A prominent feature for any bunny besides their teeth is their fur. Soft, fluffy, and totally unique to their species – a rabbit’s mane comes in an array of patterns and colors. There is, in fact, a lot of detail when it comes to the shades of their hair when you take a close look. Like a painter’s palette, you will notice that a rabbit’s coat has more than one color, especially as you brush through it.
However, these colors are not some optical illusion, and neither do they randomly appear. The nature of their fluff is amazing and says a lot about them too.
Let’s Talk About Rabbit Genetics
Recessive and dominant trait inheritance principles apply equally when it comes to rabbit coat color and other rabbit genetic traits.
Here’s how recessive or dominant inheritance in rabbits works when it comes to rabbit coat color genetics.
In each cell of a rabbit is DNA – which is the blueprint showing how the rabbit looks, behaves, acts, and functions. The rabbit’s genes contain DNA that comes in pairs. Remember that the genes contain two copies or duplicates for rabbit fur color that might be identical or coded for the same color.
Also, the two copies of genes might not be identical, or each is coded for different fur colors. If this happens, one color will be more noticeable or dominant, and the other color is recessive or a back-up color.
These genes come from the parents of the rabbit. The genes recombine or crossbreed in the rabbit offspring, which brings the total gene count to two per trait. This genetic material recombination from parents into rabbit children provides diversity among rabbits.
While some genes or traits are dominant, there are some traits that are recessive. When the dominant gene traits are “expressed,” you see its effect in the rabbit’s fur color. On the other hand, the other gene or trait isn’t expressed. You might never know that the recessive gene is there unless it is paired with another recessive and passed down to the children.
Agouti coloration is considered dominant. The chestnut agouti of Netherland Dwarfs or the castor among Rex rabbits is agouti. It takes one agouti gene to create an Agouti rabbit. It is because of the dominant gene.
Solid black coloration is a ‘self’ color or recessive gene. To have black fur, the rabbit should have two recessive solid-coloration genes, which is one from each parent. There’s no way for any black rabbit to have to carry an agouti gene, which is BE agouti if it does.
Surprisingly, your bunny can have up to five different hair colors all at once. Often they are easier to spot if your buddy has a pattern or markings. The common colors we know that are more predominant in rabbits are known as the A series of colors or A-locus. A refers to Agouti, which is the natural color wild rabbits possess. Agouti is also an occurring pattern of color in the series.
What Runs in the Rabbit Genes
The A series of rabbit colors has three (3) groups, with each one having a different combination and pattern that sets them apart, namely:
- Agouti (the wild rabbit pattern)
- Tan (as seen in the TOM breeds: Tan, Otter, and Martin or marten)
- Self (the single solid pattern)
1. Agouti (gene symbolized as A)
The agouti color pattern is the natural color of rabbit fur. Agouti patterns are the characteristic of wild rabbits. Agouti rabbits have visible white or cream spots inside their ears, around the eyes, nostrils, chin, tummy, legs, and lower part of the tail.
While up close, this pattern takes form as rings of color or are seemingly blended in a shaft of the hair. Instead of a solid shade of chestnut, it is actually a mix of brown, black, and white – light and dark colors (called the ticking) blend together throughout the coat.
The Agene is dominant over either an at or a that creates the pattern. Under this group of patterns are the following colors of fur:
- Agouti (black, chocolate, and dilute blue shades such as chestnut, copper, cinnamon, lynx, and opal)
- Chinchilla (beige, black, blue, chocolate, lilac, light gray, sable, smoke pearl, steel gray)
- Pearl (Siamese smoke, frosty pearl)
- Point (blue, chocolate, lilac, sable, smoke pearl)
- Seal (Seal, blue or dark pearl)
2. Tan (gene symbolized as at)
Tan rabbits can be difficult to tell apart from an agouti or wild rabbit. The two patterns have similar shades, plus their distinct markings are also found in the same spots. On the ears, around the eyes, nostrils, chin, belly, and tail, you can see that they have lighter fur that is either white, cream, or orange.
The tan color pattern is often associated with the warm fur markings, but not all tan rabbits are the same, mistaking them as agoutis. So how will you know if a rabbit is a tan? Look on the fur of its back. Tan bunnies have a solid top color, such as a pure coat of black, chocolate, lilac, or sable, among other tan fur colors. You will also notice that they have a light, triangular marking on the nape of their neck as well. Their genes need at least one at combined with an a or another at to form this color combination.
While the agouti pattern is seen in wild rabbits, there are specific breeds that have this tan color, with corresponding colors:
- Tan Rabbits (black, blue, chocolate, lilac, and have red or orange markings)
- Otter rabbits (like the tan rabbits, they also come in black, blue, chocolate, and lilac)
- Martin rabbits (sable, silver, and smoke pearl, with white markings)
3. Self (symbolized as a)
They can be the easiest to identify out of the A color series. The name, in fact, is self-explanatory. A self-color pattern is simply one color – there is no blending or rings of color or any markings too. A self rabbit has a pure solid color for its fur all throughout the body. They possess a dominant aa gene and either an A or at the gene for the pattern to be possible. Some colors for self rabbits include the following:
There are also “shaded” color patterns, which means their fur may have a lighter to darker shade, but it is only one color and not a blend like tickings or markings. Examples of these self shaded patterns are:
- Sable point
- Siamese sable
- Smoke pearl
Your fluffy, lovable buddy has a lot to say just by its fur. Every breed has various combinations of color or a solid one thanks to their genes. The popular A series of rabbit color patterns include the Agouti found in wild rabbits; the Tan in the breed of the same name, along with Otter and Martin rabbit; and the Self.
Agouti rabbits have bands or rings of more than one color blended in a single strand of fur and have light markings around the body. Tan rabbits meanwhile possess a solid color back and have reddish or orange markings around the body and are notable on the neck. Lastly, the self pattern sticks to one color of fur even if it is shaded.
Here’s a video https://www.thenaturetrail.com/rabbit-genetics/agouti-tan-self-a-series-otter/ of rabbit genetics.
No matter the color of your bunny, what makes them stand out the most is their hip and hop personality. Any color pattern it may be, we are sure you will fall in love with any and every bunny breed.