While living in Belarus and traveling through parts of the former Soviet Union, I visited pet stores and markets. I found and bought the original female Campbells of this color in an open air pet market in Moscow on May 2, 1999. There were no other dwarf hamsters of any color except the Normals. I knew she was a different color than the typical Normal and wondered if she might have a different genotype, so I purchased her and got the necessary veterinary paperwork completed to bring her back to the US. No males were available then or when I returned a couple of days later. No other vendors had any of this color.
For over three years now, I have been working to understand and then establish this new color in the Campbells Dwarf Hamster. I have called this new gene the Moscow color purely for simplicity until we can give it a proper name. The Moscow gene is a diluting gene. The overall appearance is a dull creamy beige color significantly lighter than the Normal Campbells. The eyes are a very dark ruby or garnet color. This ruby coloration is most noticeable when the Moscow gene is combined with the Platinum or the Mottled pattern genes.
Determining the Nature of the Gene
When I returned to the US, I proceeded to establish whether her color would be genetically inherited. I mated her to a Normal which later matings showed carried Albino. The first litter of seven was all Normals. She stayed with her son while the other six babies were put in two trios. All three groups produced the new color at the appropriate rates for a recessive gene. (One trio produced albinos from which I deduced the Normal parent was carrying Albino.) Mating Moscow to Moscow produced litters of 100% Moscow colored babies as expected. It was clear that the color inherited in a manner consistent with a recessive gene. I established and continue to maintain colonies of pure lines of the Moscow color.
Breeding the Two-gene Colors
Once I determined that the Moscow color was a new mutation genetically inherited as recessive, I proceeded to mate the Moscow color to the other color genes available in my area. I wanted to study and document how it combined to better understand the effects of this gene. I bred the Moscow-Black, Moscow-Argente, and the Moscow-Opal colors.
The Moscow-Black combination dilutes the black to produce a very dark brown hamster -- a very dark chocolate color. The Moscow-Argente combination dilutes the orange coloration in the Argente to give a beautiful pastel peach color. The Moscow-Opal combination lightly dilutes the Opal coloration to give an interesting bluish-brown pastel color. All of these combined colors were distinct from any other known Campbells colors and demonstrated the diluting effect of the new gene.
Breeding to the Pattern Genes
I also decided to breed the Moscow color to the pattern genes, Ruby-eyed Mottled (Mimi) and Platinum. The most interesting thing from these matings was the eye color. For the Mottled matings, I used an Argente Mottled. The ruby eyes are not always easily distinguishable on non-Argente based colored Mottleds. However, on the Moscow Mottled, the eyes are distinctly lighter than on the unpatterned Moscow, being ruby or even claret at times. Additionally even on non-patterned Moscow-Argentes the eyes were a brighter red than on the Argente. The Moscow gene clearly has the effect of diluting the eye color as well as the coat color.
Breeding Additional Combined Colors
In the past year, I have bred two additional combined colors. I determined which to breed based on research into the genetics of other species. My favorite is the Moscow-Blue color. The Blues (aadd) are typically a dark blue color. The addition of the Moscow gene lightens the coat giving an attractive light blue coat. Moscow combined with Dove also gives a pleasing color. Again, instead of the dark brown coat of the Dove, the Moscow-Dove gives a paler brown coat with paler ruby eyes.
Comparing Moscow to the Black-eyed Argente (BEA) gene
The gene which the Moscow color is probably most often confused with is the Black-eyed Argente gene. This is a separate gene which has been established in the US for a number of years. Once you have worked with them both, though, the differences are quite apparent. To facilitate the comparison for those not familiar with either or both of these genes, I have included the CHA Guide Standard for each next to the BHA standard for the Normal. You can also see a picture comparison of both the Moscow and the BEA colors next to the Normal on the California Hamster Association (CHA) web site at www.CHAhamsters.org/Moscow1.
The BEA gene has far more red and orange in the coat than the Moscow color does. This is noticeable in the BEA color itself as well as in the various combined colors using BEA. The BEA color by itself has the appearance of a rust hamster, the ticking being a gingerish-brown color. In contrast, the Moscow color has a dull creamy beige appearance, the ticking being dark beige. Both give a distinct contrast to the buffish brown appearance of the Normal Campbells with its dark brown ticking.
The combined color pairing which probably best demonstrates the distinct differences between the BEA and the Moscow color is their combination with the Argente gene. When Argente is combined with BEA, the color is a vibrant orange – brighter than the Argente gene alone. When Argente is combined with the Moscow color, the combined color is a pastel peach color. Both colors are very attractive, and there is no way to overlook the drastic difference in the two colors. Both of these fairly new genes are a nice addition to the hamster fancy and will allow a new range of colors to be produced.
Below is the CHA Guide Standards for the Moscow color and for Black-eyed Argente color. These two Guide Standards will be used for the first time at our January 25, 2003 show. Also included are multiple pages of pictures showing the effects of each of these genes on other color and pattern genes and on other gene combinations.