Thursday, September 29, 2011

Breeding for Color - Beware of Torts

Many English Angora breeders breed any color to any color, which can lead to poor results.  Even though only five points are allocated to color, judges truly appreciate intense well colored animals probably more than this point amount would lead you to believe, so being careful with breeding should be a top priority.  Having a color project can be very rewarding, and since breeders of other breeds follow color rules when breeding, there really isn’t any reason that you can’t.   To get some guidance on the issue, talk to breeders of normal furred breeds with multiple colors.  Because I raised Netherland Dwarfs for many years, I learned how the colors should be bred together for optimum results, and this is unfortunately knowledge that many of your fellow English angora breeders do not possess and could truly give you an advantage on the show table.  An intense study of genetics is not necessary, just find out the “rules” for breeding whatever color you are interested in, follow them, and consider correct color when selecting your breeding stock.

Particularly, an English Angora breeder should avoid breeding tort to everything.  If you have a reason for doing so, for instance, if your blacks need better density and the rabbit with the best density in your barn is a tort, than do so, but by breeding that way, understand that you may need to work harder at getting the color back.  While I have heard people in the breed say that torts are the densest, I know by previous experience that this is just coincidence. Because many of the most serious breeders raise torts, a person’s best rabbits may be torts, but it would be a mere coincidence and is anecdotal evidence at best.  Many years ago, when torts were rare in my barn, the ones that I had did not have as dense of wool as my main colors – I suspect that since I got few torts then, that it was mere coincidence, as well as the fact that they did not occur often and did not occur from my best lines.  Similarly, English Angora breeders now breed mostly tort, so the reverse could lead someone to the conclusion that torts are best because they are either from their best lines or are the most numerous– but it is a fact that the tort gene itself does not do anything to make a coat more or less dense.  Do not get me wrong, I do love torts, but not enough to have them dominate my herd.

The reason to not breed torts indiscriminately with other colors is two-fold – one, that on a tort, you usually do not worry about color intensity as you would on other colors such as blacks or chocolates, so when you bred your tort in you may be selecting a rabbit with weak color intensity.  Second, in many colors, such as the pointed white, the recessive tort gene can lead to lighter colors.  I see many pointed whites being advertised as “lilac” when I suspect that they are actually pointed whites that have a recessive tort gene.  A true lilac pointed white will not be light, it should have points that are dark, but Lilac in color, and should not have feet that fade to white in the summer.  Take a look at a Lilac in the Himalayan breed  of rabbit, and you will see that the Lilac pointed whites are not faintly colored as some of the alleged “lilac” pointed white English Angoras are. 

Bottom line is, if you need to breed a tort into a color such as a black or an agouti, be sure that you are using a dark tort so that you do not lose color intensity.  Additionally, some colors, such as pointed white, should  never be bred to a tort unless absolutely necessary, because the tort gene itself, no matter how intensely dark it is, will make the points faint and light.  In the future, I will talk about breeding specific colors and color groups, but for now, you can research color breeding information from other breeds who do a better job at breeding for color.   Putting a small amount of effort into breeding your colors true can lead to gorgeous blacks, striking agoutis and intensely dark pointed whites, which look amazing on the show table!


  1. Hello!! I just want to say that I've read all your posts on here and have learned SO much!! I thank you for taking the time to write all these fabulous posts.

    I was very interested in this particular post as I've never heard anyone say "beware of torts". I would LOVE to know more about breeding colors together. I am just getting into showing English Angoras and have not started breeding yet - I'm trying to educate myself on colors and I'm having trouble finding information.

    I would love for you to write more posts about what colors should/shouldn't be bred together when it comes to English Angoras! :-)

    Thank you for your time!

  2. I too am just starting out in this wonderful breed, and have enjoyed reading all your informational posts about them.

    I agree with Hope, it is hard to find information about color breeding EAs and I am looking forward to reading more about the subject. I recently purchased a blue buck, and have noticed that he fades to a nearly white color at the base of his coat next to the skin. I am not sure whether I should even think about breeding him, or if I should just try to acqure better colored breeders to start with.

    Thank you for putting all this information together, it is really helpful for a newbie like me!