Thursday, May 17, 2012

Breeding the Pointed White English Angora Part 3– Other Concerns.

Heat Sensitivity.  Another concern for pointed white breeders can be heat sensitivity.  The gene is heat sensitive which can cause the points to fade in high temperatures.  This is another reason why it is crucial to breed for nice dark colored pointeds.  Once with nice dark color may fade, but can still be shown and the heat should not affect a rabbit bred for nice dark color that also does not carry any tort gene and carries a double pointed gene.  However, pointed that are not bred for nice color may lose all color.  In fact, if any lose all color in their feet in the summer, these should ideally be removed from the breeding program.  When I had a very strong and dark pointed line, I did not have to worry about the heat, the black points would turn a lighter sepia brown, but would retain their color.  As they got older, also, they would appear to be more susceptible to the heat, so I take that into consideration when making my choices for retaining breedings. 

Intensity of Color. Even when you are breeding your colors correctly, you will notice that some of your pointeds are darker than others.  While you have to balance all factors when choosing your breeding stock, you will then be at a point where you can add dark color to your list of desired characteristics when selecting breeding stock.  You will be amazed at the variety that can be in a litter of pointeds, and this will give you the opportunity to select the darkest colors (while balancing all other factors of course) to improve your pointed line in the next generation.   So, just like with any other color, to increase the intensity of the color, choose and breed rabbits that exhibit dark color.

Many of you may not have had this knowledge regarding breeding pointed whites previously, so if you are not following these guidelines, all is not lost – start today.  And if you need any further guidance, do not hesitate to speak with a person raising a normal furred breed that has a nice line of pointed whites.  In fact, I learned these genetic tips from my years of Netherland Dwarfs, and then applied them to my pointed White English Angoras and was able to produce a nice solid line of animals. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Breeding the Pointed White English Angora Part II– the Three Cardinal Rules

The three cardinal rules for breeding pointeds are 1) you want to double up on the pointed gene, 2) you want to avoid the non-extension gene carried by torts, pearls and fawns, and 3) the you want to avoid the agouti gene carried by chestnut, choc agouti, opal, lynx, cream and fawns. 

1) Doubling up the pointed gene.  When breeding the pointeds, the best breeding choice is to breed two nice dark colored pointeds together.  Another good option would be to breed a self (black, blue, lilac, or chocolate) that carries the pointed gene or a Siamese sable that carries the pointed gene.  This is because your darkest pointeds will occur when the rabbit receives the pointed genes from both parents. In fact, it is desirable to have a Siamese sable and pointed line that you breed together.  Breeding the pointed to the sable will give you correctly colored sables which are not too dark.  Also, the babies will hopefully carry the pointed gene, so any pointeds out of the sable to pointed breeding will carry two pointed genes.  This is a win-win, and it allows you to have two nice colors that you breed together so that each pairing is a sable to a pointed, resulting in a litter of half Siamese sables with nice color and the other half theoretically would be double gene pointeds.  While you could do the same with a black or other self line, a black that carries the pointed gene may not reach its full potential for color.  However, I currently use blacks because I do not have Siamese sables yet, and I am happy to report that my blacks remain very dark, although I am sure that they would be darker if I did not have to use them in my pointed line.

Single gene pointeds.  You can also get pointeds when a rabbit receives a pointed gene from one parent and a white gene from the other parent.  These will not be as dark in color as the pointed to pointed, but if you are trying to improve your pointed line, or just do not have any other options, you may have to do these crosses. You do need to get your quality first.  So, if I needed to work on quality, I would not hesitate to use a black or sable that carries the white gene to breed to my pointeds, or a white that is genetically a black or other self.  Once the quality is there, then you can go back to trying to get your darkest pointeds by doubling up on that gene.

2) Avoiding Non-extension gene pointeds.  One should always avoid the tort or non-extension gene when breeding pointeds.  This means, no tort of any color, no pearl of any color (with the exception of smoke pearl, because smoke pearl is not genetically a pearl, but rather a blue sable) fawns or creams.  Also, avoid using pointed whites that are very light, or whose points appear frosted rather than solid, as they are more than likely non-extension pointeds.  Breeding this gene into your line will produce very undesirable rabbits, and rabbits that can be disqualified.  And, that pesky gene can stay hidden in a line for awhile, and once in there, it will take awhile to breed out.  It is understandable that the English angora breed has many outstanding tort rabbits, and it therefore can be tempting to use them to improve your pointed line.  However, this temptation should be resisted, and, one should find an outstanding black or other self instead.   There are plenty of nice black or other self colored English Angoras, so there should no need to perpetuate the tort gene into your pointeds, causing headaches for many generation.  Just like giving in to temptation and breeding to a rabbit with a white toenail, breeding to the tort could come back and haunt you later down the road. 

3)  Avoid the Agouti Gene.  Also important, but not as crucial as avoiding the tort gene, is to avoid the agouti gene.  This means no chestnuts, choc agoutis, opals, lynxes or fawns should be bred to the pointed white.  The agouti gene will also cause the color to be undesirable as it will cause the points to have rings.  When looking at these rabbits, the points will appear to look chinchilla colored.  While this will result in a disqualification, it is a dominant gene and therefore is easier to breed out than the tort gene.   Therefore, if you bred a chestnut to a pointed and got some nice colored babies that do not have ring color, you could rest assured that those babies will not be passing the agouti gene on to future generations and can safely be utilized in your breeding program.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Breeding the Pointed White English Angora Part I– Introduction

Certain colors of English Angora need to be bred in a certain manner, one of the most important of these is the Pointed White.  All too often, I see pictures of what people claim to be a “Lilac” Pointed White.  Upon further inspection it is actually what I call a “tort pointed” or, to those who speak genetics, a non-extension pointed.  A true lilac pointed, is not just light in color, it should have nice solid dark lilac color on its points.  These non-extension pointeds are undesirable, and when the color is so affected that it is non-existent, can even result in disqualification. 

How do the light non-extension pointeds occur?  The pointed white or himalayan gene causes color to be removed from the rabbits entire body, except the tail, feet, ears, and nose.  So, if you have a rabbit that is genetically a black, but displays the pointed gene, black color remains in these areas.  Same for any other self color, such as blue, lilac or choc.  However, if you have a rabbit that is genetically a tort that carries the pointed gene, only that smoky tort color will remain.  So, you get light colors that appear to be frosted on instead of solid. As you can imagine, a blue tort, choc tort, or lilac tort has even lighter shading which could cause the color to become virtually nonexistent.  That is why it is important to never breed torts into your pointed line, and to avoid any rabbits that appear to have light, frosted points, or that either do not have feet color or that on occasion lose their feet color.  And, to you judges out there, do not give English angora pointeds a pass for color when you would normally disqualify in a normal breed.  These light pointeds that do not display color in the feet or tails should be disqualified.  Although I have seen many non-extension gene pointeds shown in the past few years, I have only seen one disqualified, and that one had virtually no point color whatsoever.  This does not encourage the breeders to breed the colors correctly.

Keep in mind that most of you will not have “ideal” pointed white programs at this time because it appears that a lot of this knowledge of breeding the color has not been widely distributed. Therefore, even if you may not have followed all of this advice in the past, it is my hope that you can take this guidance and use it as a start to help you to create beautiful dark pointeds that will be stunners on the show table.  

  This series will appear in three parts, so stay tuned for Part II – the Three Cardinal rules of Breeding Pointed Whites and Part III – Other Concerns, which will address heat sensitivity and Color Intensity.

Also, some of the terms that I use when describing genetics are  not “textbook”, I often use my own terms to make the subject easier to understand.