This article is from the Fall 1999 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Nichole Royer
Having a history
going back to
1979 in the
U.S.A. and all
the way back to
1935 in England,
it is one of the
The first Grand Champion Cinnamon rat “Todoe,” owned by Gina Hendricks, November 13, 1994.
The history of the Cinnamon rat is closely tied in with that of the color Mink (also Lilac in AFRMA). Mink acts on Agouti to produce the Cinnamon color.
According to Nick Mays’ The Proper Care of Fancy Rats, and the National Fancy Rat Society Standards of Excellence (1986), Mink rats were recorded as Blue circa 1905?. There is no way now to tell if the color being described was Mink or one of the Blue genes we now have. If Mink was in the fancy during the early 1900s, it is certainly likely that Cinnamon was produced.
In the 1920s, Cinnamon was first introduced as Fawn Agouti, and this color made its appearance in the standards in 1935. It is interesting to note that none of the other Mink derivative colors like Cinnamon Pearl and Pearl appear until the late 1970s. Minks were bred as Mink by Genesis Stud (U.K.) into N.F.R.S. standards in 1977. In 1976 the name Fawn Agouti was changed in the N.F.R.S. Standards to Cinnamon.
Mink was not one of the original colors (Agouti, Black, Beige, Fawn, and Pink-Eyed White were the only colors we knew of in the early 1970s) available in the United States when the rat fancy was born in this country. In a local pet shop on May 17, 1978, Karen Hauser (Robbins) found a unique gray-brown Hooded rat of a color never before seen. Paying a whopping $1.06 for him, she named this 6–8 week old male “Hershey.” (He then became the foundation sire of creating Lilac, Cinnamon, and Silver Lilac colors.) The color bred true and was named Lilac after the rabbit color it resembled. It was only many years later that it was discovered the U.S. Lilac and the U.K. Mink were genetically identical, simply being selected for different shades. [Update: we now know they are different genetically.]
Cinnamon rats were bred from Lilac with the first ones being born in Karen’s rattery March 25, 1979, and were two Cinnamon Hoodeds named “Cinnamon” and “Spice.” Cinnamon was first exhibited at a MRBA show on April 22, 1979, by Karen Hauser (Robbins). The first Cinnamon to make Champion status was a Cinnamon Irish named “Reggie” owned by Susan Melton back on May 17, 1981. The first Cinnamon to go Best in Show and become Grand Champion was “Todoe” owned by Gina Hendricks on November 13, 1994.
The Cinnamon color is described by the AFRMA standard as: “Color is similar to Agouti, except the color is a warm russet brown, with medium slate at the base of the hair. Coat is evenly ticked with chocolate. Belly color to be as Agouti, but of a lighter shade. Eye color is ruby or black.” The N.F.R.S. standard is similar, saying it is “to be a warm russet brown, evenly ticked with chocolate guard hairs. Base fur mid-gray. Belly fur as Agouti but of a lighter shade. Foot color to match top. Eyes black.”
This richly colored Cinnamon shows very nice type. “BMR Kaz” owned by Gina Hendricks, bred by Carissa Cosley.
It is hard to describe the difference between Agouti and Cinnamon without having the two colors side by side. They are similar, but at the same time very distinctively different. The hair in an Agouti’s coat consists of three bands — dark gray near the skin, orange brown in the middle, and black on the tip. The Cinnamon also has hairs with three bands, but it is a lighter gray near the skin, their mid band is a rich and bright red-brown, and the tips are chocolate. This gives the effect of a lighter and brighter Agouti.
The best way to start off breeding Cinnamon rats is to purchase a quality pair or trio from a reputable breeder. Unfortunately, they are not particularly common at this time and finding quality base stock could prove to be frustrating.
This nice female Cinnamon would make a good breeding prospect.
Fortunately, Cinnamon is an easy color to create. Cinnamon is simply an Agouti rat with a double dose of Mink (or Lilac). In order to create a Cinnamon, you will need to acquire both an Agouti and a Self Mink/Lilac rat. It’s best to use a brightly colored Agouti, and it is important to pay particular attention to type. The Agouti group of rats can have some of the best type seen on the show bench, so there is no reason to start with an Agouti that has less than good type. It is also important to use both a Mink/Lilac and an Agouti that have no white markings and no white on their feet.
When you breed the Agouti with the Mink/Lilac you are likely to produce an entire litter of Agoutis (or some Agoutis and some Blacks). The only way you will get Cinnamon in this first litter is if your Agouti is carrying Mink/Lilac. Keep the best of the Agouti babies produced, and either breed them together or breed them back to their Mink/Lilac parent. Either choice will produce some Cinnamons.
Litters of Cinnamons can seem disappointing at first since it takes time for the babies to color up. Those that appear the brightest are the ones to keep.
Problems that are common in this color are patchiness and a tendency for the color to be too gray. All Cinnamon rats will appear patchy when they are moulting, and this is normal. Some Cinnamons will stick in the moult or develop a permanently patchy appearance. Often, these look like they have two or three different shades of brown in patches all over their bodies. This trait is often genetic in nature and these rats should not be chosen for breeding. Likewise, those that are too brown or too gray should be avoided.
It is very easy to breed for color and lose sight of the conformation of the rats you are producing. One half of what a rat is judged on is the way they are put together. This is a particularly important feature with all the Agouti colors since we tend to see the very best type on these rats. Avoid breeding those rats that do not measure up.
Showing Cinnamons is very simple. They require very little in preparation for a show. They rarely develop any type of staining, and only need to be bathed if they are truly dirty. As with any rat that is being shown, make sure their tails are clean and their toenails trimmed. Otherwise, a wipe down with a silk cloth will bring out their shine and remove any dust.
“Todoe” being judged at the November 13, 1994, show. Owned by Gina Hendricks.
When judging the Cinnamon, a judge is looking for that characteristic bright color. Any grayness will be penalized. Patchiness will also be penalized, and any rats in heavy moult should be left at home. As said before, type is very important and there is no excuse for a Cinnamon to have poor conformation.
When judging the Cinnamon, a judge is looking for that characteristic Cinnamon rats are not difficult to breed, and it is possible to do so in very small numbers. It is also possible to breed both Agouti and Cinnamon, or Cinnamon and Mink/Lilac in the same rattery and run the lines together using each as an outcross/line breeding for the other. Cinnamons can do very well on the show bench, and a good specimen really stands out. All in all, Cinnamon rats are one of the better colors for those new to the rat fancy and can be enjoyed by the experienced fancier as well.