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Thread: Musing About New Koi Varieties

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Musing About New Koi Varieties

    There have been a number of discussions on the boards this year focusing on whether any truly new koi varieties are possible, and what it takes to say a particular phenotype is a variety. Some are of the view that everything that can be done with koi genetics to create a new variety has been done, and there may be improvements upon varieties that exist, but not really new varieties. Those holding to this view eventually point out that Dr. Kuroki gave names to 'unique koi' that were one-offs and that these should not be considered varieties since they are solitary specimens. Of course, another such unique koi may pop up years later in a flock spawn somewhere, but that does not make it a variety.

    So, what does it take for a type of koi to be considered a variety? From a scientific basis, a 'variety' is a naturally occurring separate version of a species having distinctive traits that are uniformly possessed by members of the variety. No Nishikigoi would be considered a 'variety' in the scientific community. All nishikigoi are a cultivar. Within the hobby, we use the term 'variety' in a very non-scientific manner. Indeed, we even confuse ourselves by saying that show judging classes are varieties. Some show classes are focused on a variety, such as Kohaku. But, many show classes are groupings of multiple varieties. Kawarigoi is everything not in another class. Hikarimoyomono includes all patterned metallics that are not Utsuri-based... e.g., Hariwake and Kujaku. Hikariutsurimono includes metallic Shiro Utsuri (Gin Utsuri) and metallic Showa (Kin Showa). Tancho includes Tancho Sanke and Tancho Showa. And, so it goes.

    There is no definitive answer to what it takes to be recognized as a new variety of koi. When Karashigoi came along a few years ago, some folks said it was just a Chagoi with a different name as a marketing gimmick. Initially the name applied only to certain mustard-colored koi produced by Konishi. Now, the label gets applied to a number of color hues, not all of which look particularly yellow to me, but generally I can say a koi is a Karashigoi and folks will know what I mean. Do those who say Karashigoi are 'just a color version of Chagoi' consider a Shiromuji a color version of Kigoi? Or, is a Benigoi just a color version of something else? ...Perhaps we should call all the single color koi Mujigoi? If I began doing that, I'm sure a lot of folks would be very confused as to what a Mujigoi is. But, they know what a Kigoi is, and a Higoi and a Soragoi. And, for me, that tells us what it takes for a new variety to be recognized. If there are enough koi of a certain type that people can recognize them as a variety for purposes of communicating with one another, then it is a variety within the hobby. There will be one-offs, but until they occur with such frequency that people can talk about them by a varietal name and be understood, they are not a variety. If you look for Ayawakaba, you'll find them by that name... rare, but increasingly available at dealers around the world under that name.

    So, some will say, a breeder can get some rare version of koi to appear more frequently, but it really is not new if they've popped up before. But, isn't fixing traits so they do re-occur on a regular basis inherently what it takes to create a new variety?

    In another thread, RobF posted an article written by the late Ray Jordan about metallic koi. Ray recounted the story of the creation of the first Ogon. I'll repeat it here for convenience:

    Ogon (Oh’ gone) translates to golden
    in Japanese. The history of the Ogon
    is one of the more interesting in the
    development of koi varieties.
    In 1921, Sawata Aoki who was a poor
    rice and carp farmer in Yamakoshi
    heard about a very special carp with
    streaks of gold that had been caught
    by a fisherman in another village.
    Sawata felt compelled to see this
    carp so he walked 20 miles across
    the mountains to where the carp was
    being kept in a pen. The small black
    carp had a golden metallic shine at
    the base of the dorsal fin. Sawata
    was so captivated that he bought it
    and carried it home in a small
    wooden tub. Sawata decided to use
    this unusual carp to develop a brand
    new type of carp that he hoped would
    be golden colored all over its body.
    Sawata allowed the koi to grow a few
    years until he decided it was large enough
    to risk breeding. Over the next 25 years
    Sawata selected the offspring with the most
    golden shine to breed to each other and
    gradually over many years more and more
    golden metallic color emerged. During World War II
    times were very hard for Sawata and his family.
    There was no money to buy food for his baby carp
    so he would catch insects all day and chew them
    into tiny bits to feed his baby koi. The people in
    his village believed he was crazy. It was reported
    that he suffered terrible debilitating headaches. Later
    in life he said that only when he was sitting by his
    pond watching his special golden carp did he feel
    any relief from the headaches he suffered.

    In 1947 Sawata heard about a famous female koi
    of a type called shiro-fuji. This was a white carp
    with a silvery metallic shining head reminiscent of
    the snow cap on Mt. Fuji. He became convinced that
    this certain carp was just what he needed to complete
    his dream. But he could not afford the small fortune
    of 60 yen necessary to buy it. Sawata’s daughter,
    Kinuko, was a nurse and she had saved exactly
    60 yen and presented her father with the money.
    Sawata crossed his best golden male koi with the shiro-fuji
    female and prayed for the results he dreamed about
    for almost 30 years. By the end of that summer there
    were two special baby koi out of this spawn that
    developed a bright shining golden sheen all over their
    bodies. They were also twice the size of their brothers
    and sisters. These were the very first koi
    to be called ogons.
    Sawata never benefited financially from
    his creation. Later another colored carp
    breeder, Takehira Hoshide would
    acquire Sawata’s ogons and develop a
    more refined brightly colored carp that
    would be called Yamabuki (Yah mah
    boo key) Ogon. The first of these 2nd
    generation ogons sold for as much as
    20,000 yen and made Hoshide very
    wealthy.
    Sawata’s ogons were the source for
    creating all the Hikari (metallic) varieties
    that we know today. After Kohaku the
    Ogon is perhaps the next most significant variety in terms of
    producing so many of the types of koi. Ogons were some of the first
    colored carp to reach true jumbo size.
    Modern Ogons come in many
    different colors and varieties. Ogons are shown in Hikari Muji Mono
    (metallic single color) class.

    .......................



    Think about what Sawata did. The time it took. And, along the way there were Kinbo, Kin Kabuto, Ginbo and other versions of Nishikigoi that were acclaimed in their day, but denigrated today as worthless trash. I like to think there is a trait that will give us a whole new group of varieties, if only some 21st century heir to Sawata-san's determination comes along to fix the trait. As I've written in other threads, I'm hoping a dilute gene will give us a true gray-ground family of koi varieties that nobody will confuse with Goshiki. Whether that occurs or not, I can't help but think that only the easy varieties have been produced. The tough ones are still to come.... the red ground koi with yellow danmoyo patterning, The white ground koi with red fins.

  2. #2
    Sansai
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    Another twist...

    Basically an "organized body" would have to recognize the variety....and then be shown at a nationally recognized show in Japan....and accepted by the public, generating interest, etc..

    Then we have that word, "stability" or "stable variety"...

    For example, ZNA does not recognize Ki Kokuryu or Beni Ki Kokuryu as "a true variety" as they are benched kawarimono, in their "others" subclass; whereas here in the USA (at a non-ZNA sanctioned show) Ki Kokuryu or Beni Ki Kokuryua hikarimoyo...

    But without reiterating, it would boil down to "stability". I believe if you read koishi, there is a dealer in their who is working on Kin Ki Kokuryu, who also touches briefly on this subject, Igarashi.

  3. #3
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Excellent point, Dale. ...Why doesn't ZNA recognize Ki Kokuryu or Beni Kikokuryu? I recall JR trying to explain it a long, long time ago. I never really understood what he was saying.

    Another show class that allows avoidance of debate is Doitsu. It would be fun to have benching teams required to differentiate between Doitsu Showa and Beni Kumonryu.... particularly in the small sizes.

  4. #4
    Jumbo RobF's Avatar
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    Since Koishi is mentioned therein is a quote from what has to be one of the most endearing of the Koishi Mr Kuniyasu Hiroi. “..beautiful koi were produced from the improvement of bad koi. Those bad koi are normally thrown away by breeders. …. So we always keep in mind not to mistreat bad koi”. This is thing the mutations that refined might yield new varieties are strictly culled to produce specimens that fit a varietal (read salable) description.

    The understanding of Koi skin color genetics (let alone patterning) is still at a very rudimentary level. In Zebrafish, as a model genetic organism, skin color is better studied, and at least 30 genes are involved in skin color. Common carp underwent a whole genome duplication about 12MYA and so likely has doubled the potential genetic complement of Zebrafish. So I think it unlikely that we are anywhere near exhausting the potential to produce new variations on color and pattern.

    Demand (that is money) may spur the development of new varieties or more likely the insanely dedicated efforts of few koishi will produce them and the money may follow (although not necessarily to them as Mr. Aoki’s story tells).

  5. #5
    Sansai
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    Excellent point, Dale. ...Why doesn't ZNA recognize Ki Kokuryu or Beni Kikokuryu? I recall JR trying to explain it a long, long time ago. I never really understood what he was saying.

    Another show class that allows avoidance of debate is Doitsu. It would be fun to have benching teams required to differentiate between Doitsu Showa and Beni Kumonryu.... particularly in the small sizes.

    With regard as to why ZNA benches the kikokuryu that way, the only explanation that I have ever received as simply been that they do not consider it (as of yet) a stable variety. So, would that also mean that the "entry" point for the new koi varieties will be "kawarigoi" and then up the ladder.....once acceptance has been acknowledged/approved and/or stability reached?

    With regard to the doitsugoi issue....heck through into the mix of yours up there...a doits kujaku, doits kin showa, etc, etc...or come how about drawing the lines between a kikusui and a doits hariwake (not just 2, but 6-10)?

    The one of the problems may be due to the actual benching process itself....it does not really exist (at least in the USA)...there is not really a book one can go to follow.....which can lead to inconsistencies, etc, etc.... But that is another thread and another post for another day....

    An interesting approach exists in a paper written from South Africa that I gained permission to use for a presentation I did on the contribution of doitsugoi to nishikigoi.

    http://new.thegingerichs.net/downloa...doitsu-koi.pdf

    (this is from my own webserver so if you get any file errors or alarms, the file is safe and clean)

  6. #6
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaleRG View Post
    With regard as to why ZNA benches the kikokuryu that way, the only explanation that I have ever received as simply been that they do not consider it (as of yet) a stable variety. So, would that also mean that the "entry" point for the new koi varieties will be "kawarigoi" and then up the ladder.....once acceptance has been acknowledged/approved and/or stability reached?
    Well, I think Ki Kokuryu are as stable now as lot of 'varieties' not benched in Kawarigoi. .... This is a benching question, not really a variety question. We all know a Ki Kokuryu when we see it.

  7. #7
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobF View Post
    Since Koishi is mentioned therein is a quote from what has to be one of the most endearing of the Koishi Mr Kuniyasu Hiroi. “..beautiful koi were produced from the improvement of bad koi. Those bad koi are normally thrown away by breeders. …. So we always keep in mind not to mistreat bad koi”. This is thing the mutations that refined might yield new varieties are strictly culled to produce specimens that fit a varietal (read salable) description.

    The understanding of Koi skin color genetics (let alone patterning) is still at a very rudimentary level. In Zebrafish, as a model genetic organism, skin color is better studied, and at least 30 genes are involved in skin color. Common carp underwent a whole genome duplication about 12MYA and so likely has doubled the potential genetic complement of Zebrafish. So I think it unlikely that we are anywhere near exhausting the potential to produce new variations on color and pattern.

    Demand (that is money) may spur the development of new varieties or more likely the insanely dedicated efforts of few koishi will produce them and the money may follow (although not necessarily to them as Mr. Aoki’s story tells).
    That's my way of thinking.

  8. #8
    Oyagoi
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    on a judgeing side of the Kawarigoi variety

    does it have to fit a known variety say like the Beni Kikokuryu or even an Ochiba or ???
    or can a "new variety" not known yet or named go up against an already named variety say a yellow koi with red kohaku like pattern be competive in that variety-same body and all that is judged just different or unknown in pattern be considered
    like the Unique thread or something like that.can them koi be considered as a best in variety award for the kawarigoi variety

  9. #9
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pskorf View Post
    on a judgeing side of the Kawarigoi variety

    does it have to fit a known variety say like the Beni Kikokuryu or even an Ochiba or ???
    or can a "new variety" not known yet or named go up against an already named variety say a yellow koi with red kohaku like pattern be competive in that variety-same body and all that is judged just different or unknown in pattern be considered
    like the Unique thread or something like that.can them koi be considered as a best in variety award for the kawarigoi variety
    I think we'll need to have a judge explain how they would handle that. It would get benched in Kawarigoi.

    .... I would think the judging could be more difficult when there isn't an established concept of what is good or bad on the variety. For example, with when evaluating Asagi, having red pigment rising much above the lateral line is undesirable. An Asagi competing with a Hi Utsuri for best in size would have less of a chance of prevailing if it had too much red, and speckling on the Hi Utsuri would hurt its chances. Judges would not have learned specific points about a truly unique koi, but their experience and study would guide them. Interesting hypothetical.

  10. #10
    Oyagoi mrbradleybradley's Avatar
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    In looking back through some old Nichrin magazines, I came across something you might call a midori-showa. An interesting mix of genetics, but not an attractive koi. It's uniqueness must have caught the eye of the breeder / owner / magazine publisher, else it would have never been given the grace of exhibition. Get enough koi people, with enough excitement, to open their wallets and perhaps a new "look" will find it's way to a name and some marketing. I have always believed karashigoi is a variant in the dilute gene that makes up chagoi, but I still find myself naming them karashigoi, despite knowing they are still a chagoi. The marketing works.

    If you want to make a new variety, breed it in Japan and promote the heck out of it though shows and dealers. It does matter if it is does not represent a true new variety, but a variation on a look. There are a few variations I can think of and I have a pond full of them - but I am still waiting for a Japanese breeder to produce vast numbers beni matsukawabake or a ki version of kumonryu (and call those Golden Dragon) and become famous for them.

    The point is, producing a true new variety needs a new mutation. Instead, what we still have are the potential for combinations that have not yet been seen or made popular.

    Mike's example,of a grey base koi is one I like. The mutation of dilute black with an overlay of different pattern type contains no new mutations, but does contain a bunch of not yet seen possible combinations. Maybe one of those could be koromo robbing on the patterning in ochiba. No doubt we could all imagine others.

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