Genes determine what every animal or human looks like. They cause the differences between a Golden Retriever and a Maltipoo or a Mini Lop and Lionhead. In a limited sense, DNA is like a computer code for the body that instructs the cells how to function. In rabbits, just as in other creatures, some genes dictate how large the bone is, how wide the crown is, how heavy and long the ears are, and what color the fur is. Although all the genes that effect type, temperament, and health, are too complicated to identify for the average person, the genes, or sets of genes called loci (singular is locus), that affect color are relatively simple. 

At this time, breeders have identified five major color loci, naming them the A, B, C, D, and E Locus (there are also a hand full of modifiers and those will be addressed in a later post). Each rabbit contains two genes for each locus, two for A, B, C, etc.. One gene comes from the sire and one comes from the dam. All five of these pairs combine to produce the rainbow of colors seen in rabbits today.

Before reading through the different loci, be aware that genetics has its own unique set of terms. Here is a quick set of the terms and definitions necessary to understand the the basics of rabbit color genetics: Genetic Terminology.

A Locus

B Locus

C Locus

D Locus

E Locus

Although the standard five color loci have the greatest impact on rabbit colors, there are many other loci that can affect how the color is expressed. Four of these loci that are useful to be aware of when discussing and analyzing a rabbit’s genotype are the broken, vienna, dutch, and W loci that are part of the genotypes of many specialty and pet rabbit breeds.

Broken Locus

Vienna Locus

Dutch Locus

W Locus

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