|The Dalmation and Roan Cavy Club||
Roans by Dan Thomas
History. I first saw the Roan Cavy in the late 70s, at about the time as they were first emerging onto the scene. There had been a few strange things turn up in litters of Self Black, these were called by various names but Dapple or Dappled Roan was the most commonly used. They were, as the name implies, a mixture of black patches, white patches and roaning, some had a blaze, some had solid heads.
At about the same time Jonathan Billings had decided to try and produce a smooth Roan from his Roan Abyssinians and Self Blacks. After several generations to breed out the rosettes, he produced a smooth roan with a solid head and feet and a fairly evenly roaned body. I visited him and was amazed to see the way he kept his pigs, he bred them in colonies in old cowsheds, dozens in each! We waded through them, some nibbling our trouser bottoms, and he would reach down and pick one up and hand it to me. That was my start in Black Roans !
The Billings Roan was accepted as the “proper” version and via the RVCC went on to full standard with the Dals and the formation of the Dalmation and Roan Cavy club.
It wasn’t long before other colours appeared, there have been Roans in every Self colour, and I had to have them ALL !
Reds (known as Strawberry back then) were one of the first followed by Goldens, which went on to become one of the most popular Roans, and Chocolates followed shortly after. One of the prettiest I ever had was the Cream, not easy to get right, but when you do its quite stunning. The Saffron and Buff make a lovely Roan, as do the Beige, Lilac and Slate. As you can tell I love my Roans and in any colour. Sadly most of these have died out, even the blacks are in decline, gone are the days of 20 in a class. In their heyday, in the hands of Evelyne van Vliet, Simon Neeson , Lorna Shepherd and other top breeders, they were dazzling in their colour, type and evenness of roaning.
Judging. The first thing I look for in a Roan, of any colour, is colour! It must be good and it must carry well to show up the roaning.
Next I want to see a sharp demarcation line of the solid head with no drags of colour into the neck and of course no odd coloured hairs or, horror of horrors, any vestige of a blaze. Feet to be solid with no silvering.
Thirdly, but actually the most important feature, the roaning.
I have put these three features in reverse order because, above all, I want a balanced animal. It’s the combination of these three factors, the contrast and the blending of colours, which makes the Roan such an attractive breed.
The standard allocates 30 for roaning, 20 for head +10 for feet = 30, 10 for colour.
Roaning HAS to be the governing factor when judging this breed, yet it is the hardest to achieve! This is where the art of breeding comes into play, blending the colour and white to make an even speckled effect with no priority given to either. The coverage must also be considered, getting the roaning all the way to the rear is the hardest, and often the top will not match the belly! Again BALANCE is the key word here, weighing the priorities as given in the standard with what you actually have in front of you.
Among the faults to look for, the spinal bar is usually the most obvious and one of the hardest to breed out, a distinct line of white running along the back, almost all the Roans you will see have this to a degree. Dappled bellies are a remnant from the past and crop up from time to time, usually on the one with the best roaning on top! And, of course, vice-versa , perfect belly /dappled top!. Solid patches in the roaning, either colour or white, I would probably consider the least desirable of the three. Patches of a different colour are covered in the standard of the individual colour, but I, personally, consider them unacceptable. Another common fault is banding, where a light or dark area goes around the body, this is covered by “uneven roaning” along with light sides or chest. I would not penalise for having too many white hairs (light ) or too many coloured hairs (dark ), as long as it‘s all over, evenness of roaning is what matters.
Breeding. Roans are fairly straightforward, to breed, only ever mate a Roan to a Self, this will eliminate the possibility of producing weak, blind offspring, caused by doubling up on the Roan gene.
They respond well to selection and it’s possible to produce showable stock on a fairly regular basis. Saying that, you must be ruthless and only keep the best from each batch of matings. If you have a litter with nothing worth keeping, then don’t, just for the sake of it.
When trying to eliminate a fault from your stock, as with anything else, you breed away from it. Never pair two pigs with the same fault and I, personally, wouldn’t keep a baby with a spinal bar, for instance, bred from a parent with one, or its self sibling.
I would love to see a rise in popularity of this lovely breed. With perseverance they can be bred to a high level, from the point of view of winning and personal satisfaction.
There follows a gallery of Roans with comments about them
The Dalmation that is difficult to Spot
By Jan Alston
Dalmation and Roan breeders are well aware of the potential difficulties when breeding these varieties. A Dalmation or Roan is usually mated to a solid coloured cavy to avoid the 25% chance of producing a ‘micropthalmic’ baby. These cavies are pure white with defective eyes and teeth. They are incapable of leading an independent existence hence they are sometimes referred to as ‘lethal whites’.
Breeding practices have changed and what was once commonplace, even 10-15 years ago, is no longer considered acceptable. Hopefully now no-one would be sold Dalmations or Roans from a breeder without a warning that they should be mated to solid coloured cavies.
So what is the problem? Sometimes these cavies may be difficult to spot, if you will excuse the pun.
In the early years of these breeds, most Dalmations or Roans were very easy to recognise. Even the most mis-marked cavy from ‘pedigree’ stock could be readily identified as a Dalmation/Roan. Very few cavies, other than those specifically bred by Dalmation/Roan breeders (including Roan Abyssinians) were seen with these markings
These genes have now found their way into several varieties of cavy including pets. Unsuitable animals are unwittingly mated together and their owners are shocked at the arrival of micropthalmic babies.
There are three common scenarios.
1) Many Teddies, especially those of recent Scandinavian origin are Bi-colour / Tri-colour Roans. This is a very attractive colour combination and is understandably popular. The intensity of roaning may be very low indeed and may amount to nothing more than a small patch of intermingled white hairs on otherwise dark coloured areas of coat.
2) A predominantly white cavy with two coloured ‘eye patches' and few, or no, other body markings may be a Dalmation. This pattern is sometimes seen in Longhaireds especially in the rexed breeds.
3) It is possible for a perfectly healthy cavy of solid white appearance to be a Dalmation or Roan. There are white spots on the white background! I was caught out with one of these cavies many years ago. I had a pet white Texel sow and she produced a micropthalmic baby. I discussed this with Clare White, the originator of the Texel. She explained that many early Texels had Dalmation markings as they were bred from Dalmation marked Rex. Yes, my pet sow was effectively a ‘white Dalmation’; when mated to a coloured Dalmation she had produced a micropthalmic baby.
There are several reasons for concern. It is upsetting for the breeder, who may be a juvenile. Pet keepers, not understanding the genetics, blame the breeder for selling them ‘sickly’ animals and, as usual, this risks bringing the cavy fancy into disrepute.
The kindest course of action for these affected cavies is euthanasia.
Sadly, some misguided pet keepers attempt to keep the animal alive believing that it ‘deserves a chance’ or ‘has a right to live’. There are numerous pages on internet cavy websites where owners discuss what type of pureed food the cavy should be offered and describe how the deformed teeth are trimmed every month by the vet. (In fairness I should point out that this is not usually UK vets!)
Perhaps it would be helpful if judges of pet classes finding a ‘less obvious’ Dalmation/Roan in front of them could have a word with the owner after the judging. The owner can then be made aware of the potential difficulties should they decide to breed from their pet.
If there is any possibility whatsoever that a cavy might be a ‘hidden Dalmation / Roan’ as described above, this information should be given to the new owner. This is relevant even if the cavy is being sold as a pet and no future intention of breeding is expressed at the time; the situation may change.