Several years ago, I rekindled my love for the Blue Eyed White Angora rabbits and started breeding them again. Since then I have come across many genetic surprises in the Blue Eyed Whites. My hope is to unravel some misunderstandings about the Blue Eyed White Angora rabbit gene.
The Blue Eyed White Angora rabbit or otherwise known as Vienna white is a different set of genes than found in normal colored Angora rabbits. In rabbit genetics the V gene* is the dominate factor and allows for normal coat and eye color. It is only in the vv ** combination that the body color becomes white and the eye color becomes bright blue. The blue eyes are not the same as the grey blue eyes found in the dilute rabbit color; they are a bright blue.
Lets explore a few things people say :
The number one thing I keep hearing is – “I have the prettiest Blue Eyed White baby in the nest box and I don’t know where it came from!” It may look like a Blue Eyed White BUT in reality it is a color called Ermine. Ermines are genetically a Chinchilla color without an extension gene so the coat color appears to be white. Since a Chinchilla colored rabbit can have gray, or gray-blue eyes, the babies appear to have pretty blue eyes! Most of the time when the babies grow up they can have a faint gray or brown ear lacing on the ears. This is not always the case 100% of the time and in rare cases the ears can be completely white. This is why some new breeders confuse Ermine with a BEW when they do not know the correct color and are trying to figure it out. This is why it is a very good idea to read up on genetics at least a little; before arriving at the color you think it is.
Unlike most other genes, the Vienna gene (BEW) has to be put in the breeding of the rabbit on purpose. The Vienna gene does not just appear out of nowhere like many other colors. The breeder must understand how the BEW or the Vienna white gene works.
The BEW gene results from the recessive vv combination; while the normally colored rabbits are VV in makeup (all rabbits carry the VV). An Albino (REW) comes from the recessive cc combination, which prevents the development of any color.
A rabbit must have the Vienna gene on both sides of the pedigree to be a BEW, (both parents) and be mated with another rabbit carrying the BEW gene to be able to produce BEW, usually within the first 2 generations. The BEW gene must be kept active within the first 2 generations of the pedigree. I have found over the years with the BEW’s that once it gets past the second generation, it will be gone!
When I began breeding BEW I took a BEW Beveran and bred to a colored angora which results in a spotted or Vienna marked rabbit (VM).
These offspring are Vv in genetic makeup showing varying amounts of white. Some of these looked like a poorly marked Dutch, some will have a blaze, a white spot on the nose, white on the feet and legs, and could also have mismatched eyes. In some cases, the bunny will look like a normal colored rabbit and the v can be hidden to only show up in later generations and is referred to as a Vienna carrier (VC). That is why breeders should make good notation on their pedigrees and keep track of what they are breeding.
Keep in mind that not all spots are caused by the Vienna gene, and in most cases of spots on a solid colored rabbit, will be caused by a gene called the random spotting modifier gene. This is the case because the Vienna gene is so rare! The spotting gene is very different from the Vienna or BEW gene. Spotting can occur from the dominate white spotting gene – En/en recessive white spotting or Dutch – Du/du or +/- modifiers. Only if there is true Blue Eyed White in the pedigree, would it be correct in calling the above bunny a VM.
In a rare case that there was BEW in the pedigree back past the second generation and you wound up with a spotted baby, you would not know for sure if it was VM or had the spotting gene until it was bred with a BEW. If it was bred to a BEW many times and eventually produced a BEW, then you could correctly call it a VM. In most cases though, you can breed a rabbit that is unknown to have the Vienna gene with a spot on its head all year long and NOT produce a BEW in the litter! You will be perpetuating the spotting gene though and making rabbits that are unshowable. This could be a bad thing if you are selling bunnies as showable or selling show stock! Sometimes things like this cannot be avoided when breeding and you will always have unwanted things pop out, but to knowingly pass bad genetics on is not a good thing and should be avoided.
*V (large V)
** vv (2 small v’s)
VM – Vienna Marked
VC – Vienna Carrier
BEW – Blue Eyed White
REW – Ruby Eyed White