American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

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ID Rat Colors: Lilac, Mink, Silver Lilac, Silver Mink, Pearl

By Karen Robbins

AFRMA’s Rat Self Colors Poster, Lilac and Mink

AFRMA Rat Varieties & Colors Poster

AFRMA’s Rat Silvered Colors Poster, Silver Lilac and Silver Mink

AFRMA Rat Varieties & Colors Poster

AFRMA’s Rat AOC Colors Poster, Pearl

AFRMA Rat Varieties & Colors Poster

Lilac and Mink

Lilac and Mink look the same and will make other colors the same way (i.e. Agouti + Lilac/Mink = Cinnamon) but are not the same gene. We did not have any blue (Blue or Russian Blue) colors back in the 1970s/1980s, but some might call this color blue. In the early days of the rat fancy in England (1900s), there were rats called Blue that were more than likely Mink. Mink is more gray-brown where Russian Blue is more slate blue, not brown and when you compare them side-by-side, you can see the difference.

We did have one breeder at the time theorize they were a chocolate/brown gene. But we knew by 1983 they were not a chocolate gene as we got Chocolate when we imported them from the N.F.R.S. in England in November 1983 and they are not the same. We also brought in the English Mink/Silver Mink at the same time. To compound the problem, Lilac can be bred to be too brown and look chocolaty. I’ve seen some really brown Lilacs over the years and unfortunately with the pet breeders putting everything into their rats, it’s difficult to sort out what they are genetically that is causing them to be so brown.

When we imported the English rats for the first time in November 1983, the Mink and Lilac looked so similar it was assumed they were the same genetically since they operated the same in making other colors—Mink was just selected to be darker where we were selecting Lilacs to be lighter. I only did one breeding between a Silver Lilac and an English Cinnamon Pearl in 1988 and got only Agouti and Black kids (12 total), no gray rats or Cinnamon as would be expected. Prior to that in 1987 I had gotten a Lilac Capped from another breeder and bred to one of my Lilacs and got only Black and PEW (13 total). I don’t have details on the background of the other breeder’s rat so don’t know if there was English in them giving them the Mink gene, but obviously they were not the same Lilacs. However, I/we didn’t know enough about rat genetics at the time to say Wait, why are there no gray rats? I never did any more breedings of the two colors after that, rather just continued breeding the American rats and English rats separately to keep the lines pure.

Color wise English Mink are supposed to be: To be an even mid-grey brown, devoid of dinginess, silvering or patches and having a distinct bluish sheen. These are more gray where Lilac are supposed to be a more pastel gray-brown-dove color: Color is a medium dove gray, evenly mixed with brown, not too dark. So, you can see they are similar but different with the Mink being a darker color and Lilacs are lighter. When we were in England in 2004, I did see some Minks that were a perfect shade of Lilac and would have shown well here.

We now know that U.K. Mink is different genetically than what we have here (Minks and Pearls by Toyah Leitch). A breeding in England around 2000 of two gray rats (one English and one from USA via Europe) produced only Black babies proving they are two different genes that just happened to look the same and operate the same, i.e. breeding to Agouti makes Cinnamon or combining with Pearl to make Pearl. We also may have more than one gray brown gene here in the U.S. that looks and acts like Mink (Rat coat colors...Our Observations by Debbi J. Needham).

To make things more interesting, the gray/mink rats in Australia are a totally different gene from any others, so there are at least three different gray-brown/mink genes that all look/operate the same but are not the same genetically (New World Downunders by Connie Perez and Australian Cinnamon: 'Aussie Cinnamon' by Morgan Christianson). Whew! Then add in the real chocolate gene and you have a lot of brown genes out there.

One question I was asked many, many years ago on how to tell the two colors apart—Mink vs. Lilac—my reply was if it is pure English, then it is Mink, if not English, then Lilac.

You can read more in the articles The Color Safir (Mink/Lilac), Mink vs. Blue Rats, Difference Between Mink and Blue Agouti Rats

Lilac rat
Lilac male rat. Photo ©AFRMA.

English Mink rat
English Mink male rat. Photo ©2011 Karen Robbins.

Silver Lilac and Silver Mink

Silver Lilacs came out of the first Lilac (F3 litter) (the original Lilac—a male that was then named Hershey—was found in a pet shop in 1978 in Riverside, CA; he also brought in the P.E. gene along with the silvering which was unknown to us at the time). When two Silver Lilacs were bred together, I only got Silver Lilac. When breeding Lilac to Lilac I got both Lilac and Silver Lilac. Silver Lilac bred as a recessive just like the Lilac and would be produced in litters out of non-Lilac colors, i.e. two Black parents producing a litter of Black, Lilac, Silver Lilac.

According to the standards: The Silver Lilacs are to be: Color to be dove gray with a blueish sheen. Coat is evenly ticked with silver white hairs throughout. where Silver Mink is: To be an even mid gray-brown devoid of dinginess or patches and having a distinct blueish sheen. The coat should contain equal numbers of silvered and non-silvered hairs. Each silvered hair to have as much of its length white as possible—a colored tip to be allowed. Silvering to give an overall sparkling appearance. Just like Lilac vs. Mink, Silver Lilac vs. Silver Mink are similar but different colors with Lilac being lighter and Mink darker.

Silver Lilac rat
Silver Lilac Female rat moulting (common for this color). Photo ©2014 Karen Robbins.

Silver Lilac rat
Young Silver Lilac male rat. Photo ©1986 Larry Ferris.

Silver Lilac rat
Adult Silver Lilac male rat that is heavily silvered. Photo ©1991 Larry Ferris.

Silver Mink rat
An 8-week-old Silver Mink male rat. Photo ©2013 Karen Robbins.

Silver Mink rat
A 10-week-old English Silver Mink male rat starting to moult. Photo ©2011 Karen Robbins.

Silver Mink vs. Mink kitten rats
4-week-old Silver Mink male vs. Mink female kitten rats. Photo ©2013 Karen Robbins.


We have gotten several questions the last few years regarding Pearl—some referring to it as recessive Pearl, others Dark Phase Pearl. I believe what they really are now after working with a local breeder and seeing them in person, is they are Silver Lilac, NOT Pearls. I have bred both Silver Lilacs and English Pearl for many years and can tell you they are not the same.

English Pearl is dominant and needs Mink (or Lilac) to show (you can have a normal colored rat be Pearl but not show if it is not carrying Mink as I have had, and breeding to a Mink carrier then produces Pearl which could make you think Pearl is recessive. When breeding English Pearl, you get Pearl and Silver Mink/Mink in every litter, either by breeding two Pearls together or a Pearl with a Mink. If you have two English Mink out of Pearl and breed together and get Mink and Pearl, then one or both parents are considered dark-phase Pearl as two Minks bred together = all Mink. In my breedings of English Silver Mink to English Silver Mink, I got only Silver Mink (just like breeding Silver Lilac), or Silver Mink and Mink.

Another difference is Silver Lilac has silvered hairs where Pearl has the hairs tipped in gray (Mink). Pearl are an off white/dirty white color as babies where Silver Lilac are gray with silvering. Pearl will not moult into progressively darker colors as they age like the Silver Lilac can. Also, Silver Lilac/Lilac will be patchy in color a lot and were always hard to show as adults (English Mink can have the same problem). The Silver Lilacs I had would keep their silvering throughout life where the English Silver Minks out of English Pearl I have now will lose any silvering they have as young adults and you can’t tell them apart from plain Mink after that. I’ve also never seen them with as much silvering as babies. The many years I bred Silver Lilac (and Lilac), I never had them as light as some of the photos I’ve seen, but then I wasn’t selecting for more and more silvering, and most of these light ones end up darkening/less silvering as they age. I could see where someone not breeding to show Standards, might be selecting for more and more silvering, as they are pretty with that much.

You can read more in the articles Recessive Pearl Rats, Getting Pearl From Two Minks; Untested Recessive Pearl Rats and Dark Phase Pearl? Rat; Color Typing: Dark Phase Pearl? Rat, The Pearl Rat,

English Pearl rat
English Pearl male rat. Photo ©2007 Karen Robbins.

English Pearl rats
11-day-old English Pearl kitten female rats, L and middle: good color, R: dark color, owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen’s Kritters. Photo ©2013 Karen Robbins.

English Pearl rats
11-day-old English Pearl kitten male rats rest of litter, L: best color of males, rest too dark, owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen’s Kritters. Photo ©2013 Karen Robbins.

English Pearl rats
The English Pearl male rat babies now at 4-weeks-old, L: good color, R: dark tipping, owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen's Kritters. Photo ©2013 Karen Robbins.

English Pearl vs PEW rats
Young English Pearl vs. PEW female rats, owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen’s Kritters. Photo ©2013 Karen Robbins.

Dark Pearl rat
Adult moulting female dark Pearl rat, owned and bred by Karen Robbins, Karen’s Kritters. Photo ©2011 Karen Robbins.

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June 15, 2021