Claire D

The Pure Recessive Charcoal Mutation & Derivatives

I've been noticing that there is a lot of confusion at the moment surrounding the charcoal mutation and it's derivatives so I thought I'd try and address the topic in what I hope is a clear, concise manner (besides which, I love talking about charcoals so this is the perfect excuse :) ).

The Charcoal Mutation.

Charcoal is a recessive mutation - it acts in the same way as (for instance) violet and in its pure state, when mated with a good quality standard the offspring will have pure white bellies. Any offspring with dull or dirty bellies indicates ebony inlfuence and the "charcoal" is not pure - it should, therefore, not be called "charcoal" at all.

As far as we are aware, there are no pure charcoals in the US and precious few (if any) in Europe. It would appear that true charcoal mutation chinchillas exist and are being carefully bred as such only in the UK. If a chinchilla is being sold as a charcoal then the pedigree is of vital importance and the chin cannot be proven to be a charcoal until mated with standards over a period of years and only producing clear, white bellied offspring. Even some of the older breeders' "charcoals" may be tainted with ebony because initially they were thought to be the same or at least a similar gene and were (inadvertantly) bred together to produce dark charcoals/dark ebonies with a good wrap. Much damage was done to the pure recessive charcoal mutation before both charcoal and ebony were clearly understood in their own right.

In the US, the terms "charcoal" and "ebony" and "pastel" and "tan" are used interchangeably - because the mutations have been mixed. In the UK we keep the terms separate because they are, indeed, separate mutations.

This is a pure recessive "Standard Charcoal Carrier" (looks exactly like a standard chinchilla but carriers one charcoal gene) - Gracie as a youngster - she went on to win main show awards which demonstrates how white her belly is (among other attributes) ...........


It is true that using poor quality standards can give an off-coloured belly (with any pairing, not just charcoal) but this is exceptionally rare now-a-days.

Charcoal + standard offspring should ALWAYS produce clear bellies and anything else should be treated as ebony influenced and removed from a charcoal breeding programme and should be sold as a light ebony etc.

A full (homozygous) charcoal chinchilla requires two charcoal genes (one from each parent) is a grey wrap (the grey extends all round the chinchilla, including the belly) and can be the "old style" lighter grey or the darker (almost black) colour phase. They are distinguishable from homozygous (extra dark ebony) in that they are always matt grey, not the "every hair shiny black" which the ebonies are supposed to possess. Currently, the darker phase charcoals seem to be in favour with some breeders, but there are others (myself included) who prefer the softer grey of the "old style" light grey charcoals. A few of us who are working with pure recessive charcoals are working to keep the two colour phases separate.

A pure charcoal's fur feels different and has been described as like cotton wool to the touch - standard/beige charcoal carriers also have a slightly different feel to their fur. The feel of the fur should not affect the quality - it is just a touch difference.

Here is an example of an old style, light phase charcoal (complete with tightly shut eyes because she did not like the flashy thing!)


And a dark phase charcoal:


Derivatives of Charcoal

These include pastel (light and dark phase), Charbrown and Charblack.


This is produced by combining charcoal with beige and can be either light or dark phase.



Charbrown is produced by combining brown velvet with charcoal or black velvet with pastel. The TOV (Touch of Velvet) should be clearly visible on the charbrown and is a beautiful colour.



Charblack is produced in the same way by combining charcoal and black velvet - again, the veiling should be clearly visible.

Personally I think the charcoal mutation and its derivatives are beautiful - the matt appearance and the soft, grey/beige wrap are quite stunning, especially when the grey/brown/beige is clear and blue. Charcoals and pastels have been pretty much absent from show benches for a number of years because the mutation as a whole had a tendency to breed small and could be tinged. The original Broucke charcoal was actually called the "Broucke Charcoal Borwn" (see my article here for more info on the Broucke charcoal) and the colour really did go out of fashion for many years.

Thankfully in the UK over the last few years there are a group of breeders who are determined to keep the mutation from disappearing and are breeding them carefully and improving their overall health and quality. There have been some charcoals exhibited at UK NCS chinchilla shows which can only be a good thing for the mutation as a whole and long may it continue! :)

There is more information about charcoals and charcoal derivatives on my website :ROFL:

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