Wednesday 28 December 2022

'Agouti'. What does it mean?

You see the word "agouti" use quite a lot by the cat fancy and on cat websites. What does it mean? It's a reference to a type of coat which we know very well, a tabby coat. Specifically, it refers to the genetics of a tabby coat. Agouti is the name given to a coat in which each individual hair strand is pigmented with bands of black, brown and yellow.

The most typical agouti pattern is seen in the ticked tabby coat of the Abyssinian cat; an "all-agouti" cat. The classic tabby cat that we see has blotches of dark areas and so we have, in the words of Robinson's Genetics, a tabby pattern which "consists of two coexisting systems of pigmentation or, more likely, a background of agouti, with a superimposed system of stronger black pigmentation."

The background of agouti as they state are areas in which the hair fibres are banded or ticked with alternating black or yellow pigmentation as mentioned.

Superimposed on this are areas in which almost all-black hairs predominate in which the yellow band is reduced to the very base of the hairs.

If you look closely at a tabby cat at each individual hair strand, and if you follow the black areas i.e. the markings, you can see that the top of the hair strand is black whereas going down the hair strand towards the skin you can see light yellow.

My tabby cat
My tabby cat. He has a spotted tabby coat. Very wild cat looking.

It is the way these particular hairs are placed on the coat which provides the markings that we see which in addition to the blotch tabby mentioned, there is the spotted tabby and the striped or mackerel tabby.

The cat's genetics dictate the location of these hair strands that provide the markings.

The agouti coat is the original wild-type colouration by which I mean it is the coat of the wild cat ancestor of the domestic cat and other wild cat species.

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