This article is from the Summer 1999 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Nichole Royer
A Russian Blue Berkshire owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen’s Kritters.
Russian Blue rats are one of the most recent and popular of the new colors. Like many of the colors that have shown up over the last few years, their history is clouded in mystery. Though their true origin is unknown, they appear to all trace back to Karla Barber’s line of Velvet rats. The first AFRMA Russian Blues appeared in a litter bred by Geri Hauser. In May of 1993 Geri purchased a trio of 7-week-old rats from Karla. These rats all had the same Velvet coated father, a silverish/beigeish colored rat with dark eyes who was supposedly out of a blue rat from New York. Though no Velvet rats were produced when Geri’s trio were bred, the resulting litters did contain odd dark gray-colored kittens unlike anything fanciers had seen before.
When fanciers first saw these babies the instant impression was that they were the same color as Blue mice, very different from the already popular Blue rats which are a slate blue color. Initially, the color was actually called “Mouse Blue,” though that was quickly changed to Russian Blue. This became just a bit confusing since by that time the commercial pet industry was capitalizing on the slate Blue colored rats already a favorite with many pet owners. Blue rats had become the fad of the day and pet stores took advantage of this by marketing their slate Blue rats as “rare Russian Blues.” Due to this mislabeling, there are many reports of people owning Russian Blue rats who did not. To the best of our current knowledge, true Russian Blues have never been released to the pet industry and are not available in pet shops.
The first Russian Blue rat was shown in AFRMA’s Unstandardized class on September 25, 1994. The color was standardized on January 27, 1996, making Russian Blue one of the quickest colors to become recognized.
There are a number of different “Blue” rats. Russian Blues are distinctive from the others in a number of ways. The AFRMA standard describes Russian Blue as: “Color to be similar to the blue mice or blue cats, a very dark slate blue color with dark ticking throughout. Eyes black.”
GH Carly, the first Russian Blue shown September 25, 1994. Owned by Donna Galins, bred by Geri Hauser
Russian Blue is distinctive in that it looks very similar to other blue animals. Blue mice, rabbits, and cats all appear to have the same coat color as Russian Blue rats. Unlike slate Blue, Russian Blue does not vary much in intensity of color. You do not find lightly colored or darkly colored Russian Blues. Instead, some Russian Blues are an even blue-gray color and others have a brown tint to their coats. They also rarely have much silvering in their coats, quite unlike other Blues.
Also unique to Russian Blue rats is an almost ticked appearance to the fur. Though the individual hairs are not banded like the agouti group of colors, the pigment is unevenly dispersed along the hair shaft. This often gives each hair a dark tip and lends itself to a distinctive appearance. Often the fur of a Russian Blue has a slightly different texture than that of other rats. It tends to be short and dense, having a plush feel to it. This difference is not distinctive enough to consider it a unique coat type, and it is unknown whether it is caused by the color itself, by the Russian Blues’ Velvet background, or by some other unknown cause.
Breeding Russian Blues is quite easy as a simple recessive gene causes this color. Because this color more closely resembles the Blue (dilute) seen in other animals, we symbolize it as d.
If two Russian Blues who do not carry any other recessive genes are bred together, they will produce an entire litter of Russian Blue babies (dd). If a Russian Blue is bred to another rat that does not carry the gene for Russian Blue, none of the babies will be Russian Blue. They will however carry the trait (Dd). If two of these babies are then bred together, you will once again get Russian Blues in the subsequent litter.
When breeding Russian Blues for show, several things must be kept in mind. Of primary importance is to choose breeding stock with little or no brown tint to their coats. You also want no patchiness or unevenness to the color. As with all colors of rats, type is very important, and should be kept in mind. Most Russian Blues are nice, big boned, attractive animals, so rats that are weedy and light boned should be avoided as breeding stock. As always, no rat that lacks a good temperament and perfect health should be bred.
When combined with other genes, Russian Blue produces a whole rainbow of other colors. Many of these are real favorites among fanciers; most of them resemble, but are darker than, the same combinations seen with regular Blues.
|Russian Blue Combinations|
|aa dd||Russian Blue||The dilute gene acting on a non-Agouti background. (Standardized January 27, 1996)|
|A_ dd||Russian Blue Agouti||The dilute gene acting on an Agouti background. Resembles Blue Agouti but much darker and without the washed out effect often seen. (Not Yet Standardized)|
|CchCch dd||Russian Blue Point Siamese||Russian Blue acting in conjunction with Siamese. Resembles Blue Point Siamese only much darker and with a cool gray background color instead of a warm one. (Not Yet Standardized)|
|dd rr||Blue-Beige||Russian Blue combined with Beige. “Color is a grayish-tan, not too dark, with a blue cast running throughout, not to be confused with Beige. Eye color is dark ruby.” (Standardized March 13, 1999)|
|dd gg||Silver Blue||Russian Blue combined with regular Blue. A very pretty color somewhat resembling Silver Mink/Lilac, only blue instead of brown. The coat has an even number of hairs that are light with a colored tip and white hairs. “Color to be a medium blue with silver-white hairs evenly distributed throughout the coat. They will have a whitish undercoat to be as pale as possible. Eye color is black.” (Standardized August 7, 1999)|
|dd mm or
|Dove||Russian Blue combined with Mink/Lilac or with Chocolate. We are not currently sure which of these combinations produces Dove. It is possible that they both produce differing shades of this color. It is a warm brownish-gray color. The proposed standard reads: “Color to be a chocolate-blue color similar to Dove mice. Not to be confused with Platinum or Lilac. Eye color is black.” (Not Yet Standardized)|
|dd gg mm or
bb dd gg
|Silver Dove||Dove combined with Blue. Proposed standard reads: “Color to be a warm dove with ticking throughout similar to Russian Blue. Not to be confused with Platinum or Lilac. Eye color is black.” (Not Yet Standardized)|
|dd pp||Blue-Champagne||Russian Blue combined with Champagne. Creates an unexceptional muddy looking Champagne color. (Not Standardized)|
Russian Blue can also be combined with all the markings including Irish, Variegated, Bareback, English Irish, Dalmatian, Capped, Berkshire, Hooded, and Masked and all the coat types as well as Dumbo and Tailless.
Showing Russian Blues is similar to showing most of the other dark colors of rats. On self colored Russian Blues, the judge will be looking to see if there are any white markings which would disqualify the rat. We see a number of Russian Blues disqualified at shows because of small white spots on their chest and this seems to be a common problem. Colored feet are also important with white feet and toes being a fault.
A Silver Blue Berkshire winning Best Unstandardized July 24, 1999. Owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen’s Kritters.
Choosing a Russian Blue to show is much like choosing one for breeding. Many of the same concepts apply. Color is very important. There should not be a brown cast to the coat, it should be evenly colored throughout, and the rat should not be in the middle of moulting. Type is, likewise, very important.
Preparing a Russian Blue to be shown is a simple process. Like most other dark colored rats they do not show dirt easily. Young Russian Blues often do not need a full bath before a show, just their tails cleaned and nails trimmed. If a bath is deemed necessary, it should be done at least a week prior to the show so that the oils in the coat can return to normal. Some people have seen an added benefit from using shampoo made for black dogs and cats on their Russian Blues. Just prior to placing your rat in its show box, it is always a good idea to run a satin cloth or a shammy over your rat. The dark Russian Blue coat shows dust easily and this will shine them up and show them at their best.
Russian Blue Self Standard rat and Blue Self Standard mouse (mouse is leaden gene ln; mouse dilute gene dd and ln look identical), both owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen’s Kritters.