Will the real Honey Cream please stand up!
Some time ago, and back in my early days of breeding the 'ee' type gerbils, a good friend of mine and a fellow NGS breeder at the time, was chatting with me at the Xmas Stafford show. Hot amongst the topics were the new ‘ee’ colours that were appearing in litters. None of us had seen an Apricot until that day and he showed me and a few others one that he had produced and entered in the white bellied cream class. To be honest we were a little disappointed as the “Apricot” looked virtually identical to the White bellied creams (Ivory to you US folks !) on show, maybe a little paler but exceedingly similar. I then showed him the “Yellow Fox” I had bred (which we know now as a Red-Eyed Honey in the UK) and I was quite proud of it at the time! Its lovely clean yellow coat has always impressed me and it continues to be one of my favourite ‘ee’ colours to this day. Finally my friend takes me to a pair of gerbils he has entered in the Unstandardised section. Now these beauties looked stunning, and at first I thought he was showing me a pair of light CP Goldens, but on closer inspection it wasn’t the case. Instead of ticking, there was a fine dusting of dark grey, on top of the rich cream base colour. There were no points, and the tail was as clean and clear as the top coat. I knew instantly it was one of the new Honey variants. “These are polies” he said, “Polar foxes” and got them out of the tank for me. They really were stunners!. At this point Julian Barker came over and agreed that it was such a lovely colour, but wondered if it would ever get a standard because of its similarities to the “pearl” (CP. Golden Agouti) To me it was distinct enough to be given a provisional standard, and was a vastly superior coat, and quite distinct when compared along side the CP Golden Agouti. No one would be confused, least of all a decent judge, but I doubted then whether the NGS would ever get so far as to standardise the colour.
My friend and I sat down and chewed the fat some more over a coffee. It had been a long night getting all our entries ready (it was rare we got sleep before the night of a big show) and if it wasn’t for the strong coffee and constant chatting we would have both been fast asleep!
“So what do you think of those polies, Ed? They’re really a cream honey you know! “
I had to agree and they were indeed a lovely cream version of our Dark-Eyed Honey. You could see the rich cream coat, the paler eye circles that are on all the honey variants, and it was finished off with the lightest, finest dusting of grey, reminiscent of the gorgeous sooty dusting our Dark-eyed Honey’s have. As they age into adults, the deep cream shade fades to ivory cream shades, similar to all our other cream variants.
The name of DEH Cream or Honey Cream has always stuck with me. I thought it appropriate, and very descriptive when compared to the name of Polar Fox, and did expect its name to change in the UK as the other “fox” suffix were dropped from the popular ‘ee’ coat varieties, and their names were changed and updated in due course as more breeders exhibited them in shows.
Why did the ‘ee’ names change in the UK?
Well that was simple. We didn’t want the “Fox” suffix because this name is associated with the tan and chinchilla genes in mice. Fox varieties are also known as chinchillated tans, and are created by combining the two genes together. These Fox's have some of the most attractive coat varieties in the mouse fancy. So, if tan and chinchilla mutations did turn up in gerbils at some point in the future (which is highly likely) then we would be able to breed for the real “fox” colours. So it was all about preventing confusion further down the line for future breeders of the ‘ee’ colours should tan or chinchilla mutations appear in gerbils. However the poor old Polar fox never did get its standard in the NGS, and sadly never appeared much at shows as breeders here rarely concentrated on improving unstandardised coat colours.
Looking back at that conversation and realising now with all the new information about the Underwhite or Cream locus (formerly the Grey locus), It becomes obvious to me that the Polar Fox is the true Honey Cream. ‘uw(d)’ formerly 'g' is instrumental in making all our known cream variants; The White Bellied Cream, Apricot, Cream self (resn) are only made possible by the uw(d) gene. The uw(d) allele also delivers a rich cream both as A- and aa, and this entire locus makes it possible to produce all our known cream varieties, and the new allele discovered on this locus when homozygous will convert any coat colour to a cream. So isn’t it fitting that we should also be looking at our Polar Fox as another cream variant?
In the last couple of years after the AGS standardised the Lightened honey spot as a “honey cream” this name has popped up everywhere, but really when we scrutinise the standard it becomes obvious that this coat colour is a pretender to the throne. It isn’t even a true cream by definition. When we look at the AGS standard of this new variety, it states the colour should be like “peaches and cream” which is suggesting variegation between two colours and not a solid coat as you would expect off a true cream variant. So, as I’m writing up the International coat Standards I’m hoping the true Honey Cream will stand up and be counted for what it really is. It’s a superb coat colour, well worthy of exhibition at shows, and deserves a more accurate name than its existing one.
The origins of the Honey Cream name
After a bit of researching on the origins of this name I stumbled upon a very old post in the archives which threw more light on the issue and how it got adopted to describe a spotted animal. However its origins have more or less been hidden in plain view at the Haines family website on their Gerbil FAQ page here;
If you go to 7.3 In the index it takes you to this..
"This is just the honey with pied markings. However the pied gene has such a dramatic effect when combined with the honey that I think it deserves its own name. Babies appear to be white when they first get their coats, with possibly a pale streak of gold down the back. As they get older the gold on the back becomes more noticeable, and faint gold markings resembling a collie dog can be seen on the face and head. The gold color shades into the white on the sides with no discrete color boundary. The skin is dark under the white fur and the eyes are black."
This was contributed to their FAQ by Sharon Khan.
This bit of info must of been around circa 2000/2001 because this is when the topic of its approval by the AGS was being discussed at the GML as you can see from their archives;
In the UK, this particular coat colour has always remained unstandardised simply because of the large variation in the coat colour. While there is no doubt it is an attractive and colourful coat variety, the variation in the colour and the fact it also fades greatly with age; which in turn greatly reduces its show life, then makes it virtually impossible to judge on a showbench.