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Rabbit Genetics - An Introduction

This article will cover some of the basics of rabbit genetics. Note that an understanding of rabbit genetics is not required in order to use our software. But if you're interested in learning about genetics and want to update your rabbit profiles and pedigrees with this information, hopefully this will get you started.

Common genetic terms and their meaning

Genetics - the study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics. When discussing rabbits, breeders almost exclusively discussed the rabbits' fur color.

Allele - one of two or more alternative forms of a gene that arise by mutation and are found at the same place on a chromosome.

Locus -  is the specific physical location of a gene or other DNA sequence on a chromosome, like a genetic street address.

Dominant vs Recessive

All rabbits have two of each gene; one from each parent. Dominant genes are expressed (you can see the characteristics in the rabbit), and recessive genes are carried to be possibly passed on to offspring. Each gene, regardless of its dominance or recessive quality, is passed on to roughly half of the offspring. When these genes are written, the dominant gene is always capital and the lowercase is recessive.

In each of the drop-down panels in the genetic section of your rabbits information, the top most option is always dominant. In the current drop down list we have most of the common breeds in order from where they are found on the genetic table. All of these options currently offer only solid rabbits. You can edit your rabbits genetics further to include broken, wideband, Vienna marked, Dutch, or any other background you may be aware of.


Let's take the "A" Locus for example. The “A” gene comes in three forms:
“A,” which is responsible for agouti rabbits
“at,” which is responsible for the tan pattern or better known as "Otter"
and “a,” which is responsible for “self” colored rabbits

Although there are three possible genes, each rabbit can only show one and carry one.

A - Agouti, Chestnut, Castor, Gray this is all of the same color, but it is changed based on the breed of rabbit that is being discussed.
at - otter, this includes all of the otter subsets that are normally found in "self based rabbits".
a - self, this includes black, blue, chocolate, and lilac.

The B Locus is used to distinguish black or chocolate. If this section of the genetic strain looks like "Bb", then you have a black rabbit with a chocolate background. If this rabbit is bred to a chocolate rabbit or a rabbit that also has chocolate background then you would have a greater likelihood of having chocolate offspring. "bb" is a chocolate rabbit, chocolate rabbits cannot carry black, only chocolate.

B - black
b - chocolate

The C gene is responsible for rabbits being full color, chinchilla, seal, sable point, pointed white, or ruby-eyed white (REW). Although there are five main color genes than determine the color of a rabbit’s fur, the c-series of genes is called the “color gene.”  The color gene, which controls where and how much color will be expressed rather than which color will be expressed. The see Locust is one of the most difficult to understand mainly because some genes are incompletely dominant over others in the current drop-down menu, there are numerous entries for Ruby eyed white rabbits (REW). This is to show the rabbits background in what they could possibly carry. If you do not know what the red-eyed White Rabbit carries in their genetic background it is completely normal to write --,--,cc,--,-- this is the basis of the Ruby eyed white genotype.

C - full color, the most common colors are black, orange, chestnut, black tortoiseshell, lilac, and blue.
cchd - the chinchilla gene, which is represented by the letters cchd (or sometimes Cchd or ccd). The letters stand for “chinchilla-dark.”
cchi - sable gene represented by cchl, which stands for “chinchilla-light.”.
ch - Havana. This color is what is responsible for the Californian markings. These rabbits also have red eyes like a red and white albino.
c - this is the albino gene "REW". two “cc” genes together negate whatever the other four genes are contributing to the rabbit’s coat color.  All color is erased from the fur and eyes.  Ruby-eyed whites are not genetically related to blue-eyed whites at all.  The REW gene is the most recessive on the c-locus.

The dilute Gene is next in line. Dilute rabbits are just like regular or “dense”  rabbit colors except that there is less pigment in each hair, resulting in a lighter color. Let's take black for example if there are two dilute genes this will turn the black to blue. with chocolate rabbits, two dilute genes will turn the chocolate to lilac.

D - Dense, these are rabbits without any dilution to them. Black tortoiseshell, black, black sable, chinchilla and orange.
d - dilute, these rabbits have a lighter pigment than the dense variety. To get these colors you would need to dilute genes. Blue, blue tortoiseshell, squirrel, and smoke pearl.

The Ee gene controls whether the basic color on the rabbit (black, blue, chocolate, or lilac) is extended all of the way to the end of the hair shaft or whether the basic color stops and another finishes the hair shaft. When a rabbit has full extension, it tends to look the same color all over, such as with a blue rabbit. When there is non-extension, such as with a black tortoiseshell, the rabbit takes on a shaded look since the shorter hairs on the belly, guard hairs, feet and muzzle get only the basic color.

EsE - this is the most dominant of the E-Series, this Gene is responsible for steel and all other Steel variance. Usually the gene that is found in nature is the dominant variety. But with the steel gene, it is actually dominant over the “E” full extension gene found in nature.
E - full extension, this allele is the most common. This genetic allele is to show that the rabbit has no extra patterning on the hair shaft, this is where solids such as black, blue, chocolate, lilac, Etc are located. A rabbit is not affected by the Broken genetic when discussing this allele.
ej - this allele is responsible for the Harlequin pattern on a rabbit and any of its subsets such as black Harlequin, blue Harlequin, chocolate harlequin, and lilac harlequin.
ee - these colors provide shadings to the rabbit. Making the tortoiseshell tortoiseshell, chocolate tortoiseshell, blue tortoiseshell, etc.

Now let's move on to the broken varieties. This genetic allele is very common in most breeds. This is what is responsible for the spotting pattern on your rabbit. Any of the colors mentioned above can be overlapped with this genetic allele to make a spotted or nearly White Rabbit. Despite what you may think, the white coloring of a broken rabbit is on top of the coloring that the rabbit is displaying, think of it as someone is dipping your solid rabbit in white paint.

En/En - this is what is responsible for a Charlie colored rabbit. These rabbits are almost all white with very little color showing, predominantly around the ears and sometimes eyes. You can get a Charlie variety rabbit by breeding 2 regular broken together.
En/en - this is your standard broken pattern. With a painted or spotted look around the back, hips, shoulders, ears, eyes, and nose. To get broken Offspring, you first have to breed a broken rabbit with either a solid, broken, or Charlie. Two solid rabbits cannot make a broken offspring.
en/en - this is your solid variety. This is when the entire rabbit is colored. Even the otter class and agouti class that have white stomachs would be considered solid if they have no spotting of color on their fur.

Please note: that these colors are only listing the basics. There are far more colors and genetics that are not noted in this article or in Everbreed. Rabbit genetics is a science that is always growing and even the professionals continue learning.

Updated on: 12/03/2022

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