “pecking order”. It is the least dominant gene in that locus. When a gene is totally recessive, you must have 2 copies of that gene for it to express in the coat, so each parent must pass on that gene. If you only have 1 copy of the gene, it does not express in the coat and it simply hides behind the more dominant one. When this happens we say the rabbit carries that gene. It can hide for many generations without you knowing, but always has the possibility of being passed on instead of the more dominant one (passed on at random). If a rabbit has 2 of the same gene, it is guaranteed to pass onto the off spring. In the A locus a(self) is the completely recessive gene it must have 2 copies to show visually. 

Incomplete dominance: Most dominant genes fully express themselves when paired with itself or a gene lower in dominance. However in some cases a recessive gene will have an affect on the more dominant gene it is being carried by. This is called incomplete dominance. So in most cases the colour remains the same and it does not matter if a gene is paired with itself or with another gene being carried by it. But sometimes the recessive gene can modify the expression of the more dominant gene.

Order Of Dominance: In all colour locus, there is an order of dominance with the genes within that locus. For example in every locus you have the most dominant gene which cannot be carried, and the most recessive gene which must have 2 copies to express. In between those (if there are more then 2 alleles in that locus) you have other genes in an order of how dominant they are. For example in the A locus A is most dominant, at is the second most dominant, and a is the least dominant. 

Genotypes:

A genotype is a rabbit’s “genetic code”. When talking about colours we use genotypes to identify what genes the rabbit does and does not have.  Each colour has its own base genotype, then we must try to fill in the blanks by trying to figure out which genes the rabbit carries that we cannot see visually. Our colour locus are used in this. For example using all the basic colour genes the genotype of a chestnut rabbit like shown in the picture would be A_ B_ C_ D_ E_. We use a _ for the hidden genes we do not know about. We then must try to figure out how to fill in the blanks to discover a rabbit’s full genotype. For example with the rabbit in the picture, her mother was dd and ee. So I know that this rabbit carries d and e, her sire was cchdcchd so I know she carries cchd. I have now come closer to figuring out her full genotype as it is now A_ B_ Ccchd Dd Ee. The rest however is unknown, so the only way to fill in those blanks is through test breeding to figure out what hidden genes are still left.

This rabbit is a Chestnut which is A(agouti) as used in the above example. Her known genotype is A_ B_ Ccchd Dd Ee

A-E:

Hopefully all the above information makes sense. If it does not go back and read again, because the following won’t make any sense if you do not understand the above information. If you do understand everything you have read so far, you are ready to take on the next section! The following will be a list of each gene in the locus A, B, C, D, and E and what these genes do. We will start with the easiest ones first and work our way up to the hardest ones. 

D Locus
Genes in order of dominance: D (dense), d (dilute)

D (dense):

The D gene simply allows the coat to have its full (or dense) expression of colour. Dense is the dominant gene in this locus. It cannot be hidden/carried. You cannot get a dense rabbit from 2 dd parents. Some examples of dense rabbits would be Black, Chocolate, Chestnut, Orange, and Chinchilla. 

This is a Black rabbit. Basic genotype is aa B_ C_ D_ E_
This is a Blue rabbit. Basic genotype is aa B_ C_ dd E_

d (dilute):

The d gene is one of my favorites to work with in rabbits. Dilute is a mutation of dense, it dilutes the coat colour to a more “washed out” appearance like adding white paint. This is the recessive gene of this locus. You must have 2 copies of d or it will not express in the coat. D can carry d so it can hide without you knowing it. A rabbit who is dd is guaranteed to pass d off to their offspring. One thing to be careful of when breeding dilutes is if you breed only dilutes together for generations, it can wash out the coat and nail colour in a negative way. So people normally like to breed dense and dilute together for making dilutes. Dilute examples of the above colours mentioned are Blue, Lilac, Opal, Cream, and Squirrel.

All gene combinations: DD (dense), Dd (dense carrying dilute), dd (dilute).

B Locus

Genes in order of dominance: B (black), b (chocolate)

B (black):

The genes in the B locus have to do with how strong the black pigment is in the coat. B which is for black keeps the coat black based. This gene is dominant and cannot be hidden/carried. Either a rabbit is black or it isn’t there is no hiding it. Some examples of a black based colour would be Black, Black Tort, Blue, Chestnut, Seal, or Sable Point.

This is a Black rabbit. Basic genotype is aa B_ C_ D_ E_
This is a Chocolate rabbit. Basic genotype is aa bb C_ D_ E_

b (chocolate):

b (chocolate) reduces the black pigment in the coat making it look brown, a chocolate rabbit is a rich dark brown like the rabbit shown. b is recessive behind B. You must have 2 b genes for it to express in the coat. If there is only 1 copy it is hidden/carried by the B rabbit. Some examples of a chocolate based rabbit would be Chocolate, Chocolate Agouti, Lynx, Lilac, or Chocolate Tort.

All gene combinations: BB (black), Bb (black carrying chocolate), bb (chocolate).

A locus

Genes in order of dominance: A (agouti), at (tan), a (self)

A (agouti):

A (agouti) is essentially the wild rabbit pattern. You will see all cottontails in the wild are agouti. Agouti changes the pattern of the the hairshaft on the rabbit’s base colour. Which creates ticking all the way up the hairs. When you blow into a classic agouti coat, it will appear to have rings of different colours. They also have a cream-white colour on the chin, belly, insides of legs, under the tail, around the nose  and eyes, inside the ears, and they also have dark ear lacing on the edges of the ears. Which is partly shown in the picture attached. A is the dominant gene in this locus so it cannot be hidden. The other genes in this locus can be hidden behind agouti. Some examples of agouti rabbits are Chestnut, Opal, Chocolate Agouti, Orange, Chinchilla, or Frosty. 

Note: some genes can “override” the agouti gene which can take the ticking/rings out of the fur. This will be discussed later on when we get to those genes. 

This rabbit is an Opal. Basic genotype is A_ B_ C_ dd E_
This rabbit is a Black Otter. Basic genotype is at_ B_ C_ D_ E_

at (tan):

The tan gene produces the tan pattern on the base colour of a rabbit. It looks similar to the markings on an agouti rabbit, except without the ticking/rings throughout the fur. The most common colours found with the at gene are various types of otters like the rabbit pictured, as well as the tan colour in the Tan breed of rabbit. at is dominant over a, but it is recessive behind A. So it can be carried by an agouti, but it cannot be carried by a self rabbit. Some examples of tan/otter rabbits would be Black Otter, Chocolate Otter, Tan, Fox, Black Silver Marten, or Blue Sable Marten.

a (self):

Self is a pretty simple gene, it simply causes a completely solid coloured rabbit from head to tail. The only exception to this is if a gene in another locus has an affect and causes otherwise over the solid coloured rabbit. A nice example of a self coloured rabbit is the Lilac in the picture. Self is the most recessive gene in this locus. So you must have 2 copies for it to be expressed in the coat. It can be carried by both A and at. Some examples of a self rabbit would be Black, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, Black Tort, Sable Point, or Seal. 

This rabbit is a Lilac. Basic genotype is aa bb C_ dd E_

All gene combinations: AA (agouti), Aat (agouti carrying tan), Aa (agouti carrying self), atat (tan), ata (tan carrying self), aa (self).

C Locus

Genes in order of dominance: C (full colour), cchd (chinchilla dark), cchl (sable/chinchilla light), ch (himalayan), c (albino)

This rabbit is a Cream. Basic genotype is A_ B_ C_ dd ee

C (full colour):

C is a simple gene, most rabbits have it. C pretty much does nothing, it has no restrictions on the coat in any particular place. It leaves the coat to have even distribution of colour over the whole rabbit. Which allows the other genes to express themselves without being “tampered” with. C is the most dominant in this locus, so it cannot be carried. It can however hide all the other genes behind it in this locus. Some examples of a rabbit that is full colour would be Black, Black Tort, Chestnut, Blue, Cream, Orange, Black Otter, or Chocolate.

cchd (chinchilla dark):

Where as full colour rabbits generally have fur with mostly yellow pigment, cchd takes most of the yellow pigment away. This results in a pearl/white colour where the yellow pigment previously would have been. The Chinchilla rabbit pictured which is a classic example of this gene, would previously have been a chestnut if it were full colour. cchd is recessive to C, but dominant over cchl, ch, and c. So it can be carried by C but not by any of the other genes in this locus. Some examples of colours with the cchd gene would be Chinchilla, Squirrel, Frosty, Sallander, Black Silver Marten, or Magpie.

This rabbit is a Chinchilla. Basic genotype is A_ B_ cchd_ D_ E_
This rabbit is a Sable Point. Basic genotype is aa B_ cchl_ D_ ee

cchl (sable/light chinchilla):

The cchl gene is commonly called the shaded gene, however other genes can create a shaded look in a different way so the more correct term is sable. This gene erases all of the yellow pigment from the fur, and in places some of the black pigment as well. This often creates a shaded looking rabbit like a Sable Point. This gene is affected by the hidden genes being carried after it so it has incomplete dominance. Rabbits that are homozygous cchl (homozygous is carrying 2 of the same genes on the same locus) tend to be darker or more smutty in appearance. Rabbits that only have 1 cchl and a different gene being carried tend to be lighter or cleaner in colour. cchl is recessive to C and cchd but dominant over ch and c. Some examples of a cchl coloured rabbit would be Sable Point, Seal, Siamese Sable, Smoke Pearl, or Sable Chinchilla. 

ch (pointed white/Himalayan):

The ch gene reduces all the pigment on the rabbit except for points. This leaves a totally white rabbit with red eyes, except for the colour stays on the tail, legs, ears, and nose. It is temperature sensitive, and will often make the coloured points a little washed out looking. Most of the time you only see them in black, blue, chocolate, and lilac or the ee version of those because of how the gene works. For example it would be impossible to get a chinchilla pointed white since cchd is on the same locus as ch. ch is recessive to C, cchd, and cchl but is dominant over c. So it can be carried by all the genes except c. You must have chch or chc for it to express. Some examples of the ch gene would be Black Pointed White, Chocolate Pointed White, Blue Pointed White, or Lilac Pointed White. 

This rabbit is a Black Pointed White. Basic genotype is aa B_ ch_ D_ E_
This rabbit is a Red Eyed White. Basic genotype is __ __ cc __ __

c (albino):

c eliminates all the pigment from the rabbit, which causes a white rabbit with red eyes no matter what the genotype is as long as it is cc. Keep in mind the rabbit still has a full genotype hidden behind all the white, you just need to figure out what it is from test breeding and looking at the pedigree. c is the most recessive gene of this locus. You must have 2 copies for it to express in the coat. It cannot carry any other genes but can be carried by all the other genes in this locus. An example of an albino rabbit would be Red Eyed White.  

All gene combinations: CC (full colour), Ccchd (full colour carrying chinchilla), Ccchl (full colour carrying sable), Cch (full colour carrying himalayan), Cc (full colour carrying albino), cchdcchd (chinchilla) cchdcchl (chinchilla carrying sable), cchdch (chinchilla carrying himalayan), cchdc (chinchilla carrying albino), cchlcchl (sable), cchlch (sable carrying himalayan), cchlc (sable carrying albino), chch (himalayan), chc (himalayan carrying albino), cc (albino).

E Locus

Genes in order of dominance: Ed (dominant black), Es (steel), E (extension), ej (japanese), e (non extension)

Ed (dominant black):

The Ed gene is one of the rarest genes in rabbits. What it does is push the dark pigment in the coat all the way up the hair shaft, past the agouti pattern. So it changes any agouti coloured rabbit into looking like its self counterpart. For example a chestnut would be changed to a black, opal to a blue. This does not mean that the rabbit is not agouti, it still is. It is simply hidden by this more powerful gene. People with a rabbit who is Ed are likely to assume it is a self rabbit. The only way to prove that it isn’t would be to test breed to another self, if you get agoutis from 2 self appearing rabbits (which isn’t genetically possible if they were real self rabbits) then that could prove you have a rabbit that is Ed. However this is a very rare gene, mostly found in Havanas and English Spots. So in the majority of cases it is safe to assume that your self looking rabbit is in fact what it appears to be. Ed rabbits will often have a more deep colour and less chance of stray whites then in a real self rabbit. This is the most dominant gene in this locus and cannot be carried. 

This rabbit is a proven Dominant Black. Basic genotype is: A_ B_ C_ D_ Ed_
This rabbit is a Gold Tipped Steel. Basic genotype is: A_ B_ C_ D_ Es_
This rabbit is a Black Silver Tipped Steel. Basic genotype is: A_ B_ cchd_ D_ Es_

Es (steel): 

Steel is one of the more complicated genes. It causes the undercolour in the coat to go all the way up the hairshaft. This takes away the rings and darkens or eliminates the white agouti markings in an agouti rabbit. It can also have an affect on the at gene. However when paired with the at gene it can cause the ticking to be irregular, or not very visible. It will also only show up in the self appearing areas of the tan/otter rabbit. When steel is paired with itself EsEs you get what is generally called a super steel. When steel is paired with itself, it cancels each other out (the affect is too extreme to be seen). Which results in a self looking rabbit. There may be some hairs in the coat to indicate it might be a super steel or there may not be. Also when you pair EsEs with aa and not A, it results in a self steel. So again it will often just look like a self rabbit. There may or may not be signs in the coat that it is actually steel. This can cause problems for breeders as the only way you can really know is by test breeding. It can cause the same confusion as in a Dominant Black rabbit like discussed above. When Es is paired with E so EsE that makes a proper genetic steel. When breeding steels that is what you want. The genes ej and e being carried by Es can mess up the steel colour. It can make the ticking vanish, be in moderation, or show up in patchy areas. It is dominant over all the other genes in this locus so cannot be carried except theoretically it could hide behind Ed but since its so rare and little is known about it that is not too likely. The only other exception is in the cases above when the coat is hiding it. In rabbits with C you get a gold tipped steel on top of whatever base colour you have, in rabbits with the yellow pigment restricted like cchd you get a silver tipped steel. Some examples of the steel gene would be: Black Gold Tipped Steel, Chocolate Silver Tipped Steel, Blue Gold Tipped Steel, or Blue Seal Steel.

**Note, ticking in a steel can be hard to see in dilute rabbits**

E (extension):

E which is extension/full extension is a much more simple gene then the one just discussed! It allows the pigment to express in the hairshaft normally. So it does not really mess with the colour at all it just leaves the coat “normal” like you would find in a self rabbit, or agouti. It is recessive to Ed and Es but dominant over ej and e. Many rabbits have this gene and is found in most of the more common colours. Some example of an E rabbit would be Chestnut, Lynx, Black, Blue, Chinchilla, or Seal.

This rabbit is a Blue. Basic genotype is: aa B_ C_ dd E_
This rabbit is a black/orange Harlequin. Basic genotype is: A_ B_ C_ D_ ej_
This rabbit is a black/orange Tri Colour. Basic genotype is A_ B_ C_ D_ ej_
This rabbit is a black Magpie. Basic genotype is A_ B_cchd_ D_ej_

ej (japanese):

ej is another complicated gene that may take some time to understand. It is recessive to Ed, Es, and E. And dominant over e, however with the way it behaves it seems it cannot decide what it wants to be! Japanese separates the black and yellow pigments in the coat on different hairshafts. This creates the “brindle” appearance on a harlequin rabbit. Tri colour is the same as a harlie just with the broken gene (which will be discussed later). In rabbits with the yellow pigment restricted or removed, like in chinchilla for example. That creates a magpie like the last pic shown. The thing with ej is it does have an affect when only being carried by a gene more dominant then itself, which is very unconventional unlike the other genes in rabbits. ej can have an affect on A, at, and a depending on if you have ejej , eje, or even Eej. If you have either Eej or ejej on both A or at you get harlies. If you combine ejej and aa you also get a harlie. If you pair eje with A, at, or aa you can get a harli with either agouti markings, or a torted harlie which is a harlie but appears to be tort as well (will also discuses tort later in this article). Ideally when working with this gene breeders want their harlies to be A_ ejej as this produces the best colour and does not mess with the genetics too much. ej has incomplete dominance but it does not play by the rules, so it can be confusing with breeders. As a side note the B, C, and D locus have an affect on what kind of harlie or magpie you have. Some examples of the ej gene would be: black/orange Harlequin, blue/cream Harlequin, chocolate/chocolate agouti Harlequin, lilac/lynx Harlequin, black Magpie, Blue Magpie, or chocolate Magpie.

This rabbit is a Black Tort. Basic genotype is aa B_ C_ D_ ee
This rabbit is a Blue Tort. Basic genotype is aa B_ C_ dd ee

e (non-extension):

Non-extension restricts the extension of the black pigment in the coat leaving the yellow pigment, though the rabbit may appear more brown/tan, creamy looking. Because of the modifiers and smutt at work, ee rabbits can come in a wide range of shades even in the same colour. They can also have a shaded look. People often mistake this gene for being in the same family as sable because it can cause a similar shaded affect. As a side note when you put e on A it takes away the agouti rings but leaves the agouti markings. Like shown in the cream in the picture. The most common colour group associated with this gene is tortoise shell, however most people just call it tort. e is recessive, so it cannot be expressed in the coat unless it is ee. All the other genes in this locus can carry it. Some examples of this gene would be: Black Tort, Blue Tort, Cream, Orange, Frosty, or Fox.

This rabbit is a Cream. Basic genotype is A_ B_ C_ dd ee
This rabbit is a Black Frosty. Basic Genotype is: A_ B_ cchd_D_ee

All Gene Combinations: EdEd(dominant black), EdEs (dominant black carrying steel), EdE (dominant black carrying extension), Edej (dominant black carrying japanese), Ede (dominant black carrying non-extension). EsEs (super steel), EsE (steel), Esej (steel carrying japanese), Ese (steel carrying non-extension), EE (full extension), Eej (extension carrying japanese), Ee (extension carrying non-extension). ejej (japanese), eje (japanese carrying non-extension), ee (non-extension).

Next Section

You did it! You have now looked at all the basic genes made up in every rabbit’s genotype. But wait.. there is more! The following is a list of the “extra” locus there are that people don’t normally list in a rabbit’s genotype unless you are working with one of these. Most are pattern genes but there are extra colour genes as well. As a note if your dealing with a pattern gene that pattern can go on top of any colour of rabbit, since its just another locus same as all the others that is having its affect on the coat. 

English Spotting Gene:

This English Spot is a perfect example of the broken gene.
This rabbit is a Charlie, he died of mega colon at 5 months old.

This is commonly called the broken gene. It is not a colour gene, but rather a pattern gene. En causes the rabbit to have patches of white throughout the coat. en gives you a normal solid coloured rabbit. ANY colour can have the spotting gene. En is dominant, so you cannot hide it behind a solid rabbit. Now if you have EnEn instead of En then you get a charlie. A charlie has 2 of the broken gene, and will often have colour only on the nose and ears, maybe a bit on the body. A charlie is therefore guaranteed to produce all brokens bred to a solid. It should be noted, that charlie rabbits can get a problem called mega colon, which may or may not have an impact on the rabbit’s health. In severe cases it can cause death but many still live out full lives. Some breeds like the English Spot or Hotot are bred to have specific markings with the broken gene. Like any other locus, each parent must pass on 1 gene from each locus. So for example if you breed 2 solids you can only get solid, if you breed 2 charlies you can only get charlies, if you breed 2 brokens you can get solid, broken, and charlie. And if you breed a solid to a broken you get solid or broken, solid to charlie gives you all brokens. 

This rabbit is a Broken.
This rabbit is also a Charlie. He did not get mega colon and is still alive and well.

All Gene Combinations: EnEn (charlie), Enen (broken), enen (solid)

Vienna Gene:

This rabbit is a Blue Eyed White. Known Genotype is: __ __ __ __ __ vv.

The Vienna gene is often also called the Blue Eyed White gene. Vienna in your genotype is either listed as V (no vienna), or v (vienna). If a rabbit has no vienna gene, they simply remain the same according to their genotype. If a rabbit has 1 vienna gene however, then you get either a vienna marked or vienna carrier. A vienna carrier is simply a rabbit that carries the gene without showing up in the coat. However this gene is unique.. as the gene can partially show up even if the rabbit is only a carrier! Veinna marked rabbits can show in a large assortment of ways. Bright blue eyes, marbled eyes, random white markings, or all of those! The vienna markings often have a dutch like appreance  however is not related to that gene. Now when you get a rabbit with 2 vienna genes, then they get the full affect of the gene which is a white rabbit with bright blue eyes. If a rabbit is vv, it does not matter what the rest of the genotype is, it will cover up everything similar to albino except with blue eyes not red. 

*Note: If you raise BEW rabbits and there is a any chance that a solid coloured rabbit could be a carrier, please note this in their pedigree. VM is not showable in any breed and BEW is showable in very few breeds. This gene could destroy all of someones hard work if it popped up unexpectedly. *

This is a vienna marked rabbit. Known genotype is __ __ __ __ __ Vv
This is a marbled eye on a vienna marked rabbit. Known genotype is __ __ __ __ __ Vv

All Gene Combinations: VV (no vienna), Vv (vienna marked or carrier), vv (blue eyed white) 

Dutch Gene:

This is a Dutch rabbit who is dudu.

The dutch gene is most commonly found in the Dutch breed of rabbit. They are the best display of this gene. DuDu stands for a rabbit who does not have the Dutch gene. Dudu is a rabbit with 1 copy of the dutch gene, and like the Vienna gene it does show up when only being carried. A rabbit with 1 copy shows only partial dutch markings. When you have a rabbit with 2 copies of dutch which is dudu, then you get the full effect of the dutch pattern. The full dutch pattern basically causes the front half of the rabbit to be white, with a blaze on their head and 2 “socks” on the back feet. It is worth it to note, that vienna can cause dutch like markings on a rabbit, similar to that of a rabbit who is Dudu. However these 2 genes are NOT related and have nothing to do with each other. 

This is a Dutch rabbit who is dudu, this rabbit is a nice example of the markings for this breed.
This rabbit is Dudu, showing the partial Dutch markings with only 1 copy.

All Gene Combinations: DuDu (no dutch), Dudu (dutch carrier), dudu (dutch)

Silvering Gene:

This rabbit is a Black Silver. Known Genotype is likely: aa B_ C_ D_ E_ Si2 or Si1
These rabbits are Black Silvers. Known Genotype is likely: aa B_ C_ D_ E_ Si2 or Si1
This rabbit is a Black Silver. Known Genotype is likely: aa B_ C_ D_ E_ Si1Si1

The silvering gene is fairly uncommon, however there are a select few breeds with this gene. This may get a bit complicated as this gene does not have a lot of scientific research behind it at this time.. so bare with me. The silver gene causes white or white tipped hairs to be evenly mixed throughout the coat along with the normal colour of the rabbit. si stands for a rabbit with no silver gene. Si stands for a rabbit with the silver gene. However there are several variations of the Si gene. Si1, Si2, and Si3. Think of it as the higher the number, the more silvering you get. Order of dominance to my knowledge is Si3, Si2, Si1, si. The silver gene is controversial in how it works. Most people previously thought that it was a recessive gene and still believe that. However recent evidence through experimental breeding strongly suggests that silver is a dominant gene, likely with incomplete dominance. Offspring from a homozygous silver crossed with a non silver in all cases seem to have minimal silvering similar or less then that of a Si1Si1 rabbit. Which suggests that the recessive gene after the dominant Silver is having an affect hence it likely has incomplete dominance. Si1Si1, Si2Si1 or Si1Si1 tends to have a light/medium silvering affect in the coat like in the Silver and Silver Fox breeds (pics on the left). Si3Si3 has a heavy silvering affect like in the colour Champagne and the breed Champagne D’ Argent (mostly shown on right). Breeders will normally just put down SiSi for a Silver coloured rabbit since the variations of the gene need more research to find out how they work. 

This rabbit is a Champagne. Known Genotype is likely: aa_ B_ C_ D_ E_ Si3Si3
This rabbit is a Chocolate Silver or Brun. Known Genotype is likely: aa bb C_ D_ E_ Si2 or Si3
This rabbit is a Champagne. Known Genotype is likely: aa B_ C_ D_ E_ Si3Si3

All Gene Combinations: SiSi (silver) Sisi (partial silver) sisi (no silver)

Wideband Gene:

This rabbit is a Red. Known Genotype is: A_ B_ C_ D_ ee ww
This rabbit is a Red. Known Genotype is: A_ B_ C_ D_ ee ww

The wideband gene should not be mistaken with the wideband group. In some breeds with colours separated into groups rabbits who are A_ ee are put into a wideband group since ee messes with the agouti appearance. However the group is not the same thing as the actual gene. The wideband gene doubles the width of the middle yellow/white agouti band. This causes the agouti “markings” to be coloured instead of cream/white. And along with the rufous modifiers involved it causes the colouring to be more of a deep red colour. The best example of this is the colour Red as shown in the left side pics. A lot of people don’t know this, but wideband is how you get Tans as well. A Tan is simply an otter with the wideband gene, because of the affect it has it changes the otter markings to red. W stands for a rabbit who isn’t wideband, and w stands for a rabbit who is wideband. It is recessive so can only be shown if there are 2 copies.

These rabbits are both Chocolate Tans. Known Genotype is: at_ bb C_ D_ E_ ww
This rabbit is a Black Tan. Known Genotype is: at_ B_ C_ D_ E_ ww

All Gene Combinations: WW (no wideband), Ww (wideband carrier), ww (wideband).

Lutino Gene:

The pink eyes of a Lutino rabbit.
This rabbit is a Dove Black Otter. Known Genotype is: at_ B_ C_ D_ E_ pp
This rabbit is a Dove. Known Genotype is: aa B_ C_ D_ E_ pp

Lutino is another name for the pink eyed dilution gene. This gene is mostly found in mice and cavies, however it is also found in rabbits. It is mostly found in Europe and is quite rare here in North America. The Lutino gene has a similar affect as the non-extension gene. It removes specific pigments in the coat which in the case of Lutino, chances all colours to orange. The orange colouring ranges from very pale to a deep red depending on the rest of the genotype of the rabbit. Not only does it change the coat, but it changes the eye colour! It removes most of the pigment from the eye creating pink eyes in all Lutino varieties. Unlike the albino gene which removes all eye pigment making a red eye, this gene only partially does leaving it pink. P stands for a rabbit who is not Lutino, p stands for a rabbit who does have the gene. It is recessive so the rabbit must have 2 copies for it to express. No Lutino colours are currently recognized by ARBA. However there are a small handfull of breeders who are working on the gene and are hoping to get it recognized in a variety of breeds in the future. I was lucky enough to find a few pics of different colours with the Lutino gene, thank you to the breeders for supplying them! 

This rabbit is a Lutino. Known Genotype is: A_ B_ C_ D_ ee pp
This rabbit is a Shadow Lutino. Known Genotype is: A_ B_ C_ D_ E_ pp

All Gene Combinations: PP (no lutino), Pp (lutino carrier), pp (lutino)

Genetic Defects

We are almost done! You have now read about every known colour gene in rabbits. The following is info on various colour defects that you may come across in breeding rabbits. They are either caused by unknown genes or are mistakes made during development. Once this section has been done there will be some practice questions to test your new knowledge! 

Snowballing:

Snowballing is pretty uncommon however I have had it happen a few times over the years. Snowballing causes a rabbit’s entire coat to be pure white except the very tips! The kit pictured should be a normal solid blue, but with the snowballing the majority of his coat is white. The gene that causes this is unknown, however it seems to be most common in dilute colours. Though it can happen in any colour. Snowballing almost always molts out when the baby molts out their baby fur. Leaving a normal looking rabbit afterwards. This kit molted out into a normal solid blue. No one knows why or how it happens, however something interesting I have noticed is it seems to be related to stray white hairs in some way. 

Frosted:

Frosting is basically the opposite of snowballing. Snowballing causes everything but the tips to be white, frosting causes the tips to be white and the rest of the coat to be normal. It seems to be the most common on the ear and nose area, as well as the back half of the rabbit. It appears mostly in dilute, chocolate, and non-extension based colours. However it can happen in any colour like the Black Dutch kit shown in the picture who has extreme frosting! Like snowballing the gene that causes frosting is unknown. It normally molts out with the baby coat however some rabbits keep the frosting for life. Some kits even get both frosting and snowballing at the same time. 

Chimera, Mosaicism 

Chimera is very rarely seen. This is when an animal is the combination of 2 embryos that joined together early in development. Therefore the animal will have 2 sets of DNA. If both embroys had the genes for different colours, the animal will have 2 colours which often show up as random patches of different colours around 50/50. Chimera cannot pass on since it is an “accident”. However the animal will have 2 different sets of genes either of which can be passed on. 

Mosaicism comes in several different forms, however when talking about pigment the cause will normally be a somatic mutation. Somatic mutations are different from being chimera, many people think they are the same. The actual information behind how a somatic mutation happens and what causes it is very complicated, so for this one I won’t make your heads spin. Basically it is a mutation, alteration, or an error of a cell in a specific area which can cause a gene for that area to turn off or on. It is impossible for this to be genetically passed on. This is by no means a complete set of information on somatic mutations but it gives you an idea of what it is. Generally with a somatic mutation colour wise it will appear as a random spot/patch (single or multiple) of colour. Instead of with chimera which is usually more uniform and 50/50 distribution. For colour it will normally only be the difference in a mutated area of a gene losing its function. For example lets say you have a Blue Tort rabbit which would be dd, so with a somatic mutation it could make the dd revert back to D for the mutated area making a Black Tort spot. This is not always the case but most of the time it is. Somatic mutations are more common then chimera. 

Below are pics of rabbits who all likely have somatic mutations. 



Practice Questions

Below are now some questions for you to figure out and test your new knowledge! You can hover over the buttons for the answer to each question. If you have any questions about this article let us know! An actual list of each colour and its genotype is not provided here, however maybe that is something that could be made in the future! 

  • Which of these rabbits has the base genotype of A_ B_ C_ D_ E_ enen?
a) Black Tort
b) Chestnut
c) Chinchilla
d) Lilac


b

  • Which of these rabbits has the base genotype of aa bb  C_ D_ E_ enen? 
a) Broken Black Tort
b) Black Frosty
c) chocolate
d) Sable Point


c

  • What is the base genotype of a Blue? 



aa B_ C_ dd E_

  • What colours can you get if the following 2 rabbits are paired together with their known genotypes? 
Chinchilla: AA BB cchdcchd DD EE enen
Broken Black Tort: aa Bb CC Dd ee Enen

a) Chestnut, Broken Chestnut

b) Chestnut, Black Tort, Blue Tort, Chocolate, Broken Blue Tort, Charlie Blue Tort

c) Chinchilla, Black Tort, Broken Chinchilla, Broken Black Tort

d) Black Tort, Chocolate Tort, Chinchilla, Chocolate Agouti, Chestnut, Chocolate Chinchilla, Black, Chocolate


a

  • What colours can you get if the following 2 rabbits are paired together with their known genotypes? 
Spotted Lilac: aa bb CC dd EE Enen
Spotted Chocolate: aa bb CC Dd EE Enen

a) Spotted Lilac, Spotted Chocolate

b) Solid Lilac, Solid Chocolate, Solid Blue, Spotted Lilac, Spotted Chocolate, Spotted Blue, Charlie Lilac, Charlie Chocolate, Charlie Blue

c) Solid Lilac, Solid Chocolate, Spotted Black, Spotted Lilac, Charlie Chocolate

d) Solid Lilac, Solid Chocolate, Spotted Lilac, Spotted Chocolate, Charlie Lilac, Charlie Chocolate


d

  • What colours can you get if the following 2 rabbits are paired together with their known genotypes? 
Broken Black Tort: aa Bb CC Dd ee Enen
Black: aa Bb CC Dd Ee enen

a) Black Tort, Broken Black Tort, Black, Broken Black, Charlie Black Tort, Charlie Black

b) Black Tort, Broken Black Tort, Black, Broken Black, Blue Tort, Broken Blue Tort, Blue, Broken Blue, Chocolate Tort, Broken Chocolate Tort, Chocolate, Broken Chocolate, Lilac Tort, Broken Lilac Tort, Lilac, Broken Lilac

c) Blue Tort, Broken Blue Tort, Blue, Broken Blue, Lilac, Broken Lilac, Lilac Tort, Broken Lilac Tort

d) Black, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, Cream, Orange, Red Eyed White


b

Did you get all the questions correct? Comment below! 

As well as using my own pictures a special thanks to all the breeders who supplied the extra pictures needed for this article. 

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CL & Delattre Rabbitrys
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5 Comments

  1. Very interesting article about the different color genetics in rabbits. Is there a way to get a printed copy of this article?
    Thanks,
    Jeff

  2. Can I please print this off to have as a reference? I would like to be able to print it off in color. It will be used for myself and my kids educational purposes only. We raise Holland Lops (mainly black tort, but also have 1 blue tort and chocolate tort), French Lops (currently and opal, possibly adding a cream), and Polish (mainly chocolate, and hoping to have more blue this coming year).

    Thank you
    Cassie Brown
    cglutsch@gmail.com

  3. Hello:

    I have done a test breeding on a silver blue fox doe and a harlie buck (orange/black) with a dilute gene. The kits that have been kindled two have a highly visual silver content with blue and one is extreme champange.
    The champange color is nose to tail with no variations, no ticking, appears like bright polished steel. Does this prove that the buck may have had a steel or a silver fox in his line? and the his harlie gene is recessive? How would i go about mataining this champange gene?

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