Genes in the A locus control the pattern of a rabbit (but not the color). It can cause three different coat patterns: agouti pattern (A), tan pattern (at), and self pattern (a). Every rabbit you see is one of these three patterns, even if the pattern isn't fully visible due to other genes covering it up.
Visualize in layers - Imagine a pure Black rabbit. This black rabbit is a self (a). Keep in mind that not all self rabbits are black, but black is one of the most common, so this where we'll start.
Now imagine adding a layer of creamy markings on the underbelly, under the legs, feet, tail, inside ears, around nostrols, and around the eyes—congratulations, you now have a Black Otter! Otter is a tan pattern (at) color, one of many colors you can get with the tan pattern gene.
Finally, let's add one more layer! Stick it in between the black and the otter, like a delicious agouti sandwich—because this is the agouti layer! It's all brown with little bits and pieces where the black underneathe shows through. With all these layers, you have a Chestnut Agouti rabbit! Of course, the agouti pattern can cause different colors too, but chestnut is one of the most iconic.
Agouti pattern is most notably responsible for the stunning 'wild agouti' look we see in nature, aka Chestnut Agouti
or just Chestnut, which can be found in both wild and domestic rabbits. With its mix of blacks, browns, and cream-white hairs, they naturally suited for camouflage.
The Agouti gene can cause many other colors such as Chinchilla and Orange. As the most dominant gene in the A locus, agouti very common. Any rabbit who has a copy of the A gene will be an agouti, so it's not possible for any rabbit to carry agouti. However, it IS possible for some colors to hide the presense of agouti, such as in the case of albinos (aka Ruby Eyed White
) and even Harlequins
(which may mimic the qualities of an agouti without actually being one).
Agouti Pattern Colors
Tan pattern is responsible for Otter colors, Tan colors, 'Marten' colors such as Silver Marten
, and even the stunning Sable Marten
that many people are fond of.
- Although the name of the gene is called 'tan,' it's an umbrella term for various colors (not just the color that is called Tan). A Tan colored rabbit has the tan pattern gene, but a rabbit with the tan pattern gene may not always be a Tan colored rabbit.
The tan pattern itself expresses as markings on the underbelly and flanks (sometimes with stark 'ticking' at the ends of the hairs on the sides of the body), under each limb (sometimes again with ticking on the upper front legs), on toes and feet, chest, behind the head and neck (sometimes with a distinct 'V' shaped marking between the shoulder blades), on ears (which fades into the base color on the backs of the ears), around each eye, along the jaw, and around each nostril.
On otters, tan pattern markings will have a naturally cream-white color that fades into orange or brown on the upper parts and back of the head/neck. These markings essentially cover most of the underside of the rabbit, while allowing the base color (black, blue, chocolate, or lilac) to be visible on the rest of the body. When the rabbit expresses the Chinchilla, Shaded, or Himi gene (from the C locus
), the tan pattern is turned completely white. With Wideband from the W locus
, Otters may become Tan
As the middle gene of the A locus, tan pattern rabbits are recessive to agouti, which means that if agouti is bred to tan, all offspring will be agouti unless the agouti parent carries a copy of tan. Tan pattern is likewise dominant to self, so offspring will be tan pattern unless the tan pattern parent carries self.
Tan Pattern Colors
Self is responsible for uniform colors like Black, Blue, Chocolate, and Lilac. It lacks a color pattern, although if you look closely at some rabbits (young ones especially), sometimes a very faint pattern can be seen (similar to how you can sometimes see a faint pattern on black leopards or jaguars). However, show rabbits are selectively bred not to have this, so they should be completely uniform in color.
- Sometimes the color 'White' (Ruby Eyed Whites, Blue Eyed Whites, etc.) are mistaken for self rabbits. They are sometimes grouped with self rabbits due to their uniform color. However, the gene that cause whites to be all one color are not the same gene as the Self gene. A white rabbit might be self, tan pattern, or agouti depending on what color it's masking—so it's not inheritently self.
Self is the most recessive of the A locus genes, so breeding self to anything other than self will result in non-self offspring (unless the non-self parent carries Self).
Self Pattern Colors