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What is Dutch?
The Dutch mouse is as old as the mouse fancy itself. Although commonly believed to be a separate marking gene, the Dutch marking is actually a result of selective breeding of the recessive spotting gene 's', the same as show-standard broken marked and the pied mice seen in pet shops. Recessive spotting naturally clumps pigment at the rump and on the face, and with this gene blazed face markings are common, as are foot and tail stops. Because the name Dutch is a description of marking placement and not a distinct gene, if a pied mouse looks like a Dutch, it is a Dutch.

Tips for breeding Dutch:
Firstly, breeding the best Dutch together won't usually result in a litter of winners. I have had more success by pairing two poorly marked mice together; for example, pairing a buck with an excellent high saddle but too much colour on the face with a doe with lovely cheek markings but a small saddle. Two of my winning Dutch were sired by an awfully marked animal with far too much colour on him and only one eye. He was my biggest, typiest buck so, as type and size is always of consideration in my pairings, I bred him to a doe with less colour than needed. They produced well marked animals in every litter. For breeding purposes, a mouse with a high saddle that maybe has a splodge on the back is of equal value to a mouse with straight but lower saddle. I find that if one keeps breeding the straightest saddles together, the saddle will slip lower and lower. Pairing a high, uneven saddle with a low, straight saddle will produce better results than pairing two mice with low, straight saddles.

Secondly, I find it best to keep as many breeding bucks as I have breeding does so I can always pair up mice that don't have matching faults. One buck will not suit very many does.

Thirdly, no matter what the imagined benefits to markings, never breed a mouse that lacks fitness and size. That is not a trait you want to fix in.

What colour can they come in?
Dutch can be bred in any colour at all, but can only be shown in standardised colours. So a stone/beige Dutch would, in the UK, have to be shown in the unstandardised class and couldn't compete for best marked. There are examples of different colours at the bottom of this page.

The most popular colours for Dutch are black, chocolate and blue. At many shows black Dutch have their own classes, accompanied by "Any Other Colour" Dutch classes for the other varieties. Breeding Dutch in darker colours such as these and also agouti and cinnamon has many benefits over the paler colours such as argente, dove, and champagne. Darker colours are more visible early on; most of a black Dutch kitten's markings can be clearly seen at two days old, whereas a champagne Dutch kitten's markings won't appear until the fur starts to grow in at six days. Early visibility of markings means that earlier selection of the best mice can take place. The skin pigment is an important factor; a Dutch is supposed to have coloured ears and visible foot and tail stops but on a pale coloured Dutch the skin is not pigmented at all, which means that the ears are flesh coloured and the stops are invisible. If the markings are good enough this won't hold them back too badly, but all other things being equal a black Dutch will win over an argente.

There are some colours which aren't really recommended for Dutch. Red Dutch are extremely attractive but the dominant red gene comes hand in hand with obesity, which means that a red Dutch will get too fat to show. Silvered and shaded colours (ie silver grey, pearl, sable, Siamese) are prone to extreme patchiness caused by casting and due to this the show life of a silvered or shaded Dutch would be extremely short. It would be extremely unlikely that one could show a silvered or shaded Dutch more than a couple of times.

Other varieties to avoid breeding into Dutch:
Varieties to avoid breeding into a Dutch line include:
- other marked mice (broken, banded, Hereford, variegated, tricolour, etc), because the modifiers necessary for those markings will ruin Dutch;
- c-locus varieties (PEW, chinchilla, cream, etc), because you'll either end up with Dutch that don't show any markings, has very faint markings, or that is an unstandardised colour;
- splashed, because you'll start getting poor tricolours;
- tans, because you would need to make sure the belly of a Dutch tan fit the tan standard and to breed a good enough Dutch tan would be extremely difficult;
- foxes, because a fox belly would hide the underneath of the saddle, and the chinchilla genes would result in pale or unstandardised colours of Dutch further down the line;
- coated varieties (longhair, astrex, etc), because the coat length/texture AND the markings would need to be good enough to fit the standard and compete in the AOV section;
- satins, because satin Dutch must be shown in the satin section, where they are in direct competition with the big, typey, pale satins such as champagne and ivory. To win best satin instead of those, a Dutch satin would have to be the best Dutch the world has ever seen!

Varieties one can safely breed into Dutch:
Any self except PEW or cream, or varieties such agouti, cinnamon, argente, would be fine - as long as they don't carry anything listed in the varieties mentioned above. BUT BE WARNED! Outcrossing Dutch to a non-Dutch variety is not a decision to take lightly. It will take a good couple of years of intensive selective breeding to get the markings back to show standard Dutch!

Showing Dutch:
It can very tempting to show an excellently marked mouse too young. Mice can be shown after they are weaned at four to five weeks, but doing this risks stunting the mouse and losing out at future shows. If you leave the mouse at home for another couple of weeks it will have a better chance of growing well and remaining in show condition for a longer time. Once a mouse has reached six or seven weeks it is properly ready for showing and if cared for and fed well it could have a show life of many months. No matter how well marked a mouse is, never show it if it is sick or in poor condition. Doing so risks the health of other mice and makes the exhibitor look bad. A show worthy Dutch is fit and bright looking, with clear eyes, a smooth belly and a shine to the coat.

Is it true that the Dutch breeder needs to keep hundreds of mice?
When I initally started with Dutch in 2010, I was concerned that I didn't have enough space to succeed in breeding them. Traditionally Dutch, and other marked varieties, have been bred in very large quantities. I keep a fairly small stud and I wondered if this would reduce my chances of breeding winners. Happily, I had much success on the showbench in my first year whilst keeping only a dozen boxes of black Dutch mice. At the end of 2013, my Dutch mice took up 21 boxes because I ran two separate Dutch lines of different colours; one line for red, fawn, agouti and argente, and one line for black, chocolate, dove and champagne. In early 2016, this was been reduced to 14 boxes for one line of agouti, cinnmaon and chocolate Dutch to make room for a small stud of silver foxes. At any one time I never have more than 80 Dutch mice.

But don't Dutch bite?
It is well known that Dutch are a flighty, bitey variety. Most judges have tales of being bitten whilst examining a Dutch. If a mouse escapes its Maxey during a show, it's invariably a Dutch mouse. Obviously different lines have different personalities but in my experience the Dutch mouse is a curious, active, intelligent variety with a mind of its own. Regular handling of every mouse from very early on will prevent biting and result in a stud of calm, tractable Dutch.

Improving type and size in Dutch mice:
Dutch mice are, traditionally, the smallest of the standardised mouse varieties and typically have cobby type, small eyes, and thin tails. If one is willing to put in the work it is possible to improve the type and size, although it's not necessary as Dutch mice regularly win just as they are because the markings are so hard to get right. It is not just a case of doing one outcross litter to a typey self then breeding back to Dutch in the resulting generations, because by the time the markings are right again, the mice are as small as they ever were. Instead, one needs to breed a completely new line from the self outcross litter, without breeding back to Dutch at all. The resulting mice from the initial outcross must be bred together for pied mice, which must then be selectively bred back into Dutch. This is how I made my line of agouti and argente Dutch mice and it took over two years to get a showable mouse, and even longer to breed a showable mouse good enough to win!

What to do if you want to breed Dutch but can't find any starting stock:
If you're in the UK Dutch should be readily available, but if you live in a place where Dutch mice are not available to you, you can start off with recessive pied mice. Scour petshops and breeder adverts looking for pied mice with Dutch-style saddles and face markings, even if they have other spots or the Dutch markings themselves are poor. With breeding recessive spotted mice for Dutch markings, one breeds only the mice that most fit the Dutch standard in each generation, discarding those with spots on the body etc from the breeding plan. Eventually, as the "Dutchiest" are bred together each generation, the markings become more and more like exhibition quality Dutch.

The pros and cons of breeding and exhibiting Dutch mice:
Dutch aren't for everyone. They are a headache, really! The percentage of show quality mice produced is very, very small. A Dutch breeder could potentially go a few generations with nothing to put on the show bench and it can be disheartening to see the faults develop on a growing Dutch kitten. Dutch almost always fail colour and have numerous other faults as an exhibition mouse, so even a best marked winning Dutch is rarely of sufficient quality to compete against selfs, satins, tans, and AOVs for Best in Show. That said, the variety does have a lot going for it as a hobby breed. Good ones can be spotted easily in the nest and all of the Dutch does I've ever had have been excellent mothers in every way. When you do get a winner, it'll have a longer show life than most other varieties. Individuals can be recognised easily. They are challenging and never, ever boring because there is always something about them that their breeder can strive to improve. On a strictly personal note, I love seeing those little blazed faces looking at me from their cages when I go in to feed.

Examples of Dutch Mice:
All mice bred and owned by Blackthorn Stud.

Black Dutch:

Agouti Dutch:

Chocolate Dutch:

Red Dutch:

Argente Dutch:

Dove Dutch:

 
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