The Basics of Color Genetics in Rabbits

By Glenna M. Huffman


There are only four basic colors in rabbits – black, chocolate, blue and lilac. All of the other colors are simply a variation of these four basic colors. Black is the dominant color, with chocolate being the recessive of the black. Blue is the dilute of the black, and lilac is the dilute of the chocolate.

Example Black Colors Chocolate Blue (dilute) Lilac(dilute)
Self-Agouti Black
Sandy (FG only)
Lt. Gray (FG only)
Black Steel
Sable Agouti
Choc. Chinchilla

Chocolate Steel

Blue Steel
Smk Prl Agouti
Lilac Chinchilla

Lilac Steel
Shaded Siamese Sable   Smoke Pearl  
Tan Pattern Black Tan
Black Otter
Black Silver Marten
Sable Marten
Chocolate Tan
Chocolate Otter
Choc. Silver Marten
Blue Tan
Blue Otter
Blue Silver Marten
Smoke Pearl Marten
Lilac Tan
Lilac Otter
Lilac Silver Marten
AOV Black Himi Chocolate Himi Blue Himi Lilac Himi
Non-extension colors - the black is removed, leaving only the yellow to show on the coat.
Agouti Orange
Fawn Fawn
Shaded Sable Point
Chocolate Point
Chocolate Tort
Blue Point
Blue Tort
Lilac Point
Lilac Tort

The Ruby-eyed White (albino) is pure white with the ruby eye, but carries a full set of the color genes hidden. Breeding a Ruby-eyed White to another Ruby-eyed White will ALWAYS result in 100% Ruby-eyed White babies. Breeding a REW to a colored rabbit will let the breeder know what genes the REW carries hidden.

The Blue-eyed White (Vienna White) is also pure white, but with bright blue eyes. They also carry a full set of the color genes hidden. These two white colors are, however, genetically very different and can make some strangely mis-marked babies when bred together. The BEW can also make mis-marked babies when bred to a colored rabbit. Ideally, the BEW should only breed with BEW.

The other “white” rabbits are the Dwarf Hotot (white with color only around the eyes) and the Ermine or Frosted Pearl colors. The Dwarf Hotot’s color is from combining the broken genes and the Dutch genes. The frosted can come with either a tint of black, chocolate, blue or lilac to the coat. They are not actually white in color, but ideally should be almost white or off-white in basic color.

Rabbits have three coat patterns. First is the dominant pattern for the agouti colors. These will show the banded hair shaft, white belly, white on the underside of the tail and all of the normal agouti markings. The agouti colors include the chestnut/castor, opal, lynx, chinchilla, and squirrel.

The second coat pattern is called Tan pattern. It is recessive to the agouti but is dominant to the self. The Tan pattern group includes the tans, otters, silver martens, sable martens and the smoke pearl martens. Here the body is solid colors, but there are the agouti/tan pattern markings. The belly and underside of the tail is white (except in the tans), and the markings can be orange/gold, fawn or silver white.

The third coat pattern is self. These are one color over the entire body with no markings. These are the black, blue, chocolate, and lilacs.

There are also the colors where all or almost all of the black color has been removed from the coat. These colors are called non-extension (for non-extension of black) and include the torts, sable points, fawns, oranges, and reds. These colors are recessive to the colors that are normal extension of black. Breeding any of these colors together will always result in babies of these colors.

Color questions, contact Glenna Huffman – buncolor@ismi.met

The Hollander/Spring Issue - April 2000