Chinchilla Colors

Since chinchillas came to the U.S. in 1923, breeders have been doing what they've always done - trying to achieve perfection. In the beginning, chinchillas were only selected for fur quality and therefore habits, like fur chewing, were selected against. As chinchillas began moving into households as pets, breeders begain to select for different traits such as temperment. Breeders also began to select for certain fur colors.

Just like humans, chinchillas are all a little bit different from one another. For example, chinchilla don't all have the exact same color fur. There is an average fur color of course, with most chinchillas sharing that trait. However, there are always a smaller number of individuals who lie outside of the average and may have lighter or darker fur. Breeders took advantage of natural variation to create all the chinchilla colors we see today through selective breeding.

To achieve lighter fur, breeders would mate two chinchillas that had lighter-than-average fur color. Most likely, the offspring of this pair would also have light colored fur.

It is believed that the first color mutation was a white chinchilla, called a Wilson White, born in 1955 in North Carolina. Although this chinchilla was most likely the product of selective breeding, another factor was at least partially responsible. In 1955 in Oregon the first beige chinchilla was born. Black Velvet is also known as Gunning Black and was born in 1956 by Bob Gunning in Washington.

It's Science

Gene mutations are changes in the DNA of a living organism. Most extreme mutations are lethal, but small mutations can be quite prevelant within a population. Because of these small mutations most organisms within a species are slightly different. This is genetic variation.

Over time and with the help of selective pressures, these small mutations can add up to cause significant changes in appearance.

In its natural habitat, a white chinchilla would not survive for long because it would very visible to predators. That mutation would therefore not be passed on, which is why white and beige chinchilla don't exist in the wild. However, white chinchillas make wonderfully adorable pets and so in captivity this mutation was nurtured.



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