This article was a Facebook Note
By Karen Robbins
AFRMA’s Rat Self Colors Poster, Lilac and Mink http://www.afrma.org/sales/posterratcolors.htm.
AFRMA’s Rat Silvered Colors Poster, Silver Lilac and Silver Mink http://www.afrma.org/sales/posterratcolors.htm.
AFRMA’s Rat AOC Colors Poster, Pearl http://www.afrma.org/sales/posterratcolors.htm.
Lilac and Mink look the same and will make other colors the same way (i.e. Agouti + Lilac/Mink = Cinnamon) but are not the same gene.
We did not have any
blue (Blue or Russian Blue) colors back in the 1970s/1980s, but some might call this color
blue. In the
early days of the rat fancy in England (1900s), there were rats called
Blue that were more than
likely Mink. Mink is more gray-brown where Russian Blue is more slate blue, not brown and when you compare them side-by-side, you can
see the difference.
We did have one breeder at the time theorize they were a
chocolate/brown gene. But we knew by 1983 they were not a chocolate
gene as we got Chocolate when we imported them from the N.F.R.S. in England in November 1983 and they are not the same. We also
brought in the English Mink/Silver Mink at the same time. To compound the problem, Lilac can be bred to be too brown and look
I’ve seen some really brown Lilacs over the years and unfortunately with the pet breeders putting everything into their rats, it’s
difficult to sort out what they are genetically that is causing them to be so brown.
When we imported the English rats for the first time in November 1983, the Mink and Lilac looked so similar it was assumed they
were the same genetically since they operated the same in making other colors—Mink was just selected to be darker where we were
selecting Lilacs to be lighter. I only did one breeding between a Silver Lilac and an English Cinnamon Pearl in 1988 and got only Agouti
and Black kids (12 total), no gray rats or Cinnamon as would be expected. Prior to that in 1987 I had gotten a Lilac Capped from another
breeder and bred to one of my Lilacs and got only Black and PEW (13 total). I don’t have details on the background of the other
breeder’s rat so don’t know if there was English in them giving them the Mink gene, but obviously they were not the same
Lilacs. However, I/we didn’t know enough about rat genetics at the time to say
Wait, why are there no gray rats? I never
did any more breedings of the two colors after that, rather just continued breeding the
American rats and
separately to keep the lines pure.
Color wise English Mink are supposed to be:
To be an even mid-grey brown, devoid of dinginess, silvering or patches and having
a distinct bluish sheen. These are more gray where Lilac are supposed to be a more pastel gray-brown-dove color:
Color is a
medium dove gray, evenly mixed with brown, not too dark. So, you can see they are similar but different with the Mink being a darker color and Lilacs
are lighter. When we were in England in 2004, I did see some Minks that were a perfect shade of Lilac and would have shown well here.
We now know that U.K. Mink is different genetically than what we have here (
gray rats (one English and one from USA via Europe)
produced only Black babies proving they are two different genes that just happened to look the same and operate the same, i.e. breeding
to Agouti makes Cinnamon or combining with Pearl to make Pearl. We also may have more than one
gray brown gene here in the U.S.
that looks and acts like Mink (
To make things more interesting, the gray/mink rats in Australia are a totally different gene from any others, so there are at
least three different
gray-brown/mink genes that all look/operate the same but are not the same genetically
brown genes out there.
One question I was asked many, many years ago on how to tell the two colors apart—Mink vs. Lilac—my reply was if it is pure English, then it is Mink, if not English, then Lilac.
Lilac male rat. Photo ©AFRMA.
English Mink male rat. Photo ©2011 Karen Robbins.
Silver Lilacs came out of the first Lilac (F3 litter) (the original Lilac—a male that was then named
According to the standards:
The Silver Lilacs are to be:
Color to be dove gray with a blueish sheen. Coat is evenly
ticked with silver white hairs throughout. where Silver Mink is:
To be an even mid gray-brown devoid
of dinginess or patches and having a distinct blueish sheen. The coat should contain equal numbers of silvered and non-silvered
hairs. Each silvered hair to have as much of its length white as possible—a colored tip to be allowed. Silvering to give
an overall sparkling appearance. Just like Lilac vs. Mink, Silver Lilac vs. Silver Mink are similar but different colors with Lilac
being lighter and Mink darker.
Silver Lilac Female rat moulting (common for this color). Photo ©2014 Karen Robbins.
Young Silver Lilac male rat. Photo ©1986 Larry Ferris.
Adult Silver Lilac male rat that is heavily silvered. Photo ©1991 Larry Ferris.
An 8-week-old Silver Mink male rat. Photo ©2013 Karen Robbins.
A 10-week-old English Silver Mink male rat starting to moult. Photo ©2011 Karen Robbins.
4-week-old Silver Mink male vs. Mink female kitten rats. Photo ©2013 Karen Robbins.
We have gotten several questions the last few years regarding
Pearl—some referring to it as
Dark Phase Pearl. I believe what they really are now after working with a local breeder and seeing them in person, is they are
Silver Lilac, NOT Pearls. I have bred both Silver Lilacs and English Pearl for many years and can tell you they are not the same.
English Pearl is dominant and needs Mink (or Lilac) to show (you can have a normal colored rat be Pearl but not show if it is not carrying Mink as I have had, and breeding to a Mink carrier then produces Pearl which could make you think Pearl is recessive. When breeding English Pearl, you get Pearl and Silver Mink/Mink in every litter, either by breeding two Pearls together or a Pearl with a Mink. If you have two English Mink out of Pearl and breed together and get Mink and Pearl, then one or both parents are considered dark-phase Pearl as two Minks bred together = all Mink. In my breedings of English Silver Mink to English Silver Mink, I got only Silver Mink (just like breeding Silver Lilac), or Silver Mink and Mink.
Another difference is Silver Lilac has silvered hairs where Pearl has the hairs tipped in gray (Mink). Pearl are an off white/dirty white color as babies where Silver Lilac are gray with silvering. Pearl will not moult into progressively darker colors as they age like the Silver Lilac can. Also, Silver Lilac/Lilac will be patchy in color a lot and were always hard to show as adults (English Mink can have the same problem). The Silver Lilacs I had would keep their silvering throughout life where the English Silver Minks out of English Pearl I have now will lose any silvering they have as young adults and you can’t tell them apart from plain Mink after that. I’ve also never seen them with as much silvering as babies. The many years I bred Silver Lilac (and Lilac), I never had them as light as some of the photos I’ve seen, but then I wasn’t selecting for more and more silvering, and most of these light ones end up darkening/less silvering as they age. I could see where someone not breeding to show Standards, might be selecting for more and more silvering, as they are pretty with that much.
You can read more in the articles
Recessive Pearl Rats, Getting Pearl From Two Minks; Untested
Recessive Pearl Rats and
Dark Phase Pearl? Rat;
Color Typing: Dark Phase Pearl? Rat,
English Pearl male rat. Photo ©2007 Karen Robbins.
11-day-old English Pearl kitten female rats, L and middle: good color, R: dark color, owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen’s Kritters. Photo ©2013 Karen Robbins.
11-day-old English Pearl kitten male rats rest of litter, L: best color of males, rest too dark, owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen’s Kritters. Photo ©2013 Karen Robbins.
The English Pearl male rat babies now at 4-weeks-old, L: good color, R: dark tipping, owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen's Kritters. Photo ©2013 Karen Robbins.
Young English Pearl vs. PEW female rats, owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen’s Kritters. Photo ©2013 Karen Robbins.
Adult moulting female dark Pearl rat, owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen’s Kritters. Photo ©2011 Karen Robbins.