This article is from the WSSF 2014 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Colors & Coats
MoonVelvet Rats; Curly Rats: Velvet Or Rex?
By Karen Robbins
Bella Joanne Hodges, FL, Facebook
QMy name is Bella and I am a breeder in Florida. I have a mutation that showed up in our inbred Russian Blue line about 6 years ago (Amy at Phoenix Gate Rattery in Georgia has been co-breeding these with me since the beginning). We call them unknown RB dilute, but our pet term for them is
Moon. We call them Moons because the color is like a winter
moon—bluish but not blue, creamy but not cream, silvery but not
silver. It is a color that defies description and photographing them
is tough. They tend to look different in each photo. They are
heathered. The fur is really plush and thick, not like any other rats
I have seen and they tend to have minimal (sometimes nonexistent)
guard hairs. Their RB siblings do not have the same fur, their
fur is often softer and thicker than some RB rats, but they have
long and abundant guard hairs. Sound familiar?
The fur, it is exactly as you describe it in the article
History of Velvet]. It is
pretty amazing. The RB rats in my line have pretty plush fur, but it
is not like the light rats’ fur. Amy says that she is getting Velvet
coat in some of the RB rats now, complete with minimal, short, or
absent guard hairs. My RB rats are getting softer and fuller coats,
but they still have crazy long guard hairs. I still have only seen it
in the Moon rats. It is funny how two different ratteries working
with the same line can get different results. She likes the darker
Moons and I prefer the icier lighter ones, so we even selectively
breed in different directions. But once a year we exchange pups,
so we actually end up somewhere in the middle. Did you ever
have the Velvet show up in any other colors?
We were getting ready to breed to agouti to see what it did to the pigment. Do you have any photos?
We think RED [red/ruby-eyed dilute rr, Ed.] is not a factor in this. Our rats are not RED and do not even carry it. We thought maybe they were PED [pink-eyed dilute pp, Ed.], but test breeding would not separate it out. I finally sent a sample to the lab to test for PED and it came back negative. So we actually do not know what is lightening up the rats.
The lab has assays for traits used in research. However, they
can develop assays for anything once it is identified. I know they
have PED and albino. I do not know about red/ruby (are they different
genes or the same gene with different phenotypes depending
on modifiers?). They have offered to map the Moons, I just
need to get a
family set of samples to send them. Ours are all out
of related RB lines. For genetic lab samples technically we could
send oral swabs. However, what I send is a bit of frozen tissue.
Typically a tiny tail tip (nipped off under anesthesia). In the lab
they often use the tissue that is left over from the ear punch (identification
method). To date, the only genetic testing I have had
them do was the PED test on the Moon rat and a paternity test on
an albino pup that I suspected got put back with the wrong mom
after being handled. A rat
baby daddy test. And, an FYI, Dr.
Myles at RADIL has developed a serology test that does not require
a blood draw!
Another thought we had was that it was possibly a type of albinism. They were bred to Black-eyed Siamese. All the breedings ever produced was BES, Siamese, and Moons (light eye). So the Black-eye gene which seems to be connected to the C locus, never attached to the Moon rats. We are pretty baffled. We have spent years trying to figure this out.
I think we are working with a dilution gene and a coat modification gene here. We thought they were linked, but like I said, Amy is seeing Velvet type coats in the RB rats. Although it took years of inbreeding for that to happen.
If it is an eye dilution, it is not affecting other colors. Bred to black, inbred, inbred again—only moon and black with an occasional albino (which we knew was in the line hiding out).We think it may actually be a separate gene. Who is breeding the Velvet there? We need to breed them to our Moons to see if it is the same gene!
I am not really good with genetics, so this has been giving me migraines for years! Thankfully I have people helping out who know more.
AYes, it sounds like the Blue-Beige Velvet rats. We call
that color Blue-Beige and I’ve only seen it with the Velvet
coat or out of Russian Blue rats. I know what you
mean about trying to capture the color in photos (the Velvet photo
History of Velvet Rats is a Blue-Beige even though it
may not show up that way on the monitor).
The one thing I found with having minimal guard hairs, is your Agouti colors don’t work well in this coat type as it makes them look like a color they are not. I recently saw a Velvet coat in a Russian Blue Agouti Burmese. With the lack of guard hairs, it changed the color to where it didn’t look like a Russian Blue Agouti Burmese but rather more like possibly a Russian Dove Burmese but it was an agouti color. With the Velvet coat not developing until the rat is adult, it makes it hard to know if that is what you have when they are younger. This particular rat was shown as a kitten and looked like a normal Russian Blue Agouti Burmese. Other than that, I’ve just seen the Velvets in the Blue-Beige original color and at the July 2009 show where Karla Barber brought a bunch to show, she had it also in a Fawn? color. Many Russian Blues will have a different coat/softer but I’ve never seen it as plush/thick as a Blue-Beige or the Fawn? Velvet. I’ve added two new photos to the Non-Recognized rat page with the Velvet Rat.
The red/ruby-eye gene rr—turns Black into Beige, Agouti into Fawn—depends on which genetics book/research site/article as to whether it is called red or ruby (RED).
You may be interested in getting our AFRMA Rat Genetics book. It has the articles and info on the Velvets that I mentioned along with lots of other helpful info.
Karla is the only one I know of that has actively bred the Velvets so she would be the best one to contact on other colors in Velvet, breeding questions, who she sold to that was going to work on the coat, etc. I do know she sent some to the N.F.R.S. in England years ago but they were not able to get more. In 2009 Connie Perez in San Francisco got some from Karla but I don’t know what happened after that.
I’m glad to hear someone is working on the Velvet rats! I know Karla would be pleased since she is the one that worked on them for so many years.
Thanks so much for the info on the genetics testing. I’ll have to include that in the next Genetics books updates. We’d be very interested to hear what you find out from the lab if you submit samples for testing of the ruby-eye gene or the genetics of the Velvets. Please keep us updated on your progress.
Bobbie Sue Peno, PA, e-mail
QOne rat that I have with a curly coat is soft like velvet but I don’t know if a Velvet coat is like that because the Rex that I do have, their curls are more curled and rough where this rat’s coat is more straight and wavy.
A light colored Siamese curly-coat rat kitten. Photo from Bobbie Sue Peno.
AVelvets have a short plush soft coat like a Rex rabbit—
not curly. There is a curly coat the folks in the
RatsPacNW club gave the term
Velveteen that is supposed
to be very soft and curly. There are several curly coat genes
causing curly hair—some dominant, some recessive. There are
also good and bad examples of each gene that can look like a different
gene. Unfortunately, it is hard to tell some of them apart.
Sometimes whiskers are different and that can be an indicator of
different genes. The way to determine if you are working with a
dominant or recessive gene is by breeding them to non-curly
rats—if you get curly rats in the litter, you have a dominant curly
gene, if you get no curly rats in the litter then breed those babies
together and if you get curly babies, you have a recessive curly
gene. Read the
Rex Rats article and
Rex and ‘Double’ Rex Rats article
for more information on Rex. Breeding
Double Rex is not advised as they cannot be shown in show