In the wild, chinchillas are a variety of grays. However, now that they are domesticated pets, colors are bred through the selection of desired traits. The different colors are called mutations. There are some words used to describe how these mutations work that you will need to know.
Words and Definitions for Chinchilla Color Mutations
Genetics is complex no matter the species, but we are looking at chinchilla color mutation-specific genes. Below I will list some terms that you should know before moving on to the chinchilla color mutations.
Carriers – There are recessive mutations known as carriers, which look like another mutation but have a hidden gene. Any offspring will be the masked color.
Co-Dominant Genes – Two or more dominant genes existing together.
Co-Recessive Genes – Two or more recessive genes existing together.
Dominant Gene – Indicated with a capital letter such as A. Dominant gene colors are White, Beige, and Standard TOV (Black Velvet).
Heterozygous – This means the chinchilla has two color genes that are each different. Example: dominant gene, A, and a recessive gene, a. This pair is Aa. The dominant gene is the one that fully shows in the fur color. The recessive gene can show up in the offspring of this chinchilla.
Homozygous – This means that a chinchilla has either two dominant genes or two recessive genes. Your standard grey chinchilla has to recessive genes, aa. A Homozygous Beige chinchilla AA has two dominant genes.
Incomplete Dominant Gene – This type of gene can show in varying degrees with other genes. It can blend or partially hide other genes. White is one of these colors. So, what this means is that if your chinchilla has white on them, their white gene has hidden their other color or colors to make the white color show up. When mixed with Standard Gray, you get White Mosaic, Wilson White, or Silver. If combined with beige, you get what they call Pink White with patterns of beige. This process also applies to colors that come from recessive genes. The incomplete dominant gene hides the recessive gene color and shows as white.
Lethal Factor – Certain genes can’t exist in the homozygous state. There are two lethal genes for chinchilla colors. These are White, and velvet also called TOV or Touch of Velvet or Black. Do not confuse black with violet or ebony. Their genes are different. A white to white or velvet to velvet mating will result in fatality of any embryos. Usually, they reabsorb into the mother’s body. There is some worry that this can result in a blocked uterine horn, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the mother to carry babies again. It’s best if these matings never happen.
Recessive Gene – Recessive genes are indicated with small letters such as aa. Recessive colors are Recessive Beige, Violet, Sapphire, and Charcoal.
The Standard Grey chinchilla’s two recessive genes (aa) are ‘grey’ influenced, but for the above colors is classed as dominant genes.
I think these terms and definitions give you a good idea of how color mutations in chinchillas work. Now, we’ll move on to the colors. I’ll list the most popular, but there are up to thirty-one color mutations for chinchillas.
Colors Chinchillas Come In
Originally, domesticated chinchillas were bred from Chinchilla lanigera or the long-tailed chinchilla as they are also known. Breeding the long-tailed chinchilla into the domestic pet, we know today produced the Standard Gray. This color is the original mutation from which we get all other chinchilla colors.
Breeders combine individual chinchillas with specific characteristics to produce different color mutations. The mutations are crossbred to create even more colors. As this happens, colors increase.
- Standard Grey
- Homozygous Beige
- Heterozygous Beige
- Black Velvet
Standard Gray is the natural color mutation of wild chinchillas. Their fur can be any shade of gray with crisp white bellies. Their color genes are the foundation of all other color mutations. Standard gray chinchillas are the cheapest to buy.
Ebony first appeared in 1964. There are two versions of ebony. Hetero Ebony chinchillas are black and dark gray with a light gray belly. Homo Ebony or Extra Dark Ebony has a shiny black coat with no other colors. Their eyes are even black.
White chinchillas are white with black or ruby eyes. There is usually no yellow tint, just pure white. The only color or shade difference is on their ears, having a darker hue to their ears. There are several variations of the white color. They are White Mosaic, Pink White, Wilson White, Silver, White Tan, and White Violet. This color should never breed together. This combination results in a fatal mutation, meaning the kits are born disfigured, dead, or absorbed back into the mother’s body. A miscarry. Damage to the mother’s reproductive organs can also occur, leaving her barren.
Heterozygous Beige or Tower Beige
Heterozygous Beige chinchilla is light beige along their sides, dark beige along their spine with a white belly with pink nose and feet. Their ears are pink and can be freckled.
The ears are pink and often freckled.
These chinchillas have red eyes and a lighter coat than the Hetero Beige. Apart from those differences, they are quite similar.
Violet chinchillas were discovered in Rhodesia, Africa, in the 1960s. These chinchillas have a gray coat with a purple tint with a white belly, black eyes, and pinkish-gray ears.
Sapphire chinchillas are light gray with a blue tint with a white belly and dark eyes. According to some people, these chinchillas are the hardest to breed and care for. Not sure of this, however.
Black Velvet or Standard TOV
Black Velvet chinchillas have a coat that is black with gray sides, a crisp white belly, with dark eyes and ears. Their paws have dark stripes. This color cannot be bred to the same color as it is a lethal gene.
There are other colors that are not so common. I’ll list them but won’t go into any detail about them. They might be something you’ll want to investigate further if you are looking to buy or adopt a chinchilla.
- Blue Diamond Chinchilla
- Sapphire Chinchillas
- Wilson White Chinchilla
- Pastel Chinchilla
- Blue Chinchilla
- Fading White Chinchilla
- Black Pearl Chinchilla
- Mosiac Chinchilla
By now, you should know more about chinchilla colors and the genetics that create them. Two colors should never breed to the same color. These genes are what they call lethal. This combination can cause death in the babies before they are even born and possible damage to the mother’s reproductive organs. That is the only warning as far as breeding colors that you need to be aware of.
I hope this article has helped you understand the genetics of chinchilla colors. If you have any comments or questions, please leave one below.