My Dark Gray line began with animals imported from Sweden. Not only did they include the Dark Gray gene, but the imported Cream and Cream Rex line produced superior type. My origional breeding to begin this line involved breeding Ossy to my Rex Carrier female Zellina. The resulting litter proved to be an excellent foundation for my Dark Gray line and consistantly produces not only beautiful correct colors but also lovely type, good broad heads, coby bodies, thick dense coats, and wonderful temperaments. My goal has alway been not just to breed Dark Gray hamsters, but to breed Dark Gray hamsters with excellent type, temperament, and health. This is much more difficult than just making more Dark Gray hamsters, and thus accomplishing my goals has been a slow and steady process.
Dark Gray was first documented in 1964. The mutation was found in the United States, in a line of heavily inbred Rusts. It was described in an article titled Dark Grey and Lethal Grey Two New Coat Color Mutations in the Syrian Hamster which appeared in the Journal of Heredity Volume 58, pages 295-296, 1967 by Nixon and Connelly.
Dark Gray Syrian Hamsters were unconfirmed within the U.S. Hamster Fancy until two carriers were imported from Sweden in the spring of 2003 from Kolarangen's Hamstery (Kolarangen's Pandora and Kolarangen's Ossy). Shortly thereafter an unrelated apparently Dark Gray hamster was dumped on the doorstep of a rescuer. He was never bred and his color was unconfirmed, however this suggested that the gene was present in North America in the stock of at least one of the large commercial breeders.
Dark Gray differs from Silver Gray and Light Gray in every way and is very distinct in its own right.
Dark Gray is a simple recessive gene (dg) expressed on an agouti animal. Breeding a Dark Gray to a hamster who does not carry Dark Gray will result in no Dark Gray offspring. All will be carriers however. If two offspring are paired together, about 25% of the resulting pups will be Dark Gray. If two Dark Grays are mated, the entire litter will be Dark Gray (or Dark Gray combination colors if the parents carry other genes).
Lilac dgdgpp (Dark Gray + Cinnamon)
The standard calls for a soft pastel gray with a pink tone. Their eyes are claret red and their ears a pinkish gray. They often brown with age and many lack depth of color.
Lilac Pearl dgdgppToTo (Dark Gray + Cinnamon + Yellow)
Their coat is a pale pinkish gray with light gray ticking. Eyes are red and the ears flesh colored. The first record of them being created was in 1988 and they are sometimes also called pink or pink pearl.
Smoke Pearl dgdgToTo (Dark Gray + Yellow)
The standard calls for a pale pearl gray heavily and evenly ticked with
black. The eyes are black and the ears a dark gray. This color is
darker than Black Eyed Ivory, and of course is distinguishable by it's
dark ticking, which develops with age. A Smoke Pearl carrying Cream
will brown badly and have brown ticking, so it is a combination best
Red Eyed Ivory eedgdgpp (Dark Gray + Black Eyed Cream + Cinnamon)**
The standard calls for a soft pale grayish cream with no ticking or markings. Eyes are Garnet and east a light pinkish gray. Like Black Eyed Ivory they tend to yellow with age.
**note Red Eyed Ivory can also be produced using Light Gray or Silver Gray
Dark Gray Tortoiseshell dgdgToto (Dark Gray + Yellow)
Dark Gray torts can be rather striking dark gray with clear Smoke Pearl patches if they have good markings. Like any Tort, they vary in the size and distinctiveness of their patches. If they carry cream the patches will lack ticking and be closer to Ivory in color. Dark Gray Black Tortoiseshell is also striking, producing a black hamster with off white patches. Dark Gray will reportedly muddy the Black however, and the color is unstandardized.
Dark Gray + Black
Dark Gray plus Black (aadgdg) is reported to be
unexceptional and have simply a dingy black appearance.
There is some experimenting going on now to determine
if this combination may actually produce a distinctive color
in it's own right.
Smoke Pearl Black (Dark Gray + Yellow + Black)
While not a standardized color, Smoke Pearl Black is rather distinctive and
attractive. Smoke Pearl Black resembles Yellow Black, however the base
color is lighter.
Dark Gray Combination Colors
While it is ideal for a Dark Gray to be pure and not carry other genes, this is in truth rarely the case in the U.S. The imported animals carried several other genes, and of course the animals now occasionally seen in pet stores are coming out of very unknown and probably mixed up breedings done by large commercial breeders. Fortunately, Dark Gray in combination with other genes does produce some truly beautiful other colors which we are finally seeing in the US now that the gene is available and being worked with. Any color produced by the Dark Gray gene (dg) has an increased chance of spinal defects which cause bent or curled tails. This problem should be watched for and no effected animals should ever be bred.
The BHA standard calls for:
Top Coat: Pearly Grey carried approximately one-quarter of the way down
Base Color: Dark Slate grey
Belly Fur: Ivory with grey undercolor
Ticking: Heavily and evenly ticked with black-face to be swarthy with black eye rings
Chest Band: Very Dark Slate Grey
Eye Colour: Black
Ear Colour: Dark Grey almost Black
Dark Gray hamsters are a beautiful deep blue gray with heavy black ticking. They should have crisp, dark markings and be very distinctive in appearance. They are an agouti variety and they should have no yellow color to them. Their undercolor is a deep gray, with a gray top color ticked in black. They have solid black cheekflashes and almost white crescents.
This color is attractive in all the coat varieties. As in most colors, Satin will darken Dark Gray and Rex will cause a lightening of the ticking in the coat.
Many sources note that from their initial discovery Dark Gray hamsters have been smaller than their counterparts. This is particularly noticeable when they are younger, and most do catch up as they mature.
Dark Gray is also notable because of the reported high incidence of spinal deformities within the color. They are supposedly prone to a defect which causes their tail to be short, curved, or kinked. While this defect does not appear to be seriously detrimental to the effected animal, it is hereditary and should be avoided at all costs when breeding. Thus far this issue has not been reported among Dark Gray lines bred in California.
Homozygous Silver Gray
Continually breeding Dark Gray to Dark Gray is reported to result in a lightening of the color and in an increased incidence of spinal defects. The best outcross for Dark Gray is a quality Dark Golden. Dark Gray is often muddied or lightened when the animal carries other genes, so this is a color where pure animals are preferred when it is possible to obtain them.
It is difficult to achieve the depth of color and the heavy ticking that is called for in the standard for the Dark Gray. Both are effected when other genes are carried, and the best show animals ideally are pure. Dark Gray tends to go brown early, with most showing some signs by one year of age. This is accentuated if they carry cream, so that combination is best avoided.
Many reports mention that Dark Grays are smaller than their non-Dark Gray counterparts and Chris Henwood notes that this should be taken into account when judging. Other authors suggest that most Dark Grays do catch up in size eventually, and of course the goal should always be an animal with nice size and type. It is something to keep in mind when dealing with young animals however.
Dark Gray is not a good color choice for the novice exhibitor, or the person looking for an "easy" variety. A truly good example is hard to come by and does not have a particularly long show life.
CHA BIS Tarot's California Gold
Ossy X Zellina
Golden Tort LH Female
Tarot's Surprize Surprize
Ossy X Zellina
Black Eyed Cream LH Rex Male
Black Eyed Ivory eedgdg (Dark Gray + Black Eyed Cream) *
This color is an even pale grayish cream with no ticking or markings. The eyes are black and the ears dark gray. This color tends to yellow with age.
*note Black Eyed Ivory can also be produced using Light Gray or Silver Gray
CHA Best UNSTD Tarot's Frosty
Ossy X Zellina
Heterozygous Silver Gray LH Rex Female
Tarot's Silver Nugget
Ossy X Nugget
Het Silver Gray LH Female
Het SG Dark Gray and Rex Carrier
CHA BIS Manstenens Zellina
RE Cream Yellow Rex carrier
Heterozygous Silver Gray
Tarot's Gold Charm
Ossy X Nugget
Golden LH Female
Tarot's Gold Curlz
Ossy X Charm
Golden LH Rex Female
While developing my Dark Gray line I also felt it was important to establish a quality line of Golden hamsters to allow for the best Dark Gray outcross (pure Golden with good markings) as well as to increase genetic diversity.
5XCHA BIS AAA Oliver
Ossy X AAA Silver Specks
Golden SH Male
CHA BIS Tarot's 'Bout Time BP
Olly X Goldie
Dark Gray SH Male
Umb.Golden SH Satin Female
2X CHA B Unstd. Tarot's Caramel Apple
Ossy X Caramel
Het Sg SH Satin Female
CHA Best Pup Tarot's Back To Basics
Olly X Apple
Golden SH Female
2XCHA RIS Tarot's All That Glitters
Olly X Apple
Golden SH Satin Male
Beige dgdgbb (Dark Gray + Rust)
Dark Gray originated in a line of Rusts, so this color appeared in 1964 along with Dark Gray. The standard calls for a pale gray top coat lightly ticked with Dark Brown and with a mid gray base color. The undercolor should be similar to a good Lilac but with more ticking on the Beige. The eyes are black and the ears a very dark beige. A common fault is a lack of good ticking, in which case they resemble a poor Lilac.