IN THIS ARTICLE:
- Understanding the Basics of Chinchilla Colors
- Exploring Chinchilla Color Varieties
- Caring for Different Chinchilla Colors
- Debunking Myths About Chinchilla Colors
- Breeding Chinchillas for Color
- Popular Chinchilla Color Combinations in Show Chinchillas
- The Colorful World of Chinchillas: A Recap
Fluffy, friendly, and all-around adorable, pet chinchillas come in numerous fascinating variety of colors. The standard grey shade of these lovable rodents is only the basic variant – once you start exploring, the palette seems to be endless.
If you’re curious about how come chinchillas display such variety, read on. We’ll explain the reason behind different chinchilla coat colors and give you a comprehensive guide for each type. This information might help you decide before you buy a chinchilla.
Understanding the Basics of Chinchilla Colors
Chinchillas are native to the Andes, particularly the region of northern Chile. People have known about these small rodents for centuries, and native populations have hunted chinchillas for fur. Sadly, these practices have reduced chinchilla numbers severely, to the point that the species is now considered endangered.
There are two main types of chinchilla: short-tailed and long-tailed. Of the two, the short-tailed variant fared worse: besides being endangered, its small numbers are fragmented across five regions, including Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. This fragmentation contributes to further population decline.
At first sight, the situation with long-tailed chinchillas would seem just as bad. It’s estimated there are only about 5,400 mature chinchillas in the wild. However, the entire population is concentrated in only two regions in Chile, making breeding easier. Plus, long-tailed chinchillas have another thing going for them: they’ve become very popular as pets.
The first attempts at breeding chinchillas in captivity happened in the late 19th century but were unsuccessful. A few decades later, interest in these cute rodents resurged and the first chinchilla farm was founded in California.
Selective breeding introduced significant variety into the species. While pet chinchillas today have pretty much the same soft fur as their wild cousins, the color ranges are quite different. Wild chinchillas are mostly grey, but domesticated chinchillas come in over 20 color variants, owing to rebreeding to encourage specific mutations.
Genetics of Chinchilla Colors
Understanding the genetics of chinchilla colors starts with several key terms. Firstly, there are dominant and recessive gene alleles that transfer particular traits to the offspring – in this case, we’ll look exclusively at genes that dictate fur color.
When a dominant allele is present, it will have a stronger impact than a recessive gene. However, the matter isn’t always that straightforward. Dominant genes can be weakly dominant and incomplete. With a weakly dominant gene, it might take other genes or alleles to determine how the animal will look. Incomplete dominant genes never overwhelm other genetic material completely.
Recessive genes will only lead to certain traits depending on the state. In terms of genetics, these states may be heterozygous and homozygous. Although this might sound confusing, the difference between the two states is very straightforward: a heterozygous chinchilla will have two different alleles for a gene, while a homozygous one will possess two copies of the same gene.
A chinchilla will gain a color dictated by a recessive gene only in the homozygous state, i.e., when both genes are recessive. Yet, recessive genes have a role to play in the heterozygous state, too.
When a recessive gene is part of a heterozygous pair, it can produce a so-called “carrier” mutation. This mutation will show as one particular color while carrying a hidden gene of a different color. The hidden gene will be passed down without showing until the carrying chinchilla is paired with another individual with the same mutation.
To wrap up the dominant-recessive story, color genes can exist in co-dominant and co-recessive pairs. Co-dominant genes can lead to interesting color variants, but co-recessive genes won’t. Instead, the pair of recessive genes will always be overpowered by the Standard Grey color.
There’s a bit more to say about chinchilla color genes. Firstly, the TOV (Touch of Velvet) gene dictates patterns instead of the fur color itself. Interestingly enough, TOV isn’t one particular gene, but any mutation that includes darker coloring on the animal face, back, sides, and tail.
A TOV gene will appear when a Black Velvet chinchilla breeds with a different type. The result can be a mutation that appears largely different compared to the parents.
Chinchilla fur color gene alleles also have what’s called a lethal factor, specifically tied to the TOV gene. In other words, TOV Chinchillas can’t be homozygous (the offspring becomes unviable and is reabsorbed in the womb), so are explicitly made by breeding two different breeds.
Standard Grey: The Original Chinchilla Color
Interestingly enough, the plentiful color variations are all mutations from a single color: Standard Grey. In the wild, chinchillas exist solely in this color. If a wild chinchilla gets a different fur color (due to a similar mutation), it’ll most likely get hunted down easier and won’t be able to pass it down. The Standard Grey provides camouflage, and deviating from that can be counterproductive in the wild.
Despite a somewhat dull appearance, Standard Grey is still the most common color among chinchillas by far.
Standard Grey results from two recessive genes that dominate any other recessive gene. Dominant genes (Standard TOV, Beige, and White) will take precedence over Standard Grey.
Exploring Chinchilla Color Varieties
Let’s go through some of the most interesting variants of chinchillas.
Black Velvet is a black chinchilla with predominantly black fur and grey side transitions. Much like White and TOV, these chinchillas have a lethal factor, i.e., shouldn’t breed with others of the same type.
A beige chinchilla is usually a light brown chinchilla with darker back. Their eyes are red to light red, and their ears are pink.
White (With Pink Eyes)
White chinchillas with pink eyes are sometimes known as Beige Mosaics. They differ from White mosaics mainly by ear and eye color, as well as bright white coloring.
When we say “Mosaic,” we’re referring to White Mosaic chinchillas. They have light fur with grey patches, along with darker eyes and ears.
Violet chinchillas are darker with only a hint of the actual violet color. Their ears are dove grey, and they have black eyes.
Sapphire chinchillas are light gray with subtle undertones that give the fur a bluish sapphire note. However, this isn’t actually a blue chinchilla.
Caring for Different Chinchilla Colors
Chinchillas are relatively delicate. They require particular temperature and humidity, may be sensitive to handling, and need your daily attention.
The ideal temperature needed to keep your chinchillas safe and healthy ranges between 55-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Any warmer than that and the animals could experience a heat stroke. When it comes to humidity, keep it below 50% and your pets should be good.
Chinchillas are very social, to the point that leaving them alone for a single day isn’t advisable. This means that a chinchilla isn’t a good fit for pet owners who tend to travel or be absent from home frequently.
In terms of enclosure, chinchillas will need plenty of space to stay active. Additionally, they should have access to different platforms and ramps that will give them an opportunity to play and exercise. The bedding should be made of paper rather than wood shavings.
Grooming is another crucial element, especially in the sense of fur health. Chinchillas must never be washed with water or even get wet. According to PetMD, such water exposure could lead to skin dryness or even inflammation.
Instead, a chinchilla gets cleaned with dust baths. After cleaning, it’s best to brush the pet following the fur direction and using a soft brush.
Daily exercise is easy to take care off simply by getting your chinchilla an exercise wheel. This should be in addition to the existing ramps and platforms in the enclosure. Proper exercise should be accompanied by a quality diet, consisting of fresh veggies, quality hay, and a limited amount of pellets.
When feeding your chinchilla, make sure to give them food once a day. Hay and, of course, water should be available throughout the day without limitations.
Is Care Different for Different Colors?
Although chinchillas of different colors have slight genetic differences, their bodies, and physiologies don’t differ considerably. The same goes for dietary, social, and exercise needs. In other words, you can treat your chinchilla the same regardless of its color.
If any differences are present, they’ll be individual rather than specific to a certain chinchilla type. In that case, your chinchilla vet will recommend the proper treatment for your pet. Similarly, feeding additions in terms of supplements or vitamins also won’t be necessary for chinchillas in general or those with a specific fur color.
As mentioned, the only aspect that will be affected by the colors of chinchillas, or rather genetics, will be breeding. White and Standard TOV chinchillas shouldn’t breed as they won’t be able to reproduce successfully.
Furthermore, it’s best to avoid pairing two White or TOV chinchillas, even if they’re heterozygous. Such pairings are 25% less likely to produce offspring. Plus, female White or TOV chinchillas can become infertile as a result.
Health Issues Related to Color
The color of a chinchilla doesn’t seem to affect specific health issues. However, all chinchillas share certain health risks that may be worth your attention.
The most common issues relate to nutrition. Giving your chinchilla fresh hay is crucial, as hay quickly develops mold which can be harmful. Leafy greens, veggies, fruit, herbs, and pellets are best used as additions and limited to no more than a teaspoon. Nuts, rice, seeds, and bread should be avoided entirely.
Nutrition matters because a poor diet can lead to gastrointestinal issues. While such problems may represent only a passing discomfort for humans, in chinchillas they’re more often an emergency.
Trauma is another issue due to the chinchilla’s sensitive nature and physically active disposition. They can move quickly and, sometimes, without proper caution. This means a chinchilla could fall off a table or hurt itself in a number of ways.
Additionally, chinchillas can perform a “fur slip,” which is when a chunk of fur falls off if the animal is grabbed suddenly. This is a defense reflex developed to save chinchillas from predators. However, with pet chinchillas, it will most likely result in damaged fur until it grows back. Significant bald spots might indicate that they are stressed.
Quality Cage Products for Optimal Chinchilla Care
Besides taking care of the right chinchilla food, you will need to get some extra items to make the furball’s life as comfortable as possible. Quality Cage offers a range of chinchilla supplies for practically every need.
Our store features different chinchilla enclosures, from the Supreme Chinchilla Carrier to the lavish Chinchilla Mansion. You can also find differently shaped ledges, cage guards, and litter boxes to complete your pet’s abode style. Additionally, Quality Cage has chinchilla nest boxes, hay racks, food dishes, and water bottles.
We even have specialized chinchilla toys to help keep the ever-growing teeth in check. In essence, whatever your pet needs, you’ll find it with Quality Cage.
Debunking Myths About Chinchilla Colors
There aren’t many myths about chinchilla color, but the ones that do exist are demonstrably untrue and even harmful. A common myth of this kind is that certain colors are extremely rare.
This myth is propelled by the fact that pet stores often keep only Standard Grey chinchillas. And when other colors are on offer, they’re frequently deemed “fancy,” mainly as a price-raising strategy.
This myth is potentially harmful because it can lead to unethical breeding practices to make up for the seeming lower supply of certain variants like Beige or White. In truth, every reputable chinchilla breeder in the country and worldwide will have a selection of colors. Plus, those “fancy” chinchillas will likely be available for a lower price than in a pet shop.
Breeding Chinchillas for Color
Some breeders may prioritize color when breeding their chinchillas. While this isn’t an unusual practice, it should be done ethically and carefully. We’ve already gone through the genetics of chinchilla colors and the potential risks when mixing certain types.
Even when the breeder is fully aware of all contributing factors, color shouldn’t be the primary concern in breeding. The animal’s health and well-being should always come first. To that end, responsible breeding should be employed every time, with particular attention to genetic heritage and avoiding all associated risks.
Popular Chinchilla Color Combinations in Show Chinchillas
While all chinchillas are beautiful in their own way, some colors are preferred in shows. As an extension, these colors also dominate the pet market.
In particular, Standard Grey, Mosaic, Standard TOV, White, Sapphire, and Beige chinchillas fall under the category of most popular types. But if you’re searching for “chinchillas near me” right now, you’ll find that your potential new pet could come in any color – they’ll be just as cute and friendly as any other.
The Colorful World of Chinchillas: A Recap
With their endearing nature, gorgeous looks, and playful attitude, chinchillas represent excellent pets for owners who know how to treat them right. As you’ve seen in this article, there’s almost no end to a variety of colors, so you can choose a pet that appeals the most to you.
If you’re ready to become a chinchilla parent, don’t hesitate to check out the line of products dedicated to the cute furballs at Quality Cage. You’ll find everything you need to keep your pet safe and satisfied.
Can Chinchillas be blue?
The Blue Diamond chinchilla represents a mix of Sapphire and Violet. Its fur is light blue with possible dark and silver undertones.
What color is a beige chinchilla?
Beige chinchillas come in three types: light, medium, and dark. In all three cases, the color will be what the name says: beige. This is an extremely light shade of brown, verging on yellow and, to a point, grey. Beige chinchillas will feature white bellies, and brown spots on the ears, and might show a tinge of blue.
Are there purple chinchillas?
Purple chinchillas exist, but they’re purple in name alone. The actual color of their fur can be white, grey, and any similar shade in between. Similarly, Violet chinchillas aren’t really violet – they’re dark grey with a slight touch of blue.
What color are sapphire chinchillas?
Sapphire chinchillas have grey fur with a lighter shaft that can add a bluish tinge, which is where these chinchillas get their name.
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