This article is from the WSSF 2005 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Sue Foulds, Serendipity Stud, N.F.R.S., England
Breeding, genetics, and show information
In theory, this is one of the easiest varieties to breed, being a combination of all the dominant genes, A- B- C- D- P- R-, and appearing, albeit unplanned, in many different litters. Although a poor example may appear dull and drab in comparison to some of the other varieties, a good example is unbeatable on the show bench, and the agouti is definitely an animal to appeal to the true fancier.
They should be a rich mahogany in colour, ticked with black, and need to be kept in excellent condition to ensure that their coat shines, giving them a wonderful gleaming appearance as they move. There is no excuse for showing an Agouti with poor type, as careful selective breeding will easily produce an animal of the correct shape, excelling in head and eye, and with a lovely short coat. In fact, the Agouti is usually the first choice for an outcross to improve type in other varieties!
The main problem is the recessive genes that they may be carrying, as some of these will affect their coat colour: AA or Aa: it makes no difference at all to the outward appearance
BB or Bb: the best colour will be achieved by selecting for rats carrying BB. The b gene dilutes black to chocolate, and a Bb animal will have a duller coat than a BB, whilst a bb rat will be a Chocolate Agouti, sometimes appearing on the show bench, and having a bright (though not mahogany) top colour at first glance, but being given away by the chocolate ticking on closer inspection.
CC or C-: the C- locus is more complicated. Whereas it makes no difference to coat colour whether the rat is CC or Cc, other recessives such as Chinchilla, Siamese, and Burmese can dull the top colour, so these should be avoided when trying to breed a show-quality Agouti.
DD or Dd: D [America uses gg as the genetic code for Blue, Ed.] is the English blue dilute, and an animal carrying d will have a greyer coat than the DD rat.
P- and R-: some people say that carrying either of these recessives has no effect on coat colour. From experience, Rr animals have a good colour as kittens but tend to lose their ticking, particularly on their rumps, as they get older. However, some years ago I did win the “London Championship,” one of the two major shows of the year, with an 18 month old Agouti doe who had a Topaz mother, and was therefore definitely Rr, who was a wonderful colour, very even, and was a Gold Champion, so experimenting with adding the ruby-eye gene can be very beneficial!
An Agouti showing nice richness of color. Rat owned by Paul Threapleton/Sue Foulds, Serendipity Stud, England. Photo by Craig Robbins.
Other recessives such as Mink, Russian Blue, etc., are all to be avoided, as they all have an adverse effect on producing the correct rich mahogany colour. It is the aim of every fancier, whatever they choose to breed and show, to produce that elusive, “impossible” dream—the perfect animal. It is with the Agouti that the rat fancier stands the best chance of coming anywhere close!
The Cinnamon is actually a Mink agouti, genetically A- B- C- D- R- P- mm, and should be a warm russet colour (think autumn leaves) with chocolate ticking. Once again, it is a relatively easy variety to breed for type, and they usually have good eyes so the hardest part is to get the colour right. Any of the dilute recessives (e.g English or Russian Blue, etc.) will spoil the top colour, and Mink has a tendency to be patchy anyway, so to get a rich, even top can be difficult. A class of Cinnamons often consists of various brown rats of differing shades (with many of the rats having most of the shades!), but a good Cinnamon in excellent condition, is a beautiful animal, capable of taking the top honours at any show.
A Cinnamon rat owned by Paul Threapleton/Sue Foulds, Serendipity Stud, England. Photo by Craig Robbins.
Personally, I think the best rats are A- bb C- RR PP mm, but other fanciers may disagree. Adding ruby-eye to Cinnamon can be a mistake, as it tends to make the ticking appear mink, rather than chocolate, giving an overall appearance of a very “red” animal, eye-catching at first glance, but not adhering to standard on closer inspection.
Two Cinnamon rats. The one on the left is the correct color, the one on the right is too red. Rats owned by Paul Threapleton/Sue Foulds, Serendipity Stud, England. Photo by Craig Robbins.
Cinnamons bred from Cinnamon Pearls are often very silvered as kittens (indeed, we have won many prizes with Silver Cinnamon kittens including BIS at a “London Championship” as they are very beautiful, with half their hairs silver and half Cinnamon, but unfortunately they lose the silvering when they gain their adult coat at 3 months—they can then go on to show very successfully as adults in the Cinnamon class). Unfortunately, some Cinnamon lines have a tendency to put on weight very easily, so they need to be fed with care and given plenty of exercise to keep them in show condition. Overweight does are difficult to get pregnant, so they are a variety that are better mated up at 5 months, rather than leaving them until they are older.