I have recently gotten a few emails asking the difference between the chocolate tortoiseshell color and lilac tortoiseshell color in angora rabbits. Genetically speaking, a chocolate tort (or any chocolate) is the color at full density and a lilac tort (or any lilac) is the chocolate color diluted. Think of it this way; lilac is just chocolate watered down. In order for a lilac to show up in the nest box, both parents must carry the recessive “d” gene.
The tortoiseshell version of these colors is another gene altogether. The “e” gene, or recessive non-extension gene, keeps the color from traveling the full length of the hair shaft. In chocolate and lilac torts this will look like a toasted almond or milk chocolate color along the back and sides compared to the dark chocolate or lilac colored face.
If you look in the picture below, the lilac tort is on the left and the chocolate tort is on the right. From a top view the two colors look very similar, but remember, this is because they are both tortoiseshells (or torts).
This is the lilac tortoiseshell at five weeks old. I have flipped the rabbit over so that you can better see the “lilac” coloring without the tortoiseshell coloring getting in the way. See how the rabbit is a purple-grey color? That is the actual lilac color… I swear nothing is wrong with my camera. Also notice that the rabbit has grey-blue eyes. A correctly typed lilac rabbit (tortoiseshell or not) will always have grey-blue eyes.
This is the chocolate tortoiseshell at five weeks old. Again, I have flipped the rabbit over so that you can get a better idea of the chocolate coloring. It may seem like this rabbit has the same coloring on his belly as he does his back. All I can say is that it isn’t. The tortoiseshell coloring on his back is just very similar to the milk chocolate color on his belly. A solid colored chocolate (self chocolate) would be a dark chocolate color, but since these are tortoiseshell rabbits, it does make the chocolate coloring lighter. Note that this rabbit has brown eyes. All chocolates should have brown eyes to be true to type as defined by the American Rabbit Breeders Assosiation’s Standard of Perfection (aka the “go-to” book).
Hopefully those of you who are curious about rabbit colors will find this interesting. If not, then at least you got some rabbit close-ups!