These are all of our colours and patterns we have in our beautiful curly herd! First let’s spiral into the basic colours of equine coat colour which is built on one of two possible base pigments: red or black. The extension gene controls the production of this base pigment [red or black]. All of the coat colours we see today from white to black to sorrel and every single one of them begins with either a red or black base pigment. All horses will have the genetics for black or red pigment, regardless of their physical appearance. There are a number of dilutions patterns and modifiers which a horse can carry that affect the base pigment of a horse…
Other names include;
Sun Bleached or Faded Black
Horses that are black pigmented horses must carry at least 1 copy of the Black Factor [E] allele. The black [E] allele of the extension gene is dominate and causes a black pigmented base both in heterozygous [Ee] and homozygous [EE] states. A horse that is heterozygous for Red/Black Factor means that it carries 1 copy of the black allele [E] and 1 copy of the red allele [e]. A horse that is heterozygous for Red/Black Factor can pass on either red or black pigment to its foals. A homozygous black [EE] horse means that it carries 2 copies of the black allele. A homozygous black horse will always produce black based foals regardless of its mate.
Other names include:
Liver Chestnut, Sorrel, Chestnut, Black Chestnut, Sandy Chestnut
Horses that are Red based must carry two copies of the Red Factor [e]. The red allele of the Extension gene is recessive and will only cause red pigmentation when the horse carries two copies of this allele; this is referred to as Homozygous red [ee]. Therefore, a red based foal results when both parents have passed on a copy of the red allele.
Other names include;
Blood Bay, Dark Bay, Wild Bay, Seal Brown
Note for genetic purposes all Bays are considered Black-Based!
The Agouti gene controls the distribution of black pigment. This pigment can be either uniformly distributed or distributed to “points” of the body [ear rims, lower legs, mane & tail]. Only when the agouti gene is homozygous for the deletion [aa] is the black pigment evenly distributed. Heterozygous [Aa] or homozygous for the absence of the 11 nucleotide deletion [AA] results in point distribution of black pigment. Agouti has no effect on homozygous positive red factor [ee] horses as there has to be black pigment present for agouti to have an effect. Agouti is not shown physically on any red [ee] horses.
Silver / Flaxen
Other names include;
Silver Dapple, Taffy, Chocolate Flax
The flaxen gene is not testable yet!
The flaxen gene is a genetic mechanism that causes the mane and tail of chestnut-colored horses to be noticeably lighter than the body coat color, often a golden blonde shade. Does not show on black or bay based horses, but can be carried.
The silver dilution is a dominant trait, so in order to inherit the trait, a horse requires only one parent to carry and pass on the gene. Somewhat similar to the agouti gene, the silver dilution gene will only alter black pigmented horses [Ee or EE] and has no effect on red pigmented horses [ee]. The agouti gene alters the coat by controlling distribution of the black pigment whereas the silver dilution gene does so by diluting areas of black pigment. The effects of the silver dilution gene can vary greatly. Dilution by the silver gene on a horse with a uniform black base typically involves lightening of the mane and tail and a dilution of the body to a chocolate color, often dappled as well. A Bay horse carrying the Silver gene will usually have a lightened mane and tail, as well as lightened lower legs. It is important to know that although a red horse will not be diluted by the silver gene, it can be a carrier of the gene and thus potentially pass the gene on to its offspring. The silver dilution is associated with an inherited ocular syndrome known as Multiple Congenital Ocular Anomalies (MCOA). Which is characterized by several different ocular defects occurring in the anterior and posterior segment of the eye. The severity of the syndrome is dosage related. Horses with 1 copy of silver [heterozygous Zz] have less severe signs, typically in the form of cysts (or fluid filled vesicles). Horses with 2 copies of silver [homozygous ZZ]have cysts and additional abnormalities such as enlargement of the cornea, abnormally formed iris and/or retina, among others. Research suggests that there may be a progressive change in vision in horses with the silver mutation. Breeders can use test results as a tool for selection of mating pairs to avoid producing homozygous [ZZ] horses.
Horses which carry 1 copy of the cream gene are identified as single dilutes; they are heterozygous for the cream dilution gene. Single dilute horses have a 50% chance on passing the cream gene on to its offspring. In a single dose cream has very little effect if any at all on Black Pigment. Typically red manes and tails are turned White with the cream gene, however there have been some instances where a Palomino horse has a gold mane and tail as well.
Palominos are horses with a red base colour, carrying one Cream Dilution allele. They appear bright pale yellow with white mane and tail. The skin is dark gray, although it can be somewhat brighter than the skin in chestnut horses, and the hooves are pigmented. Palomino eyes are typically brown colour and only rarely hazel or amber. Eyelashes are yellow or light red. In palominos the hair has a light red colour with the characteristic cream tone, but the determination of shades requires practice. Dark palominos have saturated honey-red colour and can be mistaken for chestnuts with flaxen manes and tails. Light palominos are characterized by a sandy coloured body, and the mane and tail are practically always white. Sometimes a palomino can be so light that you mistake him for a cremello, but the main difference is the pigmented skin. There is a special version of light palominos with sooty countershading. Such horses show a significant admixture of dark brown hair concentrated along the spine and extending downward to the sides. Bright, contrasting, yellow dapples and admixture of dark hair in the mane and the tail are frequently present. From a distance, some of these horses appear dirty yellow. The extremely rare countershading against the light background is expressed so strongly that such horses look practically completely dark brown, and the mane and tail have a significant admixture of brown and dark yellow hair, or they can be almost completely dark brown. It should be noted that many palomino horses noticeably change colour tone according to the season. Palomino foals are usually born very light cream or almost white-coloured, sometimes with pink skin, which becomes darker in the course of time.
A buckskin is a bay horse with one Cream Dilution allele. Buckskin horses have a sandy yellow colour of trunk, neck, and head, while the mane, tail, and lower parts of the legs are black. The nuances of body color are broad—from pale yellow or almost white to dark yellow. The lower part of the legs sometimes appears brown rather than black. The skin is pigmented but can be somewhat lighter than in a bay horse; the eyes are hazel or amber. Dapples are frequently observed. There are three distinguished varieties of the colour, depending on the bay base: light buckskin, average buckskin, and dark buckskin. Light buckskin horses are characterized by sandy, sometimes almost white colouring of body. Average buckskin horses have a standard yellow body colour, and as a rule, dark buckskins can have a significant amount of dark hair, concentrated on the upper back (countershading) in contrast to the lighter abdomen. The parts closer to the darker area tend to show dapples. Newborn buckskin foals are typically light in colour, tending to darken after they shed their baby hair. The lower part of the legs can be diluted or black, and with time the black zone tends to extend almost to the knees and elbows.
Smoky black horses can have smoke-colored hair, and in such cases the shade is uniform over the entire body. The main difference between the smoky black and faded black horse is that in a smoky black animal there is almost no difference between the color of the neck and head. The skin and hooves are pigmented, and the eyes can be a walnut colour, causing this colour to sometimes be called “yellow-eyed black.”
Double Cream / Tobiano
Horses which carry two copies of the cream gene are referred to as double dilutes; they are homozygous for the cream dilution gene. Double dilute horses will always pass on a copy of the cream gene to its foals. Horses homozygous for the Cream Dilution gene [double cream] are characterized by light-beige colour, varying from pale cream or almost white to saturated yellow. The skin is pink. The eyes are most often blue, although you can also find golden, green, and greenish-blue with amber specks. In the past double cream diluted color was considered the manifestation of albinism, but this is incorrect. Albinism assumes the absence of any pigment in the hair and skin. White marks on the nose and legs are clearly visible in double cream diluted horses, consistent with the presence of pigment. The mane and tail could be the same colour as the body, but it can also be a brighter white or darker dirty cream. When present, dapples on these horses have a light coffee colour. The intensity of the colour can be of an average shade, or light or dark. There are distinctive terms used for these colours depending on the base coat: cremello [chestnut base], perlino [bay base], and smoky cream [black base]. In cremello horses, the mane and tail can be white, pale cream, or reddish; in perlino the mane and tail are light brown or ashy, as well as the lower part of the legs; and in smoky cream there is a light ashy tone of the body, mane, and tail. Foals are born very light, almost white, with pink skin and light blue eyes. Double cream horses are vulnerable to the sun and frequently suffer from burns on the nose, and sometimes also from skin cancer. Their eyes are sensitive to the bright sunlight.
Tobiano is a spotted colour pattern produced by a dominant gene. The tobiano gene produces white-haired, pink-skinned patches on a base coat colour. The coloration is present from birth and does not change throughout the horse’s lifetime, unless the horse also carries the gray gene. Any tobiano horse must have at least one parent who carries the tobiano gene. Tobiano traits generally include the following:
1) White legs from the hocks and knees down.
2) White crossing the back between the withers and the dock of the tail.
3)White is arranged in a vertical pattern.
4) Facial markings are similar to those of a traditionally solid-coloured horse. i.e. star, snip, strip, or blaze. Extreme white facial markings suggest the presence of additional colour pattern genes beyond Tobiano.
5) White patches which are usually rounded or oval in shape, rather than jagged.
6) Base coat colour extending down the neck, giving the appearance of a shield. Starts from the spine and goes down.
7) Tobiano can cause a horse to have a partial or a full blue eye.
Appaloosa / Roan
Roans can be challenging to test for…
Roan is a horse coat colour pattern characterized by an even mixture of coloured and white hairs on the body, while the head and “points”—lower legs, mane and tail—are mostly solid-coloured. Horses with roan coats have white hairs evenly intermingled throughout any other coat colour. True roan is always present at birth, though it may be hard to see until after the foal coat sheds out. The coat may lighten or darken from winter to summer, but unlike the gray coat colour, which also begins with intermixed white and coloured hairs, roans do not become progressively lighter in color as they age. The silvering effect of mixed white and coloured hairs can create coats that look bluish or pinkish.
The Appaloosa pattern is best known for its distinctive, preferred leopard complex-spotted coat. Spotting occurs in several overlay patterns on any base coat colour. There are two distinctive, “core” characteristics those being, mottled skin and striped hooves. Skin mottling is usually seen around the muzzle, eyes, anus, and genitalia. Striped hooves are a common trait, quite noticeable on Appaloosas, but not unique to the pattern. The sclera is the part of the eye surrounding the iris; although all horses show white around the eye if the eye is rolled back, to have a readily visible white sclera with the eye in a normal position is a distinctive characteristic seen more often in Appaloosas than in other colours. The appaloosa complex does not cause blue eyes.
Few Spot is a mostly white horse with a bit of colour remaining around the flank, neck and head. [LP/LP]
Frosted is a type of roaning over the croup and hips. The blanket normally occurs over, but is not limited to the hip area. [LP PATN1]
Leopard is a white horse with dark spots that flow out over the entire body. Considered an extension of a blanket to cover the whole body. [LP/n]
Semi-Leopard is a white blanket which has dark spots within the white. The spots are usually the same color as the horse’s base colour. [LP/LP]
Snowcap Blanket is a solid white area normally over but not limited to the hip area with a contrasting base colour. [LP/LP PATN1]
Snowflake has white spots and/or flecks on the base coat. Typically the white spots increase in number and size as the horse ages. [LP/LP PATN1]
Spotted Blanket is a white blanket which has dark spots within the white. The spots are usually the same colour as the horse’s base coat. [LP/n PATN1]
Varnish is a distinct version of the leopard complex. Intermixed dark and light hairs with lighter coloured area on the forehead, jowls and frontal bones of the face, over the back, loin and hips. Darker areas may appear along the edges of the frontal bones of the face as well and also on the legs, stifle, above the eye, point of the hip and behind the elbow. The dark points over bony areas are called “varnish marks” and distinguish this pattern from a traditional roan. [LP/n PATN1]
Appaloosas are affected by both Equine Recurrent Uveitis [ERU], also known as moon blindness, recurrent iridocyclitis or periodic ophthalmia. Which is an acute, nongranulomatous inflammation of the uveal tract of the eye. It is the most common cause of blindness in horses. Also Congenital Stationary Night Blindness [CSNB] a condition making it difficult or even impossible to see in relatively low light. Research has now shown that CSNB is a recessive disorder that is directly linked to the leopard complex in Appaloosa horses. Additionally, horses that test homozygous positive for LP will be affected by CSNB. Thus, appropriate measures must be taken to prevent possible harm to both the animal and its caregivers.
Grulla [Black + Dun]
Red Dun [Chestnut + Dun]
Bay or Zebra Dun [Bay + Dun]
Smoky Grulla [Cream + Black + Dun]
Dunalino [Palomino + Dun]
Dunskin [Buckskin + Dun]
Smoky Cream Dun [Black + Double Cream + Dun]
Cremello Dun [Chestnut + Double Cream + Dun]
Perlino Dun [Bay + Double Cream + Dun]
Classic Champagne Dun [Black + Champagne + Dun]
Gold Champagne Dun [Chestnut + Champagne + Dun]
Amber Champagne Dun [Bay + Champagne + Dun]
Sable Champagne Dun [Seal Brown + Champagne + Dun]
Classic Cream Champagne Dun [Black + Cream + Champagne + Dun]
Gold Cream Champagne Dun [Chestnut + Cream + Champagne + Dun]
Amber Cream Champagne Dun [Bay + Cream + Champagne + Dun]
Sable Cream Champagne Dun [Seal Brown + Cream + Champagne + Dun]
The Dun dilution gene is characterized by markings which are darker than the body colour. These markings include: The Dorsal stripe [stripe down the center of the back, along the spine], seen almost universally on all duns. The horizontal striping on the back of forelegs, common on most duns, though at times rather faint. The shoulder blade striping, the least commonly-seen of the primitive markings. The gene is associated with “primitive markings” and has the ability to affect the appearance of all black, bay or red based horses to some degree by lightening the base body coat. The dark stripe down the middle of the animal’s back is the most recognizable marking associated with Dun horses. Other markings include a tail and mane darker than the body coat and usually darker faces and legs. Depending on other underlying genetic coat colour factors, a Dun horse may appear a light yellowish shade or a steel gray. Manes, tails, primitive markings and other dark areas are usually the shade of the non-diluted base coat colour. The Dun allele is dominant, meaning that a horse that carries either a single copy [heterozygous Dd] or 2 copies [homozygous DD] of the gene will exhibit a dun phenotype.
The Dun gene is a dilution gene that affects both red and black coat color pigments. The main characteristic of the color dun is the presence of the so-called “Wild” or “primitive” markings.
1) The dorsal stripe is a dark stripe that runs along the horse’s spine from the withers to the dock of the tail. Sometimes you can also see short transverse stripes, which is called fish boning (or barbs) due to the similarity with a fish’s spine. Occasionally in horses with strong colour dilution you can also find a zigzag-shaped or discontinuous dorsal stripe.
2) Zebra bars or zebra stripes are short, dark, transverse stripes on the horse’s legs, located in or above the region of the knees and hocks. Zebra bars are frequently present only on the backside of the legs.
3) Often on the backside of the lower part of the horse’s legs, you will see a line of lighter hair, known by some as a zipper.
4) Cob-webbing or lacing is a net of dark lines, which converge in the center of forehead of some dun horses, resembling a cobweb. This marking rarely involves the eye area.
5) Many dun horses have pale yellow or even white strands of hair concentrated on the edges of the mane. Sometimes there can be so much frosting, as it is called, that the mane looks white. Although the latter scenario is rare, it can create difficulty in determining the color of the animal.
6) Frosting is frequently dark in summer and becomes more noticeable in winter. Frequently in addition to frosting in the mane, there is also light hair in the tail (light guard hair). It can be white or pale yellow and is located along the sides of the tail dock, concentrated at the base.
7) Dark ear rims and white tips are present in almost all dun horses, spanning the perimeter of the ears. In contrast to the bay and brown horses, this primitive marking is wider and has clearer boundaries.
8) When the lower part of the horse’s head, from the eyes to the nostrils, is darker than the forehead, neck, and body, he is said to have a mask.
9) Many horses have more or less noticeable darkening on the withers and shoulders in the form of a stripe or shadow (“wing”) perpendicular to the spine with poorly defined boundaries.
10) A noticeable concentration of dark hair is often found on the neck near the mane.
11) A ventral stripe along the horse’s underbelly resembles the dorsal stripe, but it runs down the middle of the abdomen parallel to the spine. The colour of primitive markings varies and depends on the colour of a particular horse. The presence of such “primitive markings” on adult horses that are not dun [Dd or DD] are sometimes called false duns. The specific mutation of the Dun gene responsible is abbreviated “nd1” (non-dun1).
Other names include;
Bloody Shoulder Gray
Gray is the dominant gene responsible for the gradual and progressive de-pigmentation of the carrying horse. Gray cannot be considered a base colour or a dilution but rather a gene which slowly removes pigment from the coat. Gray is considered to be the ‘strongest’ of all coat modifiers and acts upon any base colour regardless of the carrying horse’s phenotype. The fading process itself may last for years but once hair is de-pigmented, the horse’s original colouring will not return. Since gray is a dominate gene, where it is present – it is expressed! However, the final phenotype of the carrier will vary from horse to horse. Some gray horses fade to full de-pigmentation [almost pure white] whereas others may be ‘fleabitten’. Fleabitten refers to gray horses with tiny non-faded spots or ‘fleabites’. The gray carrying horse may also experience de-pigmentation of the skin itself and before skin is fully faded may display ‘mottling’. Horses tend to be completely grayed out by 10 years of age but some factors like the Silver gene can cause the de-pigmentation to happen much faster!
Grays are prone to skin cancer called Melanoma. Close to 80% of gray horses over 15 years will develop a melanoma tumor. Usually they are benign [not cancerous] and don’t cause any issue, but may be malignant [cancerous] in rare cases, the tumor can spread inward into a vital organ, which is fatal. There are 4 types:
1) Benign dermal melanomas are not cancerous and may be any size and can be a singular nodule or a group of nodules.
2) Malignant dermal melanomas are the same as benign dermal melanoma except there are more nodules and they are cancerous.
3) Melanocytic nevi are usually found in young horses between 4 and 5 years; the nodules are small and can be any color.
4) Anaplastic malignant melanomas are found in older horses and they are cancerous and fast moving.
Splash / Pangaré
The Pangaré gene is not testable yet!
On very rare occasions splash can cause a solid white horse. Many splash horses are characterized by a large blaze, extended white markings on legs, variable white spotting on belly, pink skin and often blue eyes. Typically though most splashed white horses look as though they where dipped in white paint feet first. The head, legs and belly may be white, sometimes connected to a patch running up either side of the thorax. The margins of the white markings are crisp, and well-defined. It is important to note that most splashed white horses are not deaf. Hearing loss is due to the death of the necessary hair cells, caused by the absence of melanocytes in the inner ear. Although the majority of splash horses have pigment around the outside of the ear, the pigment must occur in the inner ear to prevent hearing loss.
Pangaré is a coat trait found in some horses that features pale hair around the eyes and muzzle and underside of the body. These pale areas can extend up to the flanks, throat and chest, behind the elbows, in front of the stifle, and up the buttock. Animals with the pangaré trait are sometimes called “mealy” or “light-pointed”. The colour of these lighter areas depends on the underlying colour and ranges from off-white to light tan. Pangaré does not show on undiluted black based horses but can be carried and passed onto offspring.
Classic Champagne [Black + Champagne]
Gold Champagne [Red + Champagne]
Amber/Sable Champagne [Bay + Champagne]
Cream Champagne [Red/Black/Bay + Cream + Champagne]
Double Cream Champagne [Cremello/Perlino/Smoky Cream + Champagne]
The Champagne dilution gene lightens a horse’s coat colour by diluting the pigment. Horses expressing the Champagne gene have the following features:
Specific age-dependent change of body color: The majority of foals of other colors are born light and darken with age. In contrast, champagne foals are born with a dark hair and become lighter with age.
Color of eyes: Champagne horses are born with light blue eyes that gradually become greenish then golden and finally amber or hazel. However, the process of pigment accumulation in the iris can stop at any of these stages and certain animals can have blue, green or gold eye color all their lives.
Speckled skin: Champagne foals are born with pink skin that darkens unevenly over time, developing specks. The skin of champagne horses differs from the skin of double cream diluted horses. It is dark pink, rather than light or bright pink in color. In adult champagne horses the dark lilac specks are especially noticeable around the eyes, on the muzzle, under the tail and on the genitals. Occasionally specks can be so dense they can merge together.
Goldish gloss of hair: Not all champagne horses have this trait and at the same time not all horses with glossy hair are champagne. Nevertheless, this is considered a characteristic feature of champagne colors.
Dapples: Carriers of the Champagne gene sometimes have so-called “reverse” dapples—that is, not light against a dark background as observed in the majority of dappled horses, but dark on a light background. However, not all champagne horses have such dapples, and reverse dapples are not unique to them.
Horses with both the champagne gene and the cream gene are the most common combination. The cream gene and champagne gene have an additive or enhancing interaction. Horses with the champagne gene and a single cream gene typically have lighter yellowish or blue eyes and paler, more faintly freckled skin. In 2009, the ICHR began registering double cream champagne colour. Such horses look almost white but in good light it is possible to notice a pale shade of ivory or light cappuccino, and a weak golden gloss in the sun. The skin is pink and dark specks can be absent completely. If they are present, there are few and they are difficult to find. The skin of this horse is lighter than the skin of a double cream dilute. The eyes are ivory and have blue streaks running up and down from the pupil. The iris can be framed with a yellowish ring on the outer edge!
Horses with W20/n or W20/W20 genotype generally display white face and/or leg markings and some may have a variable amount of white spotting. It is thought that horses with these genotypes that have more extreme white spotting patterns have mutations in other pigmentation genes. W20 is a white booster, it boosts other White Spotting mutations. It doesn’t really do anything on its own. “Dominant white” is not really correct terminology for W20 as it isn’t a simple dominant nor does it cause white on its own. In other words W20 is a coat modifier and enhances already present white.
Facial markings are usually described by shape and location. There maybe more than one distinct facial marking and if so, will be named separately. Occasionally, when a white marking extends over an eye, that eye may be blue instead of brown, though this is not consistently seen in all cases.
Blaze- a wide white stripe down the middle of the face.
Strip, stripe, or race- a narrow white stripe down the middle of the face.
Bald Face- a very wide blaze, extending to or past the eyes. Some, but not all, bald faced horses also have blue eyes. [Caused by Splash gene]
Star- a white marking between or above the eyes. If a stripe or blaze is present, a star must be significantly wider than the vertical marking to be designated separately.
Snip- a white marking on the muzzle, between the nostrils.
Additional terms used to describe facial markings include the following:
Faint– A small, yet permanent marking that usually consists of white hairs without any underlying pink skin.
Interrupted– A marking, usually a strip or blaze, that is broken and not solid for the entire length of the face.
Connected– Occasionally used to describe distinctively different markings that happen to be joined to one another.
Irregular or crooked– A marking, usually a strip or blaze, that does not have a more or less straight path. Cannot extend past cheek bones.
Lip markings- have no specialized names, usually are described by location, such as “lower lip,” “chin”, etc. Lip markings may indicate presence of the sabino colour pattern.
Leg markings are usually described by the highest point of the horse’s leg that is covered by white. As a general rule, the horse’s hoof beneath a white marking at the coronary line will always be flesh-coloured.
Coronet– white just above the hoof, around coronary band.
Pastern– white marking that extends above the top of the hoof, but stops below the fetlock.
Sock– white marking that extends higher than the fetlock but not as high as the knee or hock. This marking is sometimes called a “boot.”
Stocking– white marking that extends at least to the bottom of the knee or hock, sometimes higher.
Additional terms used to describe white leg markings include:
Irregular– A marking within the broad confines of a given height, but with significantly uneven edges. Indicated by the highest point of the white. Most often used to describe certain types of stockings.
Partial– An irregular marking that only extends up part of the leg to the height indicated, sometimes with the other side of the leg dark. Usually used to describe socks and other short markings.
“High White-” White stockings hat extend above the knee or hock, sometimes extending past the stifle onto the flank or belly, considered characteristic of the sabino color pattern.
Ermine marks – The occurrence of black marks on a white marking, most often seen on leg markings just above the hoof. May cause the hoof to be striped.
InkSpots/Cat Tracks/Paw Prints [usually associated with Homozygous Tobiano] – Dark spots found on tobiano markings, usually showing the base coat. Found in clusters which resemble paw prints.
Bend’OR Spots – Bend-Or spots (or Ben d’Or, Smuts, or Grease Spots) are a type of spotted marking found on horses. They are fairly rare and range in color from slightly darker than the horse’s coat to an almost-black shade. These random spots are most commonly seen on palominos or chestnuts and may not appear until the horse is several years old. It is still unknown what causes these markings, as they do not appear to be related to other spotting patterns. However, they are often correlated with horses showing sooty traits. More may appear as the horse ages.