the Chocolate Variety
I came to discover the chocolate variety from another breeder offering me the variety to work on. I had never even heard of the variety then, back in 2015. I had always loved 'brownish' rats. Once i had done as much research as i could from google and the nfrs forum (and saved a picture of a gorgeous dumbo, rex chocolate buck as inspiration to work towards) I decided to actually look into sourcing some rats of this under rated, relatively uncommon variety. After some searching and a lot of waiting, i took on some Valiance Chocolates to breed.
Now 3 litters into the line, Ive found that i love the variety even more so because so few breeders breed for them. In my eyes they are seriously under rated and they seem to be a good variety for new breeders to start with, as they are relatively easy in terms of genetics.
Chocolate is a modifier on black. You need two copies of the chocolate gene on a self rat to get chocolate. As with most self varieties there is a chocolate version of agouti, this is known as chocolate agouti and it comes in combination of two copies of the chocolate gene plus at least one agouti gene, but it is not a standardised variety. Some people don't even recognise chocolates, as dark ones can be mistaken for bad blacks and light ones can be mistaken for good minks. But it is the middle shade, close to a 'cadburys dairy milk' shade we aim for. You ideally want to breed for a shade that cannot be mistaken for neither black nor mink. Working with a self variety is generally easier get right and easier to reproduce than marked such as variegated, berkshire, hooded and badger. Top eared is easier to breed, coat (rex) and ear (dumbo) modifiers just add 2 more things to get right in one rat, as they must be a good self, a good dumbo and a good rex all at the same time.
Chocolates look lighter as babies, so you may find it difficult to select rats of the best shade until several months old. I try to bear this in mind when selecting my keepers (with the help of Lisa and Alison). I also try to select rats with the least silvering to try and breed a better self as opposed to a 'silver' in showing terms. Bucks tend to silver a lot more than does. Some selfs may get 'snowflakes' (small white spots on the tummy area), this can be reduced over time with selection.
The nfrs standard states "To be a deep, rich chocolate, as even as possible, devoid of any dinginess and white hairs or patches. Foot colour to match top. Eyes black." Rich is the kèy word here, people often have trouble maintaining a warm hue to their chocolates. It has been said that chocolate to chocolate matings will gradually darken the shade over time and that it's a good idea to breed them to carry Pink Eye Dilute or Red Eye Dilute to bring out their warmth. Im still early in my chocolate breeding plans so i cannot confirm this.
The chocolates i have encountered have all been from established lines, have been large in size, healthy, cheeky temperament and prone to obesity. Which is why i tend to lecture my pet homes about feeding too much. Im hoping given time I'll be able to select away from this. But i noted Lisa saying the same about chocolates years back in a nfrs article.
In any case I'm excited to continue working with this under rated and under represented (at shows) variety. I hope you enjoy this (my first) article and take a second look at the chocolate variety.
Copyright Claire Louise Boddy, 26/11/17.
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