Friday, August 8, 2014

Is my English Angora a Pearl?

Few colors are as confusing to an English Angora breeder as the pearls. Determining if your rabbit is a pearl can be easy if you know of an English Angora breeder that raises the color. (Note - this post addresses only what I call the "true pearls" and not the smoke pearl, which is a confusing name and is actually the blue form of the sable.) Asking a person breeding the color in normal furred rabbits or asking a judge can be helpful, but the color does appear different on a wooled rabbit, which can result in even these knowledgeable people being confused. A knowledgeable breeder of shaded Jersey Woolies can be very helpful if a knowledgable breeder of English Angora pearls is not available. Often, a weak colored self is mistaken for a pearl. I see this occuring frequently with weakly colored blues or lilacs. Remember that the ARBA standard of perfection describes the color on a pearl as fading rapidly to a "pearl" or very light color in the wool. Think of your grandmas pearls (the real ones, not the fake plastic white ones) - that creamy color is the wool color on an actual pearl. The wool may have ticking, and if there is ticking as the wool grows out, it tends to be the color of the points, the sepia (black), blue, lilac or choc. For instance, if you look at a young black pearl, you will often see frosting in the sepia color over the off white, pearl colored wool. The ticking on a lilac pearl, will probably be too light to be noticeable, but will most likely be present at the very young ages. The three best ways for a breeder inexperienced with the color to see if they have a pearl are 1) the nestbox test 2) the breeding test and 3) the comparison test. 1) The Nest Box Test. Typically it is very easy to spot a pearl in the nextbox. A pearl will seem almost white, but when compared with an actual white baby, you will see that the pearl is more "frosty" color. If your rabbit was a solid color when born, for instance, it looked like a normal blue baby, then you do not have a pearl. 2) The Breeding Test. There are some breeding experiments you can perform if you still are unsure if you have a true pearl. Breed it to a ruby eyed white, making sure this ruby eyed white does NOT carry the agouti gene (you should NEVER breed pearls to agoutis, you can get unshowable shaded agoutis.) Now, I want to caution you, that these two rabbits should be a match for breeding in all other respects - do not just breed this way to check color but you should also be hoping for some superior show quality specimens from the match. If you breed to the ruby eyed white and you get any selfs or torts, you do NOT have a pearl. That is because a pearl bred to a Ruby Eyed White can only produce pearls or ruby eyed whites . 3) The Comparison Test. In my opinion, this is the best test for those that are inexperienced with the pearl color. For this test, set the rabbit next to a tort with matching points (i.e. a blue pearl next to a blue tort). Basically, a pearl is a tort that has the "yellow" of beige color removed. So, these two rabbits should look exactly the same colorwise, but one has no beige yellow color. Now, sometimes the points on the pearl will be a little lighter once the temperature goes in the seventies because the enzyme producing color slows down in certain colors, such as pearls (that is another discussion for another day). So, in summer, do make allowances if you compare a tort and a black pearl and the black pearls points are a shade or two lighter than the tort. Pearls are a very beautiful color and look great on the show table. I hope you have as much fun showing them as I do!