Colors

Standard

Genetische code: A*B*C*D*P*

The wild type of a species is a color that is displayed when there are no visible color mutations present. This color cannot be bred out as it’s written in the basic DNA of any species and it cannot be altered in the same way that color mutations can be bred out or altered by selection. In animal genetics, a wild type color is noted down as the opposite of the active carried mutation. For example if melanism is recessive, the wild type would be the dominant allele and vice versa. In African Pygmy Hedgehogs, this is no different. The genetic notation of the wild type color in African Pygmy Hedgehogs, is A* B* C* D* P*.

In African Pygmy Hedgehogs, this wild type color is known are Standard or as Dark Grey, depending on the color guide you are used to using prior to this course. In this course and in our own color guide, we will refer to it as Standard. Standard is a color that has a brown mask with a black nose, black eyes, black quills with brown banding referred to as “ticking”. All colors display this ticking, but the ticking can be altered by mixing in certain color mutations. However, in most cases this ticking can only be seen by magnification, for example with a microscope or a magnifying glass. A minimum magnifying range of 20-40x is necessary to see the ticking and the true pigmentation of it.

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Black

Genetische code: aa

The term melanism refers to black pigment and is the increased development of the dark-colored pigment ‘melanin’ in the skin and hair of an animal. In hedgehogs, this also increases the development of melanin in quills, as quills are essentially big sturdy hairs made of keratin. Melanism is considered a natural adaptation, especially in nocturnal animals as they become much better camouflaged at night. In most animals, this mutation appears to be incomplete dominant as it always affects the phenotype, even when carried. Often times this kind of adaptive mutation has a natural preference and gives the animal with such a mutation a much better chance against predators due to having a better camouflage, creating a morph with such a high population, that it’s considered an alternative phenotype within a species. It’s also thought that melanism occurs more often in the wild, because it increases thermal protection (due to providing protection against ultraviolet radiation) or because if enhances immune defenses.

In hedgehogs the melanism mutation is displayed as a hedgehog with a black mask, nose and eyes, but also a dark grey to black skin as well as black quills that lack any kind of ticking. To the naked eye, some hedgehogs might seem to display brown tips instead of ticking, but under a microscope it’s clear to see that the ticking is going from a deep rich black color to a medium grey color that is translucent in the tips of the quills. The name of the color in hedgehogs is Black, refering to the color of the hedgehog. The amount of increased melanin differs per animal and per lineage. One can select for richer, deeper black colors as well as for less pigmented black animals. Because of this, it can make if very hard to determine a Standard from a Stardard carrying for Black or a Standard carrying for black and a true Black.

The reason why melanism in hedgehogs results in black and white pattern is unknown, but the same happens in other species like zebra’s, where a black and white pattern remains and where most of the times, the extremities and the head remain less affected than the body.

The genetic mutation in hedgehogs is incomplete dominant, which means that it inherits in a recessive manner but it affects the phenotype when the mutation is carried. A homozygous Black hedgehog is considered a true Black and is similar to the previous description of the color. However when the mutation is carried in a heterozygous manner the mutation will still be visible, making the phenotypical color darker and more grey as opposed to the regular way a color would be displayed as a phenotype. A Standard hedgehog will appear in a color in between Black and Standard, with the hoglets looking like Black hedgehogs up until the age of 9 weeks, but then fading more towards Standard phenotype. A true Black hardly fades after the age of 9 weeks and remains a black color overall. In other colors, the effect might differ but due to an increased development of melanin, the colors will be darker and more grey. The genetic notation of a melanistic hedgehog, a Black hedgehog, is ‘aa’.

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Brown

Genetische code: bb

This mutation is essentially a mutation affecting the production of the pigment eumelanin, causing the black pigment in an animals body to become brown, creating a fully brown or red looking animal. It is also called brown dilute by a lot of people, to make it easier to understand that the black pigment is diluted into becoming brown. In some species the mutation is believed to be an adaptation to be able to live in red plants, but due to the low ratio of affected animals surviving to adulthood in the wild, it is also believed to be a negative form of adaptation as compared to their natural coloration. In other species where the affected animals turn brown instead of red, it is still a rare mutation, but isn’t believed to be a negative adaptation as they blend in with their natural environment better than if they turned red.

In hedgehogs the mutation is an autosomal recessive mutation, meaning hedgehogs need two alleles for the mutation for it to become a phenotype. Without any other visible mutations, a brown diluted hedgehog has a dark brown nose, a medium brown mask and black eyes that might display a slight red point in them making them look almost brown in some hedgehogs. The skin is brown to grey and the quills are medium to dark brown. The quills have very light brown ticking as the quills don’t portray any black pigment. The genetic notation of the color is ‘bb’. The color in African Pygmy Hedgehogs is ‘Brown‘, after the color is represents.

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Albino

Genetische code: cc

In albinism, there is a congenical lack of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. It covers and dominates any and all other mutations despite being a recessive gene. Because of this, it is often said that albino is like a white sheet over the base color of an animal. Albinism does occur in wild animals, but it mainly occurs in captive animals. Being completely white limits the survival rate of wild animals significantly, because an all white animal in most natural environments has no camouflage capabilities. It also lessens protection against electromagnetic radiation from sunlight and makes them more prone to become deaf. Sometimes the mutation varied and makes the animal white with pink skin, but leaves the eyes unaffected. This is called leucism and is often linked to albinism as it is placed on the same locus in most animals.

An albinistic African Pygmy Hedgehog has pink skin and nose, white fur and white quills. They have bright red eyes that can seem almost translucent. However, not all African Pygmy Hedgehogs that are fully white with red eyes, are considered Albino. When a hedgehog has the piebald mutation along with the mutation of Reversed pinto and has red eyes, this can look like Albino without actually having the albinism mutation. Albinism is an autosomal recessive mutation and noted with the genetic code ‘cc’. Leucism is not yet determined in African Pygmy Hedgehogs, as all of the white hedgehogs with black eyes, are leading back to Piebald mutations.

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Grey

Genetische code: dd

When the color of an animal gets light due to a mutation, it is called hypomelanism. Instead of having an absence of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes, diluted colors vary from darker colors due to the concentration or type of these melanocytes. In different animals the mutation known as hypomelanism has varying names within species of animals. This includes classic dilute, ghosting, paling or isabellinism. Leucism and albinism are essentially also forms of dilute mutations.

The dilute mutation in African Pygmy hedgehogs is called ‘Grey‘, because the young hoglets fade over time, making their mask a very light grey color and diluting the quills and nose slightly as well. The nose remains black but can fade to a dark grey color. The eyes are black. The dilute mutation in hedgehogs is an autosomal recessive mutation with the genetic notation ‘dd’.

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Cinnicot

Genetische code: pp

The mutation that’s also called xanthism, creates an animal with an usual yellow color with red eyes. This is because the lack of red pigments and its replacement with yellow. In most mammals, this results in an orange color. It looks the same as erythrism, but it is not exactly the same. Erythrism is the lack of  red pigment whereas xanthism replaces red pigment with yellow. This is also why the eyes of animals with usually black eyes turn ruby colored instead of fully red. Though the mutation in mostly found in birds, reptiles and amphibian, it also occurs in mammals; especially in captive bred animals. In most small mammals it’s also called pink eyed dilute due to the fact that it creates ruby or even red eyes.

The color in African Pygmy Hedgehogs is called Cinnicot. It is unsure how the name came to be. The quills are dark orange. The mask initially is orange, but later on fade to almost invisible. The eye color is ruby red and the skin is completely pink. The mutation is autosomal recessive and has the genetic notation ‘pp’.

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Chocolate

Genetische code: aabb

The color chocolate is made up from combining the genes for melanism and brown dilute. It’s a fairly easy color to breed as melanism is a very common mutation. The eyes are black, but as a young hoglet of 2-3 weeks they can seem brown in a certain light. The mask is dark brown to black. The nose and quills are in the same range as well as the skin. When they fade out after 9-12 weeks of age, it becomes more apparent that they fade out into a solid brown color and they don’t reach their final color until they are roughly 12 months old.

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  • Chocolate from a USA lineage, after fading. Six months old.

Slate Blue

Genetische code: aadd

This color is made by combining the genes for melanism and classic dilute. It’s a fairly easy easy color to breed, though not many breeders recognize the color. It’s been around in america since 2015, but in Europe it only made its first appearance in 2018. The eyes are black. The nose as quills start out as a mid grey, then fade to light grey when the hoglets are 5 weeks. Then they become darker again, only to fade out to a light grey-brown color between 12 weeks old and one year. The mask follows the same pattern as the nose and quills, but is noticably lighter.

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  • Slate blue hoglet on the right, 2 weeks old. Standard on the left, same age.

Champagne

Genetische code: aapp

The color Champagne is made by combining the genes for melanism and pink eyed dilute. The eye color is ruby red. The mask is pale beige and nearly invisible. The skin is pink and the quills are very pale orange.

The color is quite rare even though it is not so hard to breed. Most people simply don’t combine the colors needed.

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Cinnamon

Genetische code: bbdd

The color Cinnamon is made by combining the genes for brown dilute and classic dilute. The eyes are ruby to black,sometimes even have a brown hue. The nose and skin are pink. The mask is a light brown-orange color and the quills are brown-orange and often vary in hue from eachother. The further to the back the lighter they become.

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  • Cinnamon after fading, about a year old.

Apricot

Genetische code: bbpp or ddpp

Due to the pink eyed dilute already diluting a Standard color, you can either combine it with brown dilute or classic dilute to achieve the same color. Therefore, this color can be achieved in to different ways, making it a fairly easy color to breed. The eyes are red, but slightly darker then usual. The nose and skin are pink, the mask is pale orange and the quills are a bright orange color.

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  • Apricot hedgehog as an adult. Age unknown.

Lilac

Genetische code: aabbdd

Lilac is made by combining the genes for melanism, brown dilute and classic dilute. It’s a more difficult color to breed and the fact that the first appearance has been seen in The Netherlands in 2019 proves that. The color looks a lot like Chocolate, but it does have a few differences. As a hoglet, the color difference is easy to see, because Lilac hedgehogs already have the chocolate color. As they grow older they can become slightly darker and greyer in color, but will fade out to a chocolate color but with light grey or liver skin. The eyes are black. The quills are a chocolate color. The nose and mask are slightly larger brown, but can also have a grey hue. Due to the combined dilute genes being mixed with melanism, the color is very unstable and comes in a variety of hues.

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  • Lilac hoglet on the left, 3 weeks old. Standard on the right, same age.

Copper

Genetische code: aabbpp

Copper is a new color that’s hard to breed and thus very rare. It’s only been discovered since January 2020 in a bid to research the color Fawn further. When we at The Hedgehog Program did a mating between two Fawns, one Copper colored hedgehog was born in the litter. The fascinating thing about Copper is, that they are born with red to ruby eyes that grow darker after their eyes open. They also change color very drastically from being brown-orange in overall color between the ages 4 and 6 weeks, fading out to a much lighter orange after 6 months. When they are adults, their eyes are ruby red to black. Their mask fades to almost invisible pale orange. Their nose and skin on the back is light liver colored, but fades out to pink. Their quills are brown-orange and changes hues between brown and orange. It is an unstable color due to being melanistic combined with two dilute mutations.

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  • Copper hoglet, 3 days old. Handreared. Visible ruby eyes under the skin, which only get darker as they get older.

Lavender

Genetische code: aaddpp

Lavender is a color bred by combining melanism, classic dilute and pink eyed dilute.

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Blonde

Genetische code: bbddpp

This color used to be known as Pale Apricot, but to avoid misdetermination, we changed it to Blonde as it perfectly describes the color. Blonde is bred by combining brown dilute, classic dilute and pink eyed dilute. The eyes are bright red and the skin is pink. The mask is pale beige, but barely visible. The quills are the same beige-blonde color.

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  • Blonde hedgehog of 6 months old.

Fawn

Genetische code: aabbddpp

The color Fawn is a very new color which still is being researched. It’s only been discovered since January 2020 in a bid to research the color Fawn further.The color is bred by combining the genes for melanism, brown dilute and pink eyed dilute. It’s not a very hard color to breed, but often misdetermined as Cinnicot, because it looks about the same as an adult. As a young hoglet however, these hedgehogs are born with pink eyes that only grow darker as they age, towards a dark ruby color. At the age of 4 weeks they are quite brown colored, but they fade to a more orange color with darker quills. As an adult their eyes are ruby colored. Their mask is very light orange, but barely visible after fading. Their nose and their skin are very light liver colored, not pink. This is key in determining a Fawn from a Cinnicot. Their quills are mid to dark brown.

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  • Hoglet at one day old, a partially handreared one. No visible yes under skin, pointing towards red eyes. No visible pigment.

Patterns

Pinto

Genetische code: S*

The mutation for Piebaldism is an autosomal dominant one. The mutation causes a disorder in the pigment-producing melanocytes, creates white patches on the skin and in the hairs of an animal. It can also cause hypo-pigmented areas, making an animal look tricolored, because the pigment isn’t deleted, it is diluted. In mammals, Piebaldism is a very common mutation found in guinea pigs, mice, hamsters and a great variety of other common pets. Piebaldism displays itself often with a white forelock and white patches in the body, mainly concentrated on the torso, leaving extremities largely unaffected.  The disorder is congetical and starts during embryo development. The proteins responsible for growth and division as well as migration of melanocytes is affected. This leads to melanocytes not properly being formed and transported and certain areas lacking pigment, due to the lack of melanocytes in those areas.

In African Pygmy Hedgehogs this mutation is called “Pinto” or “Pied”, the names are interchangable. It focuses mainly on the torso, leaving the extremities and head largely unaffected. A small snip on the nose can bee seen in some Pinto hedgehogs. It is believed that inheriting two alleles for the mutation creates larges white patches than when a hedgehog inherits just one allele. The amount of white and the placement of the white patches differs a lot per animal and is dependant on co-dominant mutations and epigenetics. The genetic notation of Pinto is ‘S*’ as it lies on the S-locus on most animals.

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Reversed Pinto

Genetische code: S*rr

Reversed Pinto is also co-dominant recessive mutation, but due to the fact that it enables a fully white face as well as the majority of the body being white, it looks dominant over Masked Pinto when both co-dominant mutations are present. In some cases it even makes the whole hedgehog white, which is called “Full Reversed Pinto“. It however leaves the yes largely unaffected, though it can dilute the eye color from black to ruby and from ruby to red. Because of this, a full white animal with red eyes is not always automatically an albino. A White hedgehog with black eyes is called a Leucistic hedgehog, but true Leucism is not present in African Pygmy Hedgehogs, making this a false name for the phenotype. The genetic notation of Reversed Pinto is ‘rr’. When the mutation is not visible the full notation would be ‘ss rr’ or when it is visible it should be ‘S* rr’.

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Masked Pinto

Genetische code: S*ff

The mutation for Masked Pinto is codominant recessive and is linked to the Pinto mutation. This means it coexists with Pinto, but also that it needs the Pinto mutation to become visible. A hedgehog with Masked Pinto but without Pinto looks like a regular colored hedgehog. Masked Pinto can display in a multitude of ways as it simply enables the white patches on the face rather than just the torso. The genotype is the same in all of these varieties, but the phenotype can differ tremendously from a small reversed triangle on the nose (Blaze Pinto) or just one side of the face being white (Splitface Pinto) to a fully white face (Whiteface Pinto) or colored rings around the eyes (Eyeliner Pinto). And even in between those, there are multiple unrecognized varieties. The genetic notation of Masked Pinto is ‘ff’. When the mutation is not visible the full notation would be ‘ss ff’ or when it is visible it should be ‘S* ff’.

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Silver

Genetische code: G*

The gray gene is an autosomal dominant gene and is characterised by progressive depigmentation. They inherit the base color like any other animal, so they can have dark or red eyes and pink or colored skin. When young, the genes representation is not yet visible, they start to fade after a few weeks to months. The pace of the depigmentation creating more and more white hairs, differs per animal. Some animals gray out very slow, while others silver at a rapid rate. The skin in some animals gets affected to, but this is not a common trait in all gray animals. Due to the depigmentation, a gray animal can change color over time.

In African Pygmy Hedgehogs, the gray mutation is called Snowflake, White or Doublewhite depending on how much the hedgehog grays out over time. But due to the newly found Roan mutation which is very similar, the right determination would be the American version of Snowflake called Silver, just to avoid any misdetermination. The genetic notation of the gene is ‘G*’.

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Ticking

Genetische code: T*

Ticking is the intense pigmentation spots in white areas of an animal. The trait is autosomal dominant. In hedgehogs this trait is very easy to spot as hedgehogs naturally have white quills with broad banding and a broad fading edge on both sides of that banding. If the ticking mutation is present and activated, areas without Pinto are unaffected but areas with Pinto will have white quills with very pigmented banding without a fading edge. This is very easy to determine in hedgehogs. The genetic notation of ticking is ‘T*’.

The recessive allele to ticking is ‘tt’ and is incomplete dominant. This means that a heterozygous hedgehog ‘Tt’ would have lighter ticking than a homozygous hedgehog. Extremities and the head are more prone to ticking, meaning that if there is any ticking, it is more likely to be present there than anywhere else, which is why the legs and mask in a hedgehog are very likely to be the most pigmented places on the body. A homozygous animal with the genetic notation ‘tt’ has not ticking on the white areas affected by Piebald. This is considered the default in most animals and this also counts for African Pygmy Hedgehogs.

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Roan

Genetische code: Ww

Roan is found in several species of mammals like horses, dogs, guinea pigs and antilopes. It is characterised as an even mixture of pigmented and white hairs. In adult animals it looks quite similar to gray, but Roan works the exact opposite. These animals are born white, but get pigmented quills within days to weeks after their birth. It doesn’t affect the extremities or the head, leaving those areas pigmented. The inheritance type varies per species, but is usually classified as autosomal dominant or incomplete dominant. The phenotype in most animals make it look as if the white is placed on top of the pigment, but it really is the other way around. with the animals being born white, they develop pigment on the hairs after days to weeks after birth. Most hairs aren’t banded like they regularly are, but have a more broad ticking. The amount of Roaning can be very drastic, creating a nearly fully pigmented animal with white hairs in between.

In African Pygmy hedgehogs it is believed to be present as well, but it is not completely confirmed just yet and still part of our genetics research today. However, the similarities are too striking to ignore. As some hedgehogs previously called Snowflake, White or Doublewhite are born completely white and remain that way up until they are about 2-3 weeks old and then develop pigmented quills, it is believed that these hoglets might in fact be Roan.

Roan is believed to be an incomplete dominant mutation, meaning it inherits recessive but a carrier influences the phenotype. In Roan this would be a hedgehog with varying amounts of white quills scattered over the entire back and sides. Roan is mainly presented on the back and sides, thus masks and legs are hardly ever affected. This phenotype would previously be described at Snowflake or White, but due to misdetermination, we like to change this to ‘Roan‘ even though it is essentially just one carried allele. The genetic notation of Roan is ‘Ww’.

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Platinum

Genetische code: ww

If a hedgehog has two alleles for Roan, it would cause an animal to be born completely white (but with a colored mask and black eyes). They can produce pigmented quills later and turn completely colored, or they can remain completely white. The fully white phenotype is the one we know as Doublewhite, whereas the first would also be previously known as Snowflake or White, depending on the amount of white remaining as an adult. to avoid misdetermination of genetics, we are renaming this to be Platinum. The genetic notation of Platinum is ‘ww’.

Unfortunately Roan in homozygous form is a semi-lethal gene in African Pygmy Hedgehogs, much like it is in Guinea Pigs. Hoglets born with homozygous Roan suffer from the ‘lethal white syndrome’. They often are stillborn or pass away shortly after birth or before weaning age. They might survive with handrearing, but often live a shortened life due to multiple deformities and a weakened immune system. Lethal white syndrome includes symptoms like:

  • Partial or complete blindness
  • Partial or complete deafness
  • Cataract
  • Microphthalmia or Anophthalmia
  • Unpigmented eyes
  • Missing or deformed front teeth
  • Deformed molars
  • Elongated tooth roots
  • Malabsorption in the small intestine, due in some cases to lack of intestinal villi
  • Increased susceptibility to illness
  • Ectrodactyly & Syndactyly
  • Prone to dry skin & skin infections
  • Having trouble quilling

Most of these symptoms are confirmed by multiple breeders who have been working with White and Doublewhite hedgehogs. Though bone deformations are very rare, we are currently researching ectrodactyly and syndactyly on one Platinum hedgehog. As most breeders don’t check up on their hoglets before the age of two weeks, this explains why Platinum is so extremely rare to breed.

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Umbrous

Genetische code: U*

Umbrous is an autosomal dominant modifier gene that can be selected to keep increasing the patterns to eventually create quad stripes and even full masks or full bodies. This however takes a long time and very precise selection to keep increasing the pigmentation of the Umbrous patterns. The genetic notation of Umbrous is ‘U*’.

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