Harley was discovered in 2002 by Old Fellows Rattery. A rat was found in a pet store with very long and whispy hair. This rat was named Harley. She was pregnant when they got her, although none of the offspring from her first litter displayed the harley coat. She was bred back to a son, and the "harley" coat was born. Rats displaying a harley coat have very long and whispy hair. Since they are lacking an undercoat, their hair will often look thin. Harley can come in a straight coat and can also be combined to create a curly coated harley.
There is very little information available about harley rats online. I decided to put this page together to document a harley rat's growth and development. They do go through some funky stages so I thought it'd be helpful to post my experiences online.
Any time I refer to a harley, I will be referring to a standard, straight coated harley. If I am referring to the curly-coated/rex harley I'll say so.
Harley whiskers have a little bit of a wave to them, Curly-coated (or harley + rex rats) have very short, thin, and curly whiskers. Their pigment is very slow to come in.
Newborn harley whiskers Photo is in black and white to make whiskers easier to see!
As a harley's coat comes in, it looks "greasy," shiny, and longer than its standard-coated siblings. In my first litter of harleys, I noticed their skin sort of "peeling" at about a week old. This happened with all 3 of the harleys, so I assumed it was just a normal part of being harley. With my second litter of harleys, I didn't see this happen, so it may have just been a one-time thing.
Harley boy (on left) next to two rex siblings. The harley is PH Jackpot, a russian dove. Siblings are russian cinnamons.
Curly-coated harley (on right) next to standard and rex sibling. Curly-coated harley hair is still very short and dense. Color appears lighter, especially on this agouti rat.
Mink curly-coated harley (middle) next to black and mink siblings.
PH Elvis Cinnamon harley at about 12 days old.
Harley Coat Progression - From 2 Weeks
I thought it would be fun to track each of the rats in litter between PH Hoover and PH Lucy. Each day they look different! So each of the 3 rats will have a column, scroll down to watch them grow!
Both parents were agouti dumbos carrying mink and russian blue. Hoover (the sire) was rex and Lucy was standard coated.
PH Jackpot Russian Dove Harley Dumbo at 15 days
PH All That Jazz Mink Curly-Coated Harley Berkshire Dumbo at 15 days
Agouti Curly-Coated Harley Dumbo at 15 days
Jackpot at 25 days
Jazz at 28 days. She is starting to go bald.
Agouti at 25 days.
Jackpot at 34 days
Jazz at 34 days. She went almost bald, and her hair is starting to come back in.
Agouti at 34 days. She lost some hair, but didn't go almost completely bald like Jazz did.
Jackpot at 5.5 weeks. He is starting to really molt.
Jazz at 5.5 weeks. Hair is coming back in.
Agouti at 5.5 weeks. Still fluffier than her sister.
Jazz closeup at 5.5 weeks.
Agouti closeup at 5.5 weeks.
More to come as they grow up!
Miscellaneous Harley Pictures
PH Jackpot (Russian Dove Harley Dumbo) as a young adult
PH Elvis - Cinnamon Dumbo Harley Adult Photo
PH Jackpot's whiskers Black and white to make it clearer
There is some question as to whether or not the harley coat is caused by the same gene as "satin" which is a fairly similar coat type. As far as I know, this has NOT yet been tested, so there's no way to say for sure.
Since the harley gene is recessive, and originated with a single rat, the harley family of rats has been heavily inbred to reproduce this trait. Some breeders were not very ethical about breeding harleys; everyone wanted to get their hands on the latest variety. Other breeders took it more seriously and began to really work on improving the harleys.
When I got my first 3 harley carriers in 2007, they were small and I wasn't crazy about their temperaments. I bred two carriers together to get a harley. There were 3 harleys in the litter, and I kept one male, PH Elvis. He is a very cute rat with a great personality - he's just small! My first goal was to improve the temperament and get them consistently friendly. I think that goal has been accomplished, I am very happy with their personalities now! At this point, their type is fair - there are some long and narrow heads, long and ferret-like bodies, but some rats have very nice type but just small size. Overall, ears are very nicely shaped and eyes are big and beautiful. I will continue to outcross these rats to improve size and type, and occasionally cross them back to each other to keep the harley gene in the mix. Over time, hopefully my harley line will continue to improve. They have come a very long way in the time I've been working with them! It is a big undertaking to truly improve them, and I will have to take a few chances on the harley being passed down for a generation or two.
There are a few health problems that have been documented with the harleys.
1. Two harley carriers were exported to South Africa in 2006. With these rats, there have been reports of mastitis and some severe protein sensitivities. Originally the rats had to be kept on a diet of less than 8% protein. Some breeders have made progess with improving these issues. 2. I have heard of other harleys in the USA that also suffered from a protein allergies and minor skin problems. 3. I have experienced a few hormonal males in my harley line. It is sporadic, about one male out of every other litter will become aggressive. The rats from my harley line are overall on the small side with adult males at about 425g, but they are gradually getting larger. Otherwise, their health has been outstanding so far. I have not had any noticeable skin issues, although they do scratch a bit easier because their hair is thin. I haven't done anything special in terms of my harley rats' diets, and they seem to do just fine.
This page is a work in progress. I welcome additional pictures and information about harley rats worldwide!