Hedgehog Colors: For Color Breeding

Ryan is a guest writer. He has years of experience with coat color genetics, experience with hedgehogs since 1995, and began studying their color genetics in 2001. He earned his degree from Oklahoma State University, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

A Little Info Before We Begin

It is important to understand that these are not the show standard hedgehog colors as accepted by the International Hedgehog Association, the color groups in this post have been developed for accurate predictive color breeding. For the show standards of hedgehog colors please visit the IHA Color Site. To read the study with supporting data for the genotypes and color groups used here, then check out this article: Inheritance of Coat Color in African Pygmy Hedgehogs.

Hedgie Color Genetics

From the perspective of color breeding, there are four fundamental colors of hedgehogs. Gray, Cinnamon, Chocolate, and Cinnicot. Brown and Apricot are genetically the same as Chocolate and Cinnicot, respectively, but are extremes of a variable color expression. For example, a hedgehog with the genotype {Bb Ruru} will have a much higher probability of being born Chocolate than Brown or Gray, but the dominant Ru gene is quite variably expressive and can result in any color between the two extremes of Gray and Brown. The same is true for {bb Ruru} hedgehogs, which will most likely present as Cinnicot, but could range anywhere from Cinnamon to Apricot.

This unfortunate reality can make it difficult to breed exclusively for Browns or Apricots, but developing pure lines of {BB RuRu} (Chocolate/Brown) or {bb RuRu}(Cinnicot/Apricot) will significantly increase your odds. From there, one would selectivity choose breeders who fully express the Ru traits.

Beyond the fundamental colors, there are blue-cream dilutions, which are particularly easy to identify in the Cinnamon to Apricot range, but appears to have complications in the Grays (blues). This brings the potential number of base colors to eight: Gray, Blue, Cinnamon, Silver-Cinnamon, Chocolate, Blue-Fawn, Cinnicot, Silver-Cream. With Fawn and Cream being genetically identical to Blue-Fawn and Silver-Cream, respectively (dilute forms of Brown and Apricot).

One final note, pet African hedgehogs are agouti colored animals, light-bellied or white-bellied agouti to be specific (hybrids of both). All this means is that the type of melanin (color pigments) in the hair (or spine) changes from the black/brown eumelanin to the orange/yellow pheomelanin along the length of each hair (or spine). Note that on hedgehogs, the colors in the spines shift from beige/white, to tan/orange/yellow, to the base color, then to tan/orange/yellow again before returning to beige/white. This shift is known as an agouti pattern and is clearly present in hedgehogs. The white break on either side of the bands is not necessarily part of the agouti pattern, but is not uncommon- see tabby cats.

The agouti pattern becomes significant because, just like the Ru trait, it is also variably expressive: the more pheomelanin produced, the lighter the hedgehog will appear. For example, a Gray hedgehog can have very little pheomelanin production resulting in more black on the spines and darker skin, or a lot of pheomelanin production and look very muddy colored with lighter skin. Once again, to see a more familiar example of this, look at the variability of brown tabby cats: essentially, all hedgehogs can be considered to be tabby colored, and if this is more familiar and easier to approach than calling them ‘agouti’, then go for it.

B/- ; ru/ru ; D/-Gray
b/b ; ru/ru ; D/-Cinnamon
B/- ; Ru/- ; D/-Chocolate
b/b ; Ru/- ; D/-Cinnicot
B/- ; ru/ru ; d/dBlue
b/b ; ru/ru ; d/dSilver Cinnamon
B/- ; Ru/- ; d/dBlue Fawn
b/b ; Ru/- ; d/dSilver Cream
Hedgehog Pigmentation Pathways

The Base Colors


Albino {cc — — –}: While not technically a base color, albinism masks any colors that a hedgehog might genetically be. There is no pigmentation present in the skin, which is pink in appearance.  No Pigmentation in the eyes, which appear red.  And no pigmentation in the spines, which will be solid white. If there is any pigmentation present, then the hedgehog is not an albino.

Photo by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan Dickey

Gray {C- B- ruru D-}: The pigmentation of the skin ranges from black to brown in appearance with black eyes and a dark mask on the face. The coat coloration is typically black with tan-orange banding on either side of the principle coloration.

Photo by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan Dickey

Chocolate {C- B- Ru- D-}: Exhibit characteristics of either Gray or Brown with co-expression in the coat coloration: containing a mixture and blending of some black banded spines and some brown banded spines, with amounts varying per individual.

Photo by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan Dickey

Brown {C- B- Ru- D-}: The pigmentation of the skin is black to rich brown and the mask is light brown with some orange overcast. The eyes are dark but with some pigment reduction: juveniles tend to have dark garnet colored eyes that darken as they reach maturity. The coat coloration is a shade of burnt brown, with orange to yellow banding on either side of the principle coloration.

Photo by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Steve HalfpennyPhoto by Ryan Dickey

Cinnamon {C- bb ruru D-}: The pigmentation of the skin is diluted to pale brown or pink, while the mask is light and hardly discernible in some individuals. The eyes are dark but with some pigment reduction, visibly dark brown in most individuals. The coat pigmentation is liver-brown with light orange-yellow banding on either side of the principle coloration.

Photo by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan Dickey

Cinnicot {C- bb Ru- D-}: Exhibit characteristics of either Cinnamon or Apricot with co- expression in the coat coloration: containing a mixture and blending of some Cinnamon and Apricot banded spines, with amounts varying between individuals.

Photo by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan Dickey

Apricot {C- bb Ru- D-}: The pigmentation of the skin is pale brown to pink. There is either a very pale, or no visible mask and the pigmentation of the eyes is greatly reduced, appearing red.  The coat is orange with some brown overcast and the bandings on either side of the principle coloration are off-white or cream.

Photo by Kelly HartPhoto by Chelsey KennedyPhoto by Ryan Dickey

The Blue-Cream Dilutions


Blue {C- B- ruru dd}: This coloration is mostly predicted from the coloration of blue-fawns. The pigmentation of the skin would be expected to range from black to brown with grey overcasting.  The eyes are dark but with some pigment reduction, visibly blue in some individuals.  The coat coloration of the mask is silvered and the spine banding have reduced color intensity and appear light grey or silver; the banding on either side of the principle coloration are off-white. The ears are notably softer and often fold.

Photo by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan Dickey

Blue-Fawn {C- B- Ru- dd}: Exhibit characteristics of either blue or fawn with co- expression in the coat coloration: containing a mixture of some blue banded spines and some fawn banded spines, with amounts varying between individuals.

Photo by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Rebecca CowellPhoto by Ryan Dickey

Fawn {C- B- Ru- dd}: This coloration is mostly predicted from the coloration of Blue-Fawns. The pigmentation of the skin should be diluted to pale brown to pink.  The eyes are assumed to be dark with notable pigment reduction.  The coat coloration of the spine banding have reduced color intensity and are yellow in appearance; the banding on either side of the principle coloration are beige or off-white.

Photo by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan Dickey

Silver Cinnamon {C- bb ruru dd}: The pigmentation of the skin is brown with grey overcast.  The eyes are dark with notable pigment reduction, visibly blue in some individuals and occasionally with brown-burgundy overcast.  The coat coloration of the mask, if it is visible, is silver and the spine bandings have reduced color intensity and appear light gray or silver, which gain more brown overtones as they reach maturity; the bandings on either side of the principle coloration are beige or off-white.

Photo by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan Dickey

Silver-Cream {C- bb Ru- dd}: Exhibit characteristics of either lilac or cream with co- expression in the coat coloration: containing a mixture of some lilac banded spines and some cream banded spines, with amounts varying between individuals

Photo by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan Dickey

Cream {C- bb Ru- dd}: The pigmentation of the skin is pink in appearance.  The eyes are red.  The coat coloration of the spine bandings is pale yellow or off-white, with off-white bandings on either side of the principle coloration.

Photo by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan DickeyPhoto by Ryan Dickey

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