Unverified Color Mutation in Donskoy Cats

Donskoy (Don Sphynx) founder Irina Nemykina explains in her history of the breed how cats from her Mif cattery were taken to St. Petersburg for research and experimental breeding. Some of the kittens in St. Petersburg were then taken to Ukraine, where they were used to found the Mari’A Neon and Mon Plaisir catteries. Chocolate Donskoys were first noticed in cats descended from these Ukrainian catteries. Donskoy breeders sometimes call this color “Ukrainian chocolate.”

Although current WCF, CFA, and TICA standards for the Donskoy allow all skin colors, the chocolate phenotype, known to be caused by genotype bb or bb1 at the TYRP1 (B) locus, is considered by some experts to be a contamination of the Donskoy from a restricted outcross with Oriental breeds. This outcross was practiced widely in order to remove hair from Oriental cats and create the Peterbald breed. 

With all due respect to the experts, especially to breed founder Irina Nemykina, we think that the Donskoy’s evolution cannot be stopped. Increasing numbers of Donskoy breeders and fans love to see new features (blue eyes, for example) in these beautiful cats, and Donskoy Discovery (as it follows from the cattery name) is not an exception. For more than seven years we have been breeding show-quality Donskoys with a phenotype judges have taken to be chocolate. They do have the paw pads of a chocolate, but their skin color is unusual. We believe it makes them look especially exotic and mysterious. 

Unlike chocolate cats of other breeds our cats’ eyes become bright red in certain lighting conditions. Initially we assumed that this strange eye color resulted from their being both chocolate and dominant-hairless, or perhaps from carrying Cs or Cb genes. But there is evidence from breeders that mating of Ukrainian chocolate Donskoys with Donskoys known through lab testing to have the bb or bb1 genotype did not produce chocolate kittens. 

We have never had our chocolate Donskoys genotyped (there are no labs in Ukraine for color testing), but in order to be able to breed and show them legally, we have agreed to have them documented as having the bb or bb1 chocolate genotype.

But we now have proof that our cats must have some unverified genotype. By extremely lucky coincidence, two solid-black Donskoys, close relatives of our cats, became the foundation of Kathryn Eden's Donskoy cattery in the USA, and a few months ago delivered Milkdud--a kitten of Ukrainian chocolate phenotype (see a picture at Kathryn's Facebook site). Kathryn took a scientific approach and had genetic tests performed on her black breeding pair and two of their kittens: Milkdud and a black sibling of Milkdud from the same litter. All 4 of them are aa BB CC DD EE, which should give them a solid black phenotype. But as you can see, Milkdud is not black.

Thanks to Kathryn's initiative we now have scientific evidence that the chocolate phenotype and unusual eye color of Milkdud, as well as our own cats, are caused not by the known chocolate mutation (b) at the TYRP1 (B) locus, but by a new mutation at B or at some other locus, a mutation for which there is not yet a genetic test. Possible candidates are the other two melanosome transfer and translocation genes: Myosin Va (MYO5A) and RAB27A. Genes involved in the synthesis of eumelanin other than TYRP1, for example, TYRP2, are also possibilities.

There have been reports that some cats have had a diluted-color phenotype without having the dilution genotype (d/d) at the D locus, where D codes for melanophilin (MLPH), one of the three genes involved in melanosome transfer and translocation. Examples are the Barrington Brown cats and the pink-eyed dilution cat. Unfortunately, these cats died before their dilution genes could be found and sequenced.

At the moment, Milkdud’s and our cats’ DNA samples and hairs are under investigation by scientists in genetic laboratories. They can provide the scientific background for registering a new cat color. We will keep our readers informed about the progress and results.  

Also, we would appreciate it very much if you could contribute to our “color adventure” by providing us with relevant information and buccal swabs of your registered Donskoy or Peterbald cats of any color. We need these for our study of the genetics of the genetics of this unverified color mutation, and your cat might have it or be a carrier. 


  1. Thank you for all the work you have done with this probable new color. Any way I can be of further assistance please let me know.I hope the gene can be identified to finally decipher this mystery.

  2. Very interesting .I just love these beautiful animals ;-) Hope to meet them one day!

  3. I know this is completely irrelevant, but I've found this amazing picture of a new mutation in dogs, also in russia, the first ever recorded color-point mutation in dogs:
    Unfortunately, the dog seems to have disappeared


  4. HI, I'm so sorry to bother you
    But somehow I stumbled upon your interesting case of the new ukrinian chocolate color in donkey


    Just wanted to ask, would you happen to know anything about this Color-pointed dog that was found in Russia back in 2009?

  5. Hi, MD. Yep, that sure looks like a color-point dog. Too bad it's gone missing. We will let you know if we see anything.

  6. I have 2 Thailand imports that tested Ccb and are sable in color. Now they produced a litter of kittens with 2 odd colored kittens. I just resubmitted the parents DNA for retesting and the kittens for testing to VGL. This is awesome to read. Please feel free to contact me at 570-541-2941

  7. Thanks for your post, Lori. By our reckoning, if your breeding pair are Ccb, B_, D_, then they should be solid black, not sable/sepia, which is a pointed color produced by cbcb, B_, D_.

    The kittens could have any combination of C_ or cbcb or B_ or b_ or b1b1 or D_ or dd.

    We would love to see pictures of your cats or get a detailed description. Do you suspect they have our unverified mutation?


  8. This is exciting, I am going to be working with the Thai cats that test black but are a dilute Mocha color. The Thai cats also hold some exciting genetics that color testing isnt available for at this time.