CARAMEL & APRICOT

IN THE ORIENTAL SHORTHAIR

John S Harrison.

There appears to be some interest in the Caramels and Apricots at the present time, and I'm sorry to say even more confusion, misinformation and humbug than there is interest. My comment, which may sound severe, is the result of conversations overheard at shows (and Judges do overhear some very funny things!), discussions with breeders, and various items gleaned off the Internet.

Colour inheritance is a subject that has fascinated me since my early teens. My interest in the coat colour of cats was more by accident than design. My Mother, Mrs. Betty Harrison, had bred Siamese & British for some years when in 1967/8 she started a breeding programme with Mrs Angela Sayer (Solitaire) to produce the ‘lavender’ counterpart of the Chestnut Brown Foreign – now known respectively as the Oriental Lilac and Havana. I soon became interested, but I must admit more in the other colours and patterns that were produced from the various matings than the lavenders!

My Mother’s original cats were, to say the least, an interesting group and included Devon Rex hybrids, Manx hybrids plus the odd bit of Russian Blue, Burmese, Abyssinian, and of course Siamese, and dare I say good old mogs! Yes Folks these are the illustrious ancestors of the Orientals of today!!

In 1973 I met Miss Patricia Turner, and shortly after the late Roy Robinson, and learned from them the fundamentals of colour inheritance. I was soon totally hooked on coat colour inheritance, and started breeding under my own prefix. Whilst my Mother was quite happy for me to have Reds, Creams & Torties in her prefix she certainly wasn’t prepared for me to breed from Chinchilla hybrids and this new fangled caramel colour! One would have thought that her cats at the time were pure bred!

Caramel & Apricot are most certainly not new colours, but have been in existence for many years. Whilst the gene responsible for Caramel colouring may have been present for some years, many breeders refused to accept that it existed, and some became extremely agitated if it was suggested that some of their kittens were perhaps Caramel! Once GCCF accepted Caramel as a colour in the Oriental it was amazing how almost overnight breeders, who had previously decried the colour, suddenly were so delighted that the colour gene was in their cat household! How very strange indeed!

There is little doubt that the ‘Dilute Modifier’; symbolised Dm; responsible for Caramels in the Oriental and the Asian was inherited from the Chinchilla. This does not however explain where the colour came from in the Burmese (whoops, of course there isn’t Caramel in Burmese!) or in the British Shorthair (there I go again imagining that there could be Apricots in British!). And of course the colour certainly didn’t exist in ‘pure’ Siamese, though I certainly know of at least one line that has thrown up more than a few ‘odd coloured’ kittens. A fact which many breeders seem to forget is that pedigree breeds have existed for a relatively short time and there can be for example very few Siamese who cannot trace there ancestry back to say Burmese; or for that matter Burmese to Siamese perhaps. Be honest there haven't always been Registrars & registration systems!

THE ORIGINS OF THE CARAMEL & APRICOT.

In Oriental Shorthairs the Caramel colour can be traced back to an accidental mating between MARISARNI DANDINO [24b] and MARISARNI RETARA [10], both cats having perfectly respectable pedigrees for their respective breeds. Indeed it is now very unlikely that any Orientals, excepting Foreign Whites, are not descendants of these two cats. Fortunately Miss Patricia Turner, famed the world over not only for her SCINTILLA cats but also for her knowledge of genetics, saw the kittens and took two females SCINTASILVA SUE and SCINTA CELESTE. Scintasilva Sue’s daughter, SCINTILLA SERENE SUNSET (26), sired by CH PITAPAT ZENO (32a), was by any standards a most beautiful queen. Today she would have been registered as a Black Tortie Silver Shaded. Pat realised in 1973 that Serena had the capacity to produce rather ‘odd coloured’ kittens - the Apricot and Caramel.

Serena was mated to various studs including CH DARLING RED RUFUS, 32a, in 1972 and TAURUS KAY KAVALIER, 24c, in 1973 and produced ‘apricot’ coloured kittens from both. One of the kittens from the mating to the Lilac Point was SCINTILLA HONEY FROST, registered as an Apricot Smoke. In 1974 Serena was mated to SOUTHVIEW TRAPPIST, and in 1975 to NASYLA MINK MOONLIGHT and ‘caramel’ coloured kittens were produced.

SCINTILLA DRESDEN ROSA, sired by SOUTHVIEW TRAPPIST, was the first cat to be registered as Caramel. She was a Siamese with points the colour of ‘caramel toffee’, hence the colour name ‘Caramel’. Trappist, a chocolate coloured semi-longhair with an unsound coat (today he would have been called an Angora), was bred from Abyssinians, Siamese and an American line of Albino Siamese or Recessive Whites!

At the time I was Northern Regional Secretary of the Oriental Cat Association and was living in Sheffield. I well remember seeing Dresden Rosa in Sheffield when I called to collect a Red Smoke Male kitten, SCINTILLA CROWN IMPERIAL, who her owners had collected on my behalf from Pat. I had "Impy" to breed Red Silvers, his sire was SCINTILLA CREMELLO, a son of none other than HONEY FROST.

Initially Pat believed that the 'caramel' & 'apricot' colouring were the result of the albino/recessive white gene which was present in some of her cats. In the 1970's cats which were heterozygous for 'recessive white' were almost akin to having the Plague! Definitely NOT the sort of things decent people had! I often visited Pat & John at Eastbourne, Uckfield & Milton Keynes, and usually returned with yet another 'birthday' or 'Christmas' present in a basket! I well remember returning from Uckfield with SCINTILLA ROSSINI (29) a son of SOLITAIRE TUKU (29) and SCINTILLA ROSEANNA .……. horror or horrors his dam was Dresden Rosa's daughter!! "Rossi" was an exquisite Havana, and undoubtedly the most stunning Oriental I have ever owned.

The mating of Serena to NASYLA MINK MOONLIGHT, her half brother, produced SCINTILLA KAFFY OLE who was described as a Dark Phase Caramel Pastel. I have always described her as ‘a little animal of interesting colour and amusing type’, she would today have been registered as 43ns. Whilst she was a very pretty cat, her type was definitely not to be desired! "Kaffy" was four months old when I had her, on breeding terms, from Pat. At first no one was quite sure that she really was caramel because her colour was not quite the same as the other Caramels Pat had bred. For some time there was a question whether she was a ‘pink-eyed dilute’, which would have been a totally new colour break in cats. I well remember comparing her colour to some cat hair that had been sent over from USA. As time progressed and Pat produced more Caramels in Oriental it became clear that "Kaffy" was indeed of that colour. SCINTILLA HAZY SPRITE, a litter sister of "Kaffy", was exported to Heide Stamm in Germany and took the hidden Caramel colour into the TAI-BAGHEERAS. Interestingly some years later a descendant of the line, TAI-BAGHEERA BARBARIAN returned to the UK.

"Kaffy" produced only one litter of kittens which was sired by CH HARISLAU FLYING FOX (29), producing four chocolate kittens of various patterns. I kept a female kitten subsequently registered as SCINTILLA KALLISSIMA who today would have been registered as a Chocolate Silver Shaded. In time "Kalli" was mated to HARISLAU TARKA and from their Havana daughter MEGRIM CHARLOTTE BROWN I bred a pleasing line of Havanas with very green eyes. Several breeders who'd been very much against this 'funny coloured silver rubbish' decided they could possibly 'make use' of one of my browns! I kept MEGRIM CHARLIES ANGEL and her daughter MEGRIM ANGELS DELIGHT; I gave Mrs Barbara Shackell MEGRIM ANGELO BROWN, sire of amongst others GD CH SEAFOLA; and I gave Mrs Prue Critchley MEGRIM SWEET GEORGIA, the dam of CH SYLBA RICARDO. It is highly likely that all these carried Dilute Modifier and many Caramel Orientals can be traced back to their progeny.

A litter sister of Megrim Charlotte Brown was MEGRIM CLOUDIE CHRYSTALLES a Lilac Silver Spotted Tabby who I gave to my very dear friend, the late Mrs Marie McAdam. This queen produced some very wonderful kittens including the first O.S.T. Champion and Grand Champion GR CH FOLKLORE MOONWOLF, and the first female O.S.T. Champion CH FOLKLORE ICED MINK. Because 'Cloudie Chrystalles' was a Lilac it is unlikely that she inherited the Caramel gene, but unfortunately she did inherit the Wide-band gene, for when I saw as an adult it was clear that she was a Shaded, and not a Tabby! The result was obvious in many of her descendants.

Pat Turner produced very many kittens that were either Caramel or Apricot, or carried the hidden Dilute Modifier. These kittens were scattered across the United Kingdom, and indeed to most of the World. Quite innocently the colour was being spread throughout the Orientals.

It must be remembered that in the 1960's & 1970's all these kittens were registered as BREED 26, ANY OTHER VARIETY, later as EXPERIMENTALS, before Breed Numbers were granted to the individual colour varieties. Older pedigrees will not of course contain the specific Breed No's -- they simply didn't exist. Equally it must be remembered that some cats on older pedigrees would not be registered under that Breed Number today. For example one of my Mothers original cats was MALLORCA LI MING, an early Lilac Shorthair - she was infact a Devon Rex Variant, one of her grand parents was registered as Breed 15, though I don't think a Devon Rex / Siamese kitten would qualify as a British Black today! Unfortunately many pedigrees have had their breed numbers incorrectly 'updated' by ill informed individuals with the result that they can lead to even more confusion: original breed numbers should not be changed unless you are 100% sure and the revised number should be shown in parenthesis.

THE GENETIC BACKGROUND

The Caramel and Apricot colouring is the result of the action of a dominant gene known as the ‘Dilute Modifier’ (symbolised Dm) on Blue, Lilac and Fawn in the case of the Caramel; and Cream (which are also Blue, Lilac or Fawn based) in the Apricot.

Current theory is that the presence of the Dilute Modifier gene converts Blue, Lilac and Fawn and the associated Red Series cats into Caramel and Apricot:

GENOTYPE

PHENOTYPE

BB dd Dm_

Caramel – Blue based

bb dd Dm_

Caramel – Lilac based

blbl dd Dm_

Caramel – Fawn Based

BB dd O Dm_

Apricot – Blue based

bb dd O Dm_

Apricot – Lilac based

blbl dd O Dm_

Apricot – Fawn Based

Black, Chocolate, Cinnamon and Red cats can carry the Dilute Modifier but it does not affect their colour. To all intents and purposes the gene lurks undetected, until of course the cats produce Caramel and Apricot offspring!

There are visible differences between the three Caramel genotypes, which are really quite subtle, but to the experienced eye both considerable, and noticeable, especially in the Tabby forms. In pointed cats the differences are far less distinct due to the action of the ‘siamese’ gene.

Whilst the Apricot Self is a most attractive coloured animal, albeit only a variation of Cream, the Caramel Self is, to me at least, a dull drab colour which I usually think of as being 'donkey brown'. As a variety I do not believe that the Caramel Self has a lot going for it - could this possibly have any bearing on the fact that it is the only known Oriental colour which is still in Assessment? There appears to be only slight visual differences between the three different Apricot genotypes, and indeed the colour differs but little between agouti and non-agouti forms.

Whereas I find Caramel in non-agouti cats to be singularly unattractive, in combination with the Agouti gene it becomes a most wonderful group of colours, which is most pleasing to the eye. The dull drab tones of the Self disappear and we have delightful brownish-silvery-grey markings on a ground colour that varies from warm oatmeal; to decidedly sandy; to cool toned beige. In whatever form it creates a delightful combination.

In some cases the colouring is so warm that the breeder may well believe that the kitten is a tortie of some form! Some years ago a litter of kittens was brought for my Mother and I to look at because the breeder believed he had a CREAM kitten in the litter, despite the fact that there was no Red, Cream or Tortie in the pedigree. I subsequently bought MAELGWYN KARAMELLA, a Standard Caramel Shaded! In truth I have to admit that she had phenomenal expression of the wide-band gene, and had very little Caramel colour, being almost entirely ground-colour. One of my queens, CHELANCA DAPPLED DAWNDREAM, bred by my good friend Mrs Barbara Fellows, has inherited this extreme expression of Wide-band from her great-grandmother; and whilst admittedly she is a Tortie, she most certainly is not instantly recognisable as being either Caramel or indeed Tortie!

One of the characteristics of the Caramel Tabby and Shaded is the distinctive metallic, aluminium like sheen, which is particularly visible across the neck and top of head. In the Self forms this is largely absent, unless the animal has heavy ghost markings. This metallic sheen though possibly less pronounced is also seen in the Apricot.

For many years I thought that cats in possession of Dilute Modifier should not be bred to cats with the 'light brown' gene - that is the Cinnamon & Fawn. My logic was quite simple - it would be difficult differentiating between Caramel, Lilac & Fawn in a litter of agouti kittens, especially where the colours were of poor standard; and in the case of Siamese nigh well impossible! To a great extent I still would not advocate that Dilute Modifier and Light Brown are intentionally interbred. HOWEVER, there is a part of me that wishes I had done so many years ago when my Mother had Cinnamons, for the best of the Fawn-based Caramel agouti cats are of the most subtle, delicate shades imaginable - the worst are probably indistinguishable from a Lilac-based Caramel!

Our current understanding of the action of the Dilute Modifier gene may not be quite complete. What is quite certain is that it is a dominant gene. It is not 'incompletely dominant' as there is no visible difference between the homozygote DmDm and the heterozygote Dmdm.

We are also certain that the gene can be carried by Black, Chocolate, Cinnamon and Red cats, plus of course Black, Chocolate and Cinnamon Torties without in any way affecting the appearance of their colour. Many people are under the impression that Dilute Modifier is a recessive because of the fact that these colours are not affected, but mated together will produce the Caramel or Apricot.

Where our understanding of the Dilute Modifier gene falls short is that in theory its presence changes Blue, Lilac and Fawn into Caramel, and Cream into Apricot. Therefore it must follow that a Blue, Lilac, Fawn or Cream cat cannot 'carry' the Dilute Modifier. However breeding results give us different results! There are clear examples of supposedly Blue cats bred from a Caramel parent producing Caramel kittens.

One clear example was ARRIANRHOD GWYNHYFER, a Blue Classic Tabby female, who was bred from a Caramel dam. When mated to the indisputably Lilac Pointed CH SUNSYLPH ALLEGRO she produced ARRIANRHOD FIORDILIGI a most obvious CARAMEL self! I judged this kitten once. She was shown as a Foreign Lilac, and had the most wonderful (sorry…. I mean appalling!) Classic Tabby ghost markings. I bought a cat basket and took her home with me! "Dilly's" breeder, Miss Melanie Spencer, and I both knew she wasn’t Lilac, though GCCF thought they knew better. Eventually a re-registration was acquired! She produced kittens exactly as one would expect from blue-based Caramel. Bearing in mind that 'Dilly' was homozygous for Classic Tabby pattern she did produce one major anomally, for when mated to a Caramel Ticked Tabby male of genotype Tatb she had a kitten that appeared to be a wonderfully patterned Caramel Spotted Tabby! But that's nothing to do with colour!

I like to think that I can differentiate between Blue & Caramel. I judged Gwynhyfer on numerous occasions, she most certainly was not Caramel, but was a very intense blue, I would suggest even ‘indigo’! If this is true for Blue then it must be equally true for Lilac, Fawn and Cream. Such cats may well be as rare as Tortoiseshell males, but alternatively they could be rather common! There are many 'off' coloured Oriental Lilacs shown, are they just drab, dull coloured Lilac, or are they something else…… dare I, tongue-in-cheek, suggest 'tungsten'!

There are several explanations for cats like Gwynhyfer:

Firstly. The simple explanation is that she was just a really bad Caramel, so bad infact that she looked Blue.

Secondly, and I feel more likely, that the Dilute Modifier does not necessarily, on every occasion, modify Blue, Lilac, Fawn or Cream coloured cats to Caramel or Apricot respectively.

Thirdly, and in my books a total nonsense, Caramel and Apricot don't exist as separate colours and are nothing more than the result of the effect of polygenes on Blue, Lilac, Fawn and Cream.

I have to pose the questions ……

Does it really matter anyway?

Why can't Lilac, Caramel & Fawn compete in the same Open Class as is the case with Cream & Apricot?

Would it not be better anyway to amalgamate Open Classes, for example Black/Blue/White; Havana/Cinnamon; and Red/Cream/Apricot/Tortie ?

So there we have it a little bit of the history of the colours; a basic guide to the inheritance of the colours; and a smattering of controversy!

© John S Harrison.

18/11/2000.

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