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What Do You Think?

AOVs: The Big Picture and Something to Think About

by Megan Gottschalt

I've been thinking about lilac Dutch a lot, mostly because I raise lilac Mini Rex. I get to see this beautiful variety every day. I often wonder why lilac is not a recognized variety of Dutch. It used to be. I've gotten them in chocolate litters before and it was the best one of course. I hear that a lot from other breeders who have gotten a lilac surprise. So why are lilac Dutch not a recognized variety?
Logically, lilacs fit right in. They are the dilute of chocolate, just as blues are the dilute of black. You can breed blacks and blues together, no problem. You can breed chocolates and lilacs together, just the same. If lilacs were recognized, you could breed blues to chocolates, lilacs to blacks, etc. with no negative effects on your breeding program (looking at the self gene only) because everything that popped out would be of a showable color.
How do you make lilacs? One way would be to breed a blue to a chocolate. You would probably get all blacks out of this litter, but they would all carry the chocolate gene and the dilute gene. You could breed 2 different does to get 2 different litters, breed a buck and doe from each litter and you'd probably get a 9:3:3:1 ratio of blacks, chocolates, blues, and lilacs. I venture into development of the lilac Dutch, but I won't have adequate space for a couple more years.
There would be no monkey business in breeding for lilacs. We'd use the varieties that we already have to create another. Lilac would be the missing "link" between our chocolates and our blacks/blues. This would be the reason to recognize lilacs as a variety of Dutch. I had a woman come up to me at a show recently and she told me that she had a chocolate and a steel. She already knew that she couldn't breed them together, so she asked me what she could get to breed to both. Black would be the obvious answer, but since so many of us use blacks with our blues, many blacks carry the dilute gene. This could possibly pop up later for her as the dilute gene would get passed on and she wouldn't know until she got something funny down the line. This got me thinking about how our current varieties of Dutch are incompatible.
You can breed black to any of the current Dutch varieties, BUT, (except in the case of blues) it is preferable that they do not carry the dilute gene. Unfortunately, many do. I bred a black with no blues in his 4 generation pedigree to a blue and guess what I got? I was pleasantly surprised since I wanted to eventually get blues out of that buck. That's a good example of how blacks can carry that dilute gene even when you don't think that they do. The dilute gene would show up down the line in any of our other colors as lilac, opal, blue steel, or blue tort. So can you really breed black to any color? You can, but you're taking a risk of getting a baby or two that you won't be able to show and may not want to use in your breeding program.
I'm going to leave the steels to others, as I don't claim to know anything about steels and their genetics other than you can "steel" just about any color. I do want to also bring up golds, though. Gold (or orange or yellow) is the agouti version of a tort. To get golds, you would breed a gray to a tort to get grays that carry the non-extension (Ee) gene. Breed the babies together and you'd get something like a 9:3:3:1 ratio of grays, torts, oranges, and blacks. This would open up the ability to breed grays to torts just like blues to chocolates.
Other possible varieties would be opal (the dilute version of gray), chocolate chestnut (the chocolate version of gray), and lynx (the dilute chocolate version of gray), all obtainable through our already recognized varieties of Dutch. If the chinchilla Dutch is approved, then it will open up more doors for other varieties. Am I calling for a bunch of new varieties? I don't quite see the Dutch as a breed of many colors like the Netherland Dwarf. I do blue to blue only with the occasional black because I haven't been able to get them out of my rabbitry yet! However, I do see that we have 6 varieties of Dutch that aren't really that compatible. Just something to think about.
I don't necessarily believe that breeding one color to another improves/ruins a color. Some people say that breeding blacks into blues will make the blues darker and I've seen dark blues with only a couple blacks in the 3rd generation. I've seen a clean (no smut) red Mini Rex (which is similar in genotype to a gold) out of all reds used to get good colored castors (gray) and the castor babies in the litter were all too dark. One would have expected the babies to have at least correct castor color if reds could be used to improve castor color.
With those types of examples, I believe that breeding rabbits in not like mixing colors. The quality of color might just come from the particular genetics of the rabbit...like a litter of blues with some being dark, some being light.

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