1983 Lilac Rats
1982 I was given a rat of an unusual colour, and began a breeding
programme to discover more about the new shade. Some years later
in 1987, two years after I stopped breeding rats the first time
round, I wrote this article about them which I unearthed
during a house move last year.
1982 I organised a show for the NFRS to be held in Street, Somerset;
the first of the Wessex area shows. All that is past history now
the show attracted a large entry and was a great success, being
held in conjunction with a small-pets show and attracting much media
attention in the area.
But for me it was also the beginning of one of my most exciting
periods of small animal breeding - I found a new colour of rat.
of the exhibitors at the show who had travelled from Dorset to attend,
mentioned that he had bought a weird-coloured rat at a pet shop
in Wimborne, Dorset, and when I expressed an interest he agreed
to bring the rat along for me to see. And I saw what I immediately
suspected to be some kind of a dilute agouti. Blue Vinney - named
after the rare Dorset blue cheese - was a variegated-berkshire of
an unusual bluish, misty-looking agouti colour.
had recently had a litter, and I was given her, plus three of her
babies sired by a Cinnamon buck. Vinney went to live with Ann Storey,
and I began breeding with the trio of babies to produce more rats
of this unusual colouring, dubbed Pastel.
MARIE was an Agouti Berkshire doe; HEATHCLIFF a Cinnamon
hooded/capped buck; and the third, MUESLI, a similar Cinnamon
several litters from the two girls Muesli and Marie, put to Heathcliff
of course, and from the litters emerged more unusually coloured
rats notably, HELVA, a pastel doe (capped) and DAPPER,
a capped pastel buck.
Amongst the babies were several well marked Variegated kittens
who formed the basis of my Variegated line.
also had blazes on the head and face MALLEN was an
agouti variegated doe from this line who had an unusual Dutch-rabbit
soon after, LIO was bred the first rat of the colour
I termed lilac. He was a capped with too much colour,
but that colour which started out looking rather like Mink, turned
into a lighter bluer shade. His children, when bred back to a
Pastel doe, were also self (non-agouti) rather than agouti, and
some were even more lilac-y, developing a lovely pink tinge when
from the shows were directed at the minkish colour they appeared
to be they got short shrift as poor minks but I remained
unconvinced; if the appearance was deceptive, I knew that genetically
they were not mink and not cinnamon, they were something different.
I kept Blue Vinney firmly in mind. If the lilacs looked
Mink, the lilac pastel agoutis were definitely more
of a difference from Cinnamon.
being rats, the next stage was something of a slight accident. I
now had several Pastels and one Lilac, all capped or
variegated and I now needed to try and get them with more colour
on the body, if only to prove a point. When a rat has colour only
on the head, anyone could be forgiven for saying the colour couldnt
be properly seen. Nezumi provided the answer. She was a large and
typy Siamese doe from Geof Izzards breeding, and she eloped
with Lio one night! I kept one of the kittens, a beautiful big black
Berkshire doe named Firân. Her markings werent bad for
a Berkshire and she won a large Berkshire kitten class at the London
Championship show that year. When bred back into the Pastel line
I at last had rats of this colour with Berkshire markings rather
than capped. But they still got the same old comment at shows: poor
this time my Variegated rats were coming on well and I was invited
to send a pair over to the USA when the NFRS was contacted for export
to the American rat fancy. pedigrees were requested and I added
a rider to the effect that my rats - the Variegated - had come from
an experimental line and could therefore be carrying unusual genes.
As by now I had established to my own satifaction that the Pastel
and lilac was recessive, there was a high likelihood
that they did.
people had some of my Variegated and Pastel rats from me, and
a few years later both Rosemary Quaid and Diane Wildman produced
Black-eyed Whites by selectively breeding out the colour on lightly
marked Capped and Variegated. Rats from my Pastels were included
in their development.
I had to give up rats two years later and so my original experimental
colours faded into obscurity. They still exist, though in what
form I do not know. Perhaps the gene still exists, either beneath
some of the Black-eyed Whites, or somewhere over the pond in the
years after I gave up rats, the geneticist Roy Robinson
investigated the genetic make-up of Black-eyed Whites. He discovered
a gene which he called h(e) = extreme hooded. Both Ann
Storey and myself agree this gene is probably what my Pastels
were, since the Black-eyed Whites he conducted his experimental
breeding with were obtained from Rosemary Quaid, who had used
a number of my Pastels in the origination of her Black-eyed White
Another gene linked with white spotting and causing colour fading
has been identified for the rat since the Pastels, the Essex
(or Robert gene). This, however, is a dominant gene, and
the fading effect is quite different from the recessive Pastel
colours. A Cinnamon or Mink Essex is not the same shade as a Pastel
at all, and creates a colour lacking their warmth with a gradation
of shading down the sides.
Since my return to the Rat fancy in 1999 Ive been delighted
to see a couple of Pastel rats, proving that the gene is still
in existence! The first was at Glastonbury Pet Rat Show in 2000,
where two rats were entered for the Pet class. Both were Capped
with too much colour on the head and shoulders, and both were
clearly (to me!) Pastels. When I enquired as to their origin,
I was informed they were rescued rats taken when a rodent farm
in Langport, Somerset closed down. The second Pastel Ive
seen was also a pet, belonging to Ema Pengelly from Southend in
Essex. Reggie as he was named, was a Pastel buck, marked like
the two above.
like to point out that the "Lilacs" mentioned in this
article are not genetically related to the variety known
as Lilac in the USA - which is a form of lightened Mink
but not linked to any white spotting pattern - or the variety
standardised as Lilac in the UK, which is a combination
of standard Blue, Chocolate and possibly also one gene for Red