Diehl Silver Mackerel Tabby kitten
The mother-daughter team of Evelyn Diehl and Ameena Lessner (Diehl Exotics and Persians) came to the Silver Exotics via a different path. Here they describe their experiences in a letter:
"Evelyn's first loves were the bicolor and tabby Persians; she began breeding them in 1983. Not long afterwards, she added the Exotics. For years, she attempted to expand her Exotic breeding program to include Silver Tabbies, but never achieved any great success. Finally, in 1996, we got a lucky break when we saw a "pet" Silver Exotic for sale at a show. He immediately charmed us with his massive body and sweet expression. It was not easy to convince his breeder that he should come home with us for breeding, but eventually patience prevailed, and Panhandle H. Bogart came to change our cattery forever!
We bred this stud to our tabbies and smokes, expecting to get Silver Tabbies. You can imagine our surprise when he gave us the most beautiful Shaded Silvers with extreme type! We called the best girl Iron Maiden and the best boy Iron Man. We registered Iron Man as a Silver Tabby for his first show, but as the day of the show approached, his tabby pattern was fading fast. At the show, I found myself painting his tabby markings with a pen! We registered him the following month as a Shaded Silver, and got his championship a second time.
CH Diehl's Sugar Daddy
Silver Mackerel Tabby Male Exotic
The first year it never crossed our minds to breed Shaded Silver Exotics. We only bred these two because eventually we wanted to get some beautiful Silver Tabbies. But in time, we decided not to waste this "surprise blessing" and give the Shaded Silvers a chance.
Our new dream was to breed Shaded Silvers with the same consistent type, bone structure and expression as our Tabbies. That was eight years ago, and although there is still so much improvement to be made, we are now in love with the Silvers and the Goldens, too.
My favorite Exotic of ours is a boy called Sugar Daddy. He's not a Shaded Silver though, he is a Silver Mackerel Tabby with green eyes. This rare and gorgeous combination does not nearly get enough attention!"
CH Diehl's Whirligig
Silver Tabby Male Exotic
Of course Bogie was very special, and for a real Silver fan it is not unusual to identify him as such among the colored cats. It is no surprise that the two fell in love with those green eyes like that. The Silver Tabbies are an enrichment of the small Silver Exotic scene and understandably a real eye catcher with their vivid contrast of jet black and snowy silver.
The background, the tabby pattern is a very complex colour variety. The European wild cat (felis iyberica and felis silvestris) and possibly also their primordial ancestors were short-haired, striped cats. Thus all of our colour varieties today trace back to this mackerel-tabby variety. However, the tabby pattern is very complex as it consists of two complementary markings that merge with one another. Each has its own genetic `fingerprint'. Roy Robinson, the godfather of cat genetics, describes the color characteristics like this: "The tabby pattern consists of black melanistic stripes on a yellow-grey backdrop, the agouti (A). Individually the structures are not black from root to tip, but classic or spotted with yellow. The top coat constitutes the typical agouti fur, more commonly known with rabbits and mice. The cat, however, has a second pigment system that these species are missing. The result of that system is the tabby stripes. With these stripes there is a marked reduction of yellow resulting in colour elimination and the black pattern. Thus it has the effect of one pattern on top of another."
The Classic Tabby pattern is characterized by thick, dense stripes arranged with a swirling "bulls eye" on each flank and a "butterfly" over the shoulder blades. The Mackerel pattern demonstrates narrow "pencil-lines" that run vertically over the body. The Spotted pattern shows round or oval spots that are arranged more or less randomly over the body. Stripes encircle the legs and tail, regardless of the pattern.
Coat Patterns of Silver and Golden Exotic and Persian Kittens at Birth
Classic, Mackerel and Spotted Tabby Patterns
Apart from the well known mackerel pattern whose dominant responsible gene is symbolized with the "T", there seems to be dispute among the geneticists with regard to the two other tabby patterns. Roy Robinson denotes the spotted with a tb, while elsewhere the same symbol is used for classic or blotched. Others identify spotted with t+ or ts. The blotched/classic pattern is said to have evolved from two mutating alleles. Well, why make it easy if it can be complicated, i.e. by trial and error.
The ticked tabby with the symbol, "Ta" (with a capitol T and lowercase a,) which phenotypically clearly differs from the others. They are evenly ticked all over like as Abyssinian cat. In other words, each hair is ticked and ends in a black tip. Face, legs and tail still have stripes.
Evidently, breeding Silver Tabbies is not as easy as it would seem. A clear silver base colour is as important as the formation of a pronounced tabby pattern in black, which should be up to 50% of the coat, regardless which pattern is chosen. However, that is difficult to identify after birth, as silvers may show agouti marks that magically disappear after several months, as was the case with Diehl's Iron Man. When and how the inhibitor gene works is purely a question of selective breeding. That is why studying the lines is so important.
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