In the same way that many hundreds of different varieties of dogs have been bred, each with their own distinguishing characteristics, koi too have become classified into different varieties on account of their colouration and pattern. In both cases, each of the varieties belongs to a single species as man has selected specimens that exhibit desirable features.
The final 4 koi varieties to be introduced in this last article in the current series make up the balance of the most popular non-metallic varieties.
Utsurimono (or Utsuri for short)
Utsuri is a variety that is straight forward to recognise because of its simplicity. A two coloured koi, Utsuri are black fish that are overlaid with a single coloured pattern. These include red (Hi Utsuri), white (Shiro Utsuri) and yellow (Ki Utsuri). The shiro Utsuri is probably the most common variety with Hi Utsuri often a disappointing orange (rather than red), and good Ki Utsuri (Yellow) the least commonly available.
Utsuri literally means ‘reflection’ and describes the common feature in the pattern where white (or red or yellow) is reflected with the underlying black across the line of symmetry delineated by the dorsal fin. Utsuri are a close relative to Showa (but without the red) and will share the same striped finnage and the usual black pigmentation on their face.
Now this could get a little confusing, as a Bekko is also a 2 coloured fish, (black plus one other colour), but this time, the underlying colour is either white, red or yellow with an overlying pattern of black. Like an Utsuri, but in reverse.
While the Utsuri is closely related to Showa, Bekko varieties are genetically very similar to Sanke. Typical Bekko varieties include Shiro Bekko (white), Aka Bekko (red), and Ki Bekko (Yellow).
Koromo too have their roots within another variety, and this time, the association is with Kohaku. Koromo varieties consist of a white fish with a red pattern (just like kohaku), but where the red pattern is overlaid with scales that have a dark edge. Koromo literally translates from the Japanese as ‘robed’ where each red scale has a clearly defined darkened edge or border. Those with a kohaku pattern where the red scales are overlaid with a blue border are called Ai Goromo, whereas Sumi Goromo have red scales with a well defined black border.
This final variety is quite special for a number of reasons.
1. When a koi from a variety has a partial covering of leather scales, it is simply referred to as a ‘Doitsu……..’ followed by the variety name. However in the case of Shusui, (which is a Doitsu Asagi), instead of being classified as a Doitsu Asagi, is reclassified as a Shusui.
2. Shusui have a German connection (Doitsu is Japanese for German) and results from introducing the partially scaled mirror carp (bred for the table) with Asagi. Shusui are a partially scaled koi, where the only scales present are of the large, mirror type and are distributed symmetrically along the dorsal and lateral lines.
They are in effect a blue/grey fish with Hi pattern to the cheeks, flanks and fins where the Hi is orange rather than the red as would be found on a Kohaku. Shusui are a striking variety in that it looks like no other variety, and consequently holds a special place in any koi collection.