This article is from the Holiday 1998 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Nichole Royer
Pink-Eyed Whites, like Frosty, have a long history in the rat fancy. The Albino rat (officially known as the Pink-Eyed White or PEW) is most likely the very first mutation to be discovered and purposely bred. Albinism is a very common mutation even in wild populations, showing up in many animals including dogs, horses, ferrets, rabbits, cavies, and many others including rats and mice. Naturally, the white coats and pink eyes of these animals would make it very difficult for them to survive in the wild. Discovered by someone with an interest in animals, however, an oddly colored white rat might well have been captured rather than killed.
Snowy, the first place PEW at the May 19, 1984, show. She was the first PEW shown in an AFRMA show.
Mary Douglas (the mother of the rat fancy) once stated that Albino rats were introduced to great Britain by a traveling entertainer around the year 1800. In Victorian times, wild rats were caught in huge numbers for the “rat pits” that were popular at the time. Between the 1840s and 1860s some of these rats were kept, bred, and sold as pets. Pink-Eyed Whites were among them. In 1908 Beatrix Potter published her book “Samuel Whiskers” (a story about a wild rat and his wife). She dedicated it to the Albino rat which was a favorite pet when she was a child.
Pink-Eyed Whites were among the first of the colors to be bred specifically for exhibition purposes. Their description was in the National Mouse Club standards when they first included classes for rats in 1901. They were included in the National Fancy Rat Society standards when that club was founded in 1976, and in the AFRMA standards in 1983. The first PEW rat to be shown at an AFRMA show was Snowy owned by Nancy Ferris. Frosty owned and bred by Nancy Ferris was the first PEW to win Best In Show, and of course Frosty holds the record for the most Best In Show awards won by any rat of any color at AFRMA shows.
Pink-Eyed White rats are described as: “Color is a clear sparkling white, showing no yellow cast to the hair. The Pink-Eyed white has a pink eye of medium color (not ruby).”
This is probably one of the simplest standards to visualize. Simply put, a PEW should be white, white, and nothing but white. A really good example has no yellow tinge to the coat, no discoloring of the undercoat, and no staining. This sounds simple, but once you see a really nice example of a PEW, you realize that 99% of what’s out there is actually cream or ivory colored.
|Frosty at the March 16, 1985, show.|
The key to showing the PEW is its conformation. Because any litter of PEW babies are all going to be white, type and size are THE factors that should be used when choosing breeding stock. (Assuming of course that no one would choose to breed a rat with poor health or temperament). There is no excuse for a PEW with poor type.
The best way to think of Pink-Eyed Whites is as a blank canvas on which to show what the conformation of a rat should look like. Often a judge will put up a rat with beautiful color and/or markings, even if its type is less than excellent. Most judges will not do the same for a PEW just because it is white.
Pink-Eyed Whites are probably the hardest color to maintain in show condition. Their coats must be white-white and free of staining. Tails, also, must be very clean. The overall look is an immaculate, sparkling white animal. There is also no excuse for a dirty PEW on the show bench. You can get away with not bathing some colors and varieties, but the PEW isn’t one of them. A sparkling white rat with beautiful type and condition will attract the attention of any judge and is a spectacular exhibit on the show bench.
Pink-Eyed White rats are fairly simple to breed, and are an excellent variety for the beginning fancier. There are actually two types of PEW rats out there. The first one we see most commonly is the true Albino. The second kind is not specifically bred for the show bench, but it’s good to be aware that they do exist. They are simply pink-eyed Marked (Capped or Masked) rats which have been selected for less and less color. Eventually you get rats that are white all over with pink eyes.
One of Nancy Ferris’ PEW does “Valley Rat” with her litter 1986.
Though these are not Albino rats, they are indistinguishable from them. They are not genetically the same, however, and if you breed one of these to an Albino rat, or breed two of these rats together, you will get babies who have colored spots. Incidentally, breeding for less and less color is how Black-Eyed White rats are created, and it is possible to make Odd-Eyed White rats in this same fashion. The Pink-Eyed White rats which are bred for the show ring are the true Albinos.
Albinism is a simple recessive trait. PEW bred to PEW will give you a complete litter of PEW babies. It should be kept in mind that the Albino gene covers up or “prevents the expression” of whatever color or pattern happens to be present on the rat. The color and pattern are still there, you just can’t see them. This makes no difference if you are breeding PEW to PEW; however, if you breed to anything else, you may get surprising results. Most of the PEW rats currently kept by fanciers are actually Hooded, so when you breed to other colors/markings you would expect to get the same results as if you were using a Hooded rat.
Pink-Eyed White bred to Siamese will give you a litter of all Himalayan babies. This is how Himis are made, but keep in mind that if you use a PEW that is genetically Hooded, you will get a litter of babies with no color on their feet and possibly none on their tail.
When breeding the PEW with intent to show, there are two points to concentrate on: color and type. As was said before, the PEW should be white, white, and nothing but white. Rats that show yellowing or staining should not be used in a breeding program. Type is also extremely important for the PEW. Because they are relatively simple to produce (PEW X PEW = PEW), babies kept should excel in the area of conformation. You do not have to concentrate on producing the correct shade of a color (just white), or on making sure the markings are correct, so you end up with complete litters of babies that could all be shown. The difference between a Best In Show PEW and a show bench dud, is as simple as its conformation.