Chinchilla Color Genes
In nature, chinchillas are usually grey. However, since becoming domesticated, breeders have worked to mate individual chinchillas to bring out certain colors by combining the right pairs of genes. Here is a description of chinchilla genes and colors.
BEIGE – A dominant gene. A chinchilla referred to as just Beige is a Hetero Beige and is genetically Beige + Standard. A Homo Beige is genetically Beige + Beige. It may be more accurate to call this an incomplete dominant gene as homozygous recessive colors can show through the beige color.
CHARCOAL – A recessive gene. A chinchilla referred to as Charcoal is genetically Charcoal + Charcoal. This chinchilla looks like a medium light Hetero Ebony. It can be hard to differentiate them if the animals pedigree is uncertain.
EBONY – A weakly dominant accumulative gene. There is a lot of confusion and disagreement about whether Ebony is incomplete recessive or weakly dominant, but I’m going with the information in the recently released “Basic Genetics and History of Mutation Chinchillas” book put out by MCBA. A chinchilla referred to as just Ebony is genetically Ebony + Ebony while a Hetero Ebony is Ebony + Standard. This gene is more for color PATTERN then for actual color. It darkens any color that it is combined with and creates the “wrap around” effect – tummy color same as the back color rather then whitish. Hence, a Tan chinchilla (Beige + Ebony) is dark beige with a beige tummy. A Solid Violet chinchilla (Violet + Ebony) is dark violet with a violet tummy, etc. The “accumulative” nature of the gene refers to the fact that successive generations of breeding into Ebony creates darker and darker animals.
RECESSIVE BEIGE – A recessive gene. A chinchilla referred to as Recessive Beige is genetically Rec. Beige + Rec. Beige. They look very much like the dominant beige except that the eyes are either a very clear red like jelly beans or black like a Standard or White. I won’t be including this color in my list of colors as I’m still uncertain about how it behaves genetically, although I believe it is a simple recessive gene, plus I’m considering the fact that it is such an extremely rare color mutation.
SAPPHIRE – A recessive gene. A chinchilla referred to as Sapphire is genetically Sapphire + Sapphire. This chinchilla looks like a very light Standard, with a distinctly bluish cast and pink ears.
STANDARD – The original wild color, often referred to as Standard Gray or just Gray, this gene is recessive to Beige, Velvet (TOV, Black), and White. It is weakly dominant with Ebony. It is dominant to Charcoal, Recessive Beige, Sapphire, and Violet. A chinchilla referred to as simply Standard is genetically Standard + Standard. This gene is present in basic White (White + Standard), basic Beige (Beige + Standard), and Black Velvet (TOV + Standard). It is also present in the Hetero Ebony (Ebony + Standard). In the heterozygous state with Charcoal, Recessive Beige, Sapphire, or Violet you would get a Standard/ Charcoal carrier, Standard/ Rec. Beige carrier, Standard/ Sapphire carrier, or Standard/ Violet carrier.
VELVET – A dominant gene, also referred to as TOV (Touch of Velvet)or “Black”. This gene, like Ebony, is a gene for color PATTERN rather then color. It darkens and solidifies any color that it is combined with, creates a distinct contrast between the back and tummy color, and causes distinct stripes on the front paws. Hence, a Black Velvet is TOV + Standard, a Brown Velvet is TOV + Beige, or you could get TOV White, TOV Violet, TOV Sapphire, and many more. This gene cannot exist in the homozygous state due to the lethal factor.
VIOLET – A recessive gene. A chinchilla referred to as simply Violet is genetically Violet + Violet.
WHITE – An incomplete dominant gene. White Mosaic , Wilson White , and Silver chinchillas are all genetically the same – White + Standard. They vary phenotypically due the degree of influence of the Standard gene and the incomplete dominance of the white gene. This gene cannot exist in the homozygous state due to the lethal factor.
Note: This content originally appeared on Amy’s ChinBin website which is no longer active.