The En or English Spotting Gene in Rabbits

What Makes These Two Rabbits Different?

Broken Black Jersey Wooly
Broken Black Jersey WoolyBlack Jersey Wooly


The photos above show two Jersey Woolies. Each is much different in appearance. In fact both are genetically the same wit the exception of one gene. Care to guess what that gene might be? If you said the En or English Spotting Gene you would be correct.

There are only two alleles within the En gene. However, three combinations of the alleles create three different looks to the color pattern of the rabbit. The two alleles are the following:

  • “En” – Broken Pattern
  • “en” – Normal Pattern

This gene is also affected by a modifier that determines if the broken pattern coat is spotted or blanket.

The “En” – Broken Allele and Charlies

The En allele is the dominant of the two broken pattern alleles. Whether present in a homozygous form (En En) or heterozygous form (En en) the rabbit will have a broken pattern coat color. Basically the normal color gets interrupted with patches of white. However, its not quite that simple with this allele.

When present in a heterozygous form (En en), the broken pattern is generally going to be showable. Each breed that permits broken pattern rabbits has specifications for how much color can or must be present on the broken pattern rabbits. Some breeds have a maximum % of color that is allowed and most have a minimum % of color required. For example, Jersey Woolies require that at least 10% of the rabbit have color.

Most problems with broken color occur with rabbits that have the homozygous form of this gene/allele (En En). This will cause even more white area to appear. These rabbits are known as Charlies. The result can be a rabbit that is not showable, or a rabbit whose color patterns are so small the rabbits look rather unattractive. In a breed such as Holland Lops, color is only worth 5 points. The rabbit may have 15% color, but that difference could be the difference between a first and second place. However, in Jersey Woolies the color is worth 10 points. Its worth more than woll density. So color should play a very large factor.

The “en” – Normal Allele

The en allele is recessive. It must be present in a homozygous (en en) form to have a rabbit with normal unbroken color.

Breeding with the En Gene

Breeding with the En gene involves taking some precautions.  First, not all breeds allow broken pattern rabbits. Below is a list of the breeds that do permit the broken pattern:

Care should be taken when breeding a broken pattern rabbit to another broken pattern. There is statistically a 25% chance that babies will be charlies or have the homozygous (En En) alleles. This can be seen in the table below.

En en
En EnEn Enen
en Enen enen

Interactive Whiteboards by PolyVision


Statistic would indicate the following for each baby:

  • 25% chance charlie (En En)
  • 50% chance Broken Pattern (En en)
  • 25% chance normal color (enen)

Correcting charlie brokens is a simple breeding fix. The charlie would need to be bred back to a normal colored rabbits. All the resulting kits will be broken if it is a truly genetic charlie.


Broken pattern rabbits can be very appealing in appearance. They can also have too much or too little color making them unshowable. Modifiers can be added into the mix that create either blanketed or spotted patterns (these will be discussed in another article). Care must be taken when breeding broken rabbits to broken rabbits to prevent unshowable animals.

Rob Usakowski
Three Little Ladies Rabbitry


© 2011, Three Little Ladies Rabbitry Blog. All rights reserved.

Rob Usakowski
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