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Tri Colored Genetics

A basic understanding of rabbit coat color genetics would be an asset if considering breeding and raising tri-colored Mini Lops. I have included a link to a few rabbit genetic sites in the “Links” section.

The tri-colored variety in the Mini Lop was recognized in the ARBA Standard of Perfection in 2001. I have worked on developing this variety since 1994 when I purchased a F1 Mini Lop/Harlequin buck. It has been one of my biggest challenges to not only produce good tri-colored rabbits but to have them compete against Mini Lops of all other varieties.

I consider the tri-colored Mini Lop as a distinct ‘Breed’. I strongly suggest you do not breed tri-colored lops into your existing Mini Lop herd. I have bred certain varieties INTO the tri line to enhance modifier genes and for gene pool diversity only.

I have found that you should never introduce the chinchilla gene cchl, cchm or cchd into your tri lines. The chinchilla gene inhibits orange/fawn color so you will loose your orange spotting. The chinchilla gene also plays havoc on your modifiers.

I have also found that you should not introduce the steel or Himalayan gene to your tri lines. They also mess up your tri-colored phenotype.

You should never breed tri-colored Mini Lops into any other variety of Mini Lop because the Japanese harlequin gene will alter the color for many generations, for example you will get leg banding on all your agouti’s (chestnuts, opals, chinchillas etc). The Japanese harlequin gene will also alter the belly color of many of your other varieties. All of these changes are disqualification on the show table.

The genotype of the Black and Golden Orange tri-colored Mini Lop is A-B-C-D-ej-Enen The ideal homozygote genotype is AABBCCDDejej Enen with the orange modifiers --++++. You will find that you will have many heterozygote recessive genes influencing your color and spotting as you work at introducing new tri stock or other varieties to increase your gene pool.

Lavender Blue and Golden Fawn tri’s are also recognized in the ARBA Standard of Perfection. The genotype of this variety is A-B-C-ddej-Enen.

Chocolate and Golden Orange tri’s are recognized. The genotype of this variety is A-bbC-D-ej-Enen.

Lilac and Golden Fawn tri’s are recognized. The genotype of this variety is A-bbC-ddej-Enen.

The Enen allele is the genotype of any broken patterned rabbit. ‘Charlie’ brokens are EnEn and solid animals are enen. You will use enen ‘tri’s’ in your breeding program (Japanese harlequin) even though they are a non-showable variety.

I have used animals with aa or Aa genotype in the tri’s even though it is not always desirable for your distinctive spotting. The tortoise color usually introduces strong orange modifiers (---+++) to enhance your orange color. You then have to selectively cull out the ‘shaded’ tri’s that appear since shading at the points in the tri is faulted on the show table.

Another method of introducing stronger orange modifiers and also to diversify your gene pool is to breed to a broken fawn (preferably wide-band) or broken chestnut agouti Mini Lop. You must be confident that the genotype of these outcross animals are A-B-CCD-E-/ee Enen. Again the chinchilla gene, and the steel gene will mess up your tri program.

If you are happy with your orange modifiers then introducing the chocolate, blue and lilac recessive genes can give you a selection of tri varieties. Remember the dilutes (blue and lilac) will automatically lighten your modifiers so you have to ‘stack’ your modifiers to get a good golden fawn color in your animals (-+++++). This is extremely difficult to accomplish. In the days I raised Tan rabbits I found it took many, many generations of strict selecting for dark orange modifier genes to accomplish and maintain this.

I also have found that it is best to maintain excellent black color by breeding black and golden orange tri’s (B/GO) to B/GO only OR B/GO to Blue/ Golden Fawn tri’s together only. If you introduce the recessive b gene (chocolate) to your black /GO and Blue/GF lines you will alter the base color of the black and begin to see a ‘lack of luster’ or rustiness to your black spots. Chocolate/GO is best bred to Chocolate/GO and to Lilac/GF.

Japanese harlequin Mini Lops; genotype A-B-CCD-ej-enen are not a showable variety yet they are extremely valuable in a breeding program since you will produce fewer ‘charlie’ tri’s in your litters. ‘Charlie’ tri’s are animals that have very little black/blue or orange/fawn color pigmentation and it is usually restricted to the ears, whisker base, and spine strip only and maybe a scattering of a few spots on the body (EnEn). If there is less than 50% color then the ‘charlie’ is not showable. ‘Charlies’ can be used in a breeding program. They are best matched up with a Japanese harlequin or a heavily marked tri. If you use many ‘charlies’ over time in your breeding program you tend to get less and less spotting in individuals and often more spots and less blanket. The Enen (English spotting gene or broken gene) is also controlled by modifiers.

The tri-colored Mini Lop rabbit is probably one of the most difficult varieties to work with. Remember there is only 5 points on color and markings in the Mini Lop in the ARBA Standard of Perfection. The majority of the points (80) are on General Type; body, head, ears, feet and legs with only 15 points on fur and condition. It is easy to loose site of the importance of body type when you have a nestbox of stunning tri’s. Keep only the best typed ones.

If all this genetic ‘mumbo jumbo’ hasn’t scared you away then breeding tri-colored Mini lops might be for you. Tri’s are not the variety of choice for beginners. If strict culling isn’t practiced then the tri-colored Mini Lop will become just mediocre and will never compete on the show table with the other Mini Lop varieties. That would be a shame.

Written by Jody Mitchell

Jody Mitchell
Lake Cowichan, B.C. Canada

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