In the U.K.- In 1978 the National Fancy Rat Society was offered the opportunity to acquire Siamese rats. Their genetical advisor, Mr. Roy Robinson, offered to assist in importing the rats which were then located in a laboratory in Orly, France. a laboratory in Charshalton, Surrey, offered to cooperate in this venture sharing the expenses entailed in quarantining the animals. Three pairs were imported and kept by the laboratory, and the first litter from each pair went to the NFRS. In order to cover the costs of this venture, the NFRS sold shares which entitled their holder to one of the offspring.
The animals arrived at the laboratory in September 1978 and their offspring were delivered to the NFRS jsut before Christmas. Apparently these kittens looked nothing like what we recognize as Siamese today. Instead they resembled Silver Fawn Hoodeds with very faint dark noses.
Fortuntely, through hard work and sensible breeding practices, Englis Fanciers were able to take these origional animals and turn them into the beautiful rats we have today.
In the U.S.- In November of 1983 a few Southern California fanciers cooperatively imported a number of rats from England. These included Pearl, Cinnamon Pearl, Variegated, Chocolate, Silver Fawn, Cinnamon Rex, Black Berkshire, Black Rex, and Self Black, as well as four pairs of Siamese/Himalayan. To my knowlege, all of our Siamese are descended from these 8 rats plus a few other that were imported at various times by individuals.
Siamese rats first made their appearance at an AFRMA show on March 31, 1984. Seven were entered with Samantha, owned by Mike Nez, winning Best Siamese. At the very next show, May 19, 1984, a Siamese named Sumi won Best In Show. She was owned by Mary Macdonald.
A Sad Note in the History of the Siamese - When Siamese rats were first imported into the U.S., they were regarded as unusual and rare, and to pet shops this meant they were worth a lot of money. Some people acquired a Siamese or two, and bred them to anything and everything they had with no consideration given to type, temperament, color, or health. Not only was the Siamese color ruined, but they developed major health problems and there were many cases of them being extremely aggressive. It was not all that long ago (1991) that I purchesed a very nice young Siamese for a pet from a pet shop who turned out to be so aggressive that I couldn't even handle him. Eventually Siamese rats developed a requtation for being mean, and many pet shops stopped buying them. To this day you can often find rather odd Siamese being sold as feeders in pet shops (Hooded Siamese and ones with Blazes are fairly common). The Siamese color is very easy to ruin, and takes years to fix, so it is fortunate there are dedicated breeders who have been working on improving this variety.
The Siamese Color
The Siamese pattern has a somewhat unusual cause. Called acromelanism, this pattern develops because it isthermo-sensitive (the darkness of the fur color is determined by the temperature of its environment). The colder it is, the darker the fur comes in. This is why those areas on the rat which are cooler (nose, ears, feet, tail) have darker fur than the body which is warm. It is also why Siamese rats are darker in the winter than they are in the summer.
Variations of the Siamese
Himalayan - When Siamese rats are bred to Pink Eyed White (albino) rats, the resulting litter will be all Himalayans. The AFRMA standard describes them as "Body color to be white, free from stains and even throughout. The points to be a rich dark sepia (as dark as possible). Eyes red." In theory these rats are pure white with dark points. In reality they are usually light cream colored with ratherlight points. Unfortunatally, no one (that I know of) in Southern California is currently working on these, and what are usually shown as Himalayan are in truth just very light Siamese.
Russian Blue Point Siamese - One of the most recent color combinations, Russian Blue Point Siamese is well on it's way to being standardized. The proposed standard describes them as "Body color to be ivory with a deep gray cast (the darker the better) gradually and evenly shaded over the saddle and hindquarters towards the belly, being darkest at the base of the tail. The points (nose, ears, feet, tail, and tail-root) to be a dark gray-bley. They shoyuld not have a definate or distinct line of demarcation but rather a toning or merging with the remainder of the coat. There should be no white hairs, blotches, streaks, or mealiness of the color. Eyes red or ruby." Faults are Mottled color on the body; color too brown; body color too light so as to resemble the Blue Point Siamese; points too light. The biggest difference between the Blue Point and Russian Blue Point is the darkness of the points and (almost more importantly) the body color. On the Blue Point Siamese the body color has a warm ivory cast. On the Russian Blue Point it is instead a cool blue cast.
Other Siamese Colors - You can make Siamese in any of the other colors rats come in, though none yet have been worth pursuing as something desirable. Chocolate Point Siamese just look like light, poorly colored Seal Points. Flame Point Siamese are disappointing and the folks that have produced them report that when Siamese is combined with Fawn the result is points so diluted that the animal appears to be a Pink Eyed White.
Seal Point Siamese - The origional Siamese rats imported were all Seal Point Siamese. The AFRMA standard describes them as "Body color to be medium beige gradually and evenly shaded over saddle and hindquarters towards the belly, being darkest at base of tail. Tail color to extend down the length of the tail. Belly to be light beige. Points to be rich dark sepia and to shade evenly into the body color. Eyes red or light ruby." Disqualifications are white spot on the body, white feet, and white on the tail. Essentially, these animals should be an even warm cream color with rich brown points and lots of shading. The color should continue up the rear of the rat, gradually fading out at about midway along the back.
Blue Point Siamese - Blue Point Siamese rats are the most recent color standardized by AFRMA. The standard calls for "Body color to be ivory (the darker the better) with a warm blue cast gradually and evenly haded over the saddle and hindquarters towards the belly, being darkest at the base of the tail. The points (nose, ears, feet, tail, and tail-root) to be a medium slete blue. They should not have a definaite or distinct line of demarcation but rather a toning or merging with the remainder of the coat. Ther should be no white hairs, blotches, streaks, or mealiness of the color. Eyes red or ruby." Faults are Mottled color on the body: color too brown; body color too light so as to resemble the Blue Point Himalayan; points too light.Blue Point Siamese are very light in color, with ivory bodies and pale gray points. Often described as pastel, they resembel Lilac Point Siamese cats.
Breeding The Siamese
Siamese is recessive. Two Siamese bred together will produce all
Siamese babies. Siamese bred to Black will produce all Black
babies. If two of these Black babies are bred together, the resulting
litter should be three-fourths Black and one-fourth Siamese. This is the recommended outcross for improving Siamese.
The same thing will happen if you breed to Agouti. The first
generation will be all Agouti, then if two littermates are bred
together you will get Siamese again. Using Agouti for an outcross
in not recommended however as it tends to make the points meals
and ruins the Siamese color.
If you breed a Siamese to an Albino your resulting litter will be all Himalayan. Two Himalayans bred together should produce about one fourth Siamese, one half Himalayan, and one fourth Albino. If your are making Himalayans it is important to use an Albino which is out of a background of good Blacks with dark feet.
When breeding Siamese, there are three main points to look for: white feet, darkness of points, and shading. White feet are the number one problem in Siamese rats. They can ranges from the entire hand being white to the wrist, to half the hand being white, to just some white on the toes. Any white on the feet is bad. Ideally the color should rund down the toes and into the nails; however the feet are rarely dark enough to show it. Use Siamese who have white toes with caution; and if you have any choice do not use them at all. If you must breed a Siamese to a rat with white markings, do so with the understanding that it will take a number of generations to get rid of the white feet. The best way to eliminate white from the feet is to outcross to a really good Self Black which has pigment all the way down to it's toenails.
A good Black is also an excellent choice for darkening the oints and improving the shading,though simple selection also works well. Breeding those animals with the darkest points and shading (and good foot color) together will often produce some really nice animals. Unfortunately, shading does not become obvious until the animal is around 6 months old, and is much more prominent on males than females. This makes early selection difficult and is further complicated by the fact that both color and shading are determined by the surrounding temperature.
Siamese kittens are born and even creamy-brown color - the best are colored brown all over, the poorer ones having light shoulders with dark heads and rears. They do not begin to develop points until their first moult, which can make it very difficult to choose the best ones to keep. Any with white feet/ties or tail tips should be sold to pet homes. From the rest, keep the ones that appear darkest at 5b weeks and have the best foot color. These will usually (though not always) have the best points and shading. Bear in mind that even the potentially darkst kittens will appear washed out if they are born during the summer.
Recently there have been mention of people purposely breeding Siamese rats to marked rats (in particular Hoodeds) to produce what they call "Triamese". This practice is not favored at all by serious Siamese breeders and to be truthfull it horrifys them. Breeding Siamese with good color on them takes years of work and effort. One breeding to a rat with white markings and a breeders is looking at many years of work to once again eliminate the white feet and tail tips from their Siamese line. Serious Siamese breeders do not produce or sell Triamese.
While discussing the breeding of Siamese rats I would be remiss if I did not at least touch on the topic of "type". While color is of course very important in breeding and showing rats it is equally important for rats to be put together correctly. In fact, on the show bench, type counts for half of what the animals are judged on. A siamese rat can have the most beautiful color possible but if it has small ears, a long head, no bone, small eyes, scruffy coat, and a thin stuck on tail, it is not going to be an attractive animal.
Proper type is outlined in the AFRMA standard and can be accessed at the AFRMA website.
Showing the Siamese
Siamese rats are fairly popular and rather flashy, so when you have
a good one it usually does well on the show bench.
Males are the better choice for show animals as females rarely
develop much shading. There should be a considerable amount of
color running up the back side of a Siamese, and they should not have jsut a little bit of brown at the base of their tail. Remember, all Siamese will fade during hot weather so they show better in the winter months.
No show Siamese should have white on its feet; however, light toes are permissible (dark is always preferable) particularly during the summer when the color has faded.
Preparations for a show should start several weeks ahead of time. Since the color of the Siamese is affected by temperature, it is advisable to keep them cool for some time before a show. During the summer they can be brought into an air-conditioned area, and during the winter they can be moved into a cooler cage setup.
Being light colored, it is often necessary to bathe a Siamese prior to a show. Make sure to do so a week ahead of time however, so that the coat regains its natural oils.
Though challenging, Siamese rats can be very enjoyable and rewarding to work with. Like all other varieties, a Siamese must have good conformation and condition as well as color to do well at shows. This combination is not available at pet storers, and it is recommended that a novice fancier go to an experienced breeder to buy animals rather than starting with the pet shop variety and trying to improve it.