Dilute genes - cream, silver dapple, dun, champagne and pearl

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As Nicole said, there are four known dilute genes in horse coat colours. Some more about the way they work her....

First, the cream gene. Cream is responsible for turning chestnut to palomino, bay to buckskin, and less common colours such as cremello and perlino.

Cream is known as an 'incomplete dominant' - which means that if a horse has one copy of the gene, the coat is diluted, and two copies means it's diluted further. A bit like adding cream to coffee - and some, it gets pale. Add more, it gets paler still.

The gene works primarily on red pigment - if a horse carries two copies some effect will be seen on black, but a black with one cream gene often shows no real sign he's carrying it.

Chestnut with one cream gene gives palomino. These horses have a pale gold body colour and white or creamy white mane and tail. They have dark eyes and dark skin.

Chestnut with two cream genes gives cremello. This causes the eyes to be blue, the skin to be pink, an dbody and mane hair is a very pale cream - these horses can be so pale they're almost whit. Body colour will have a definite cream or off-white tinge if you look closely. This is the reason that palomino is a colour and not a breed - palominos will not breed true.

That means that breeding two palominos together gives a 50% chance of another palomino, a 25% chance of cremello, and a 25% chance of chestnut. Think of any breed - put a Welsh ppony on a Welsh pony, and you'll get another Welsh pony every time.... a breed breeds true. Palominos don't.

Bay with one cream gene gives buckskin. This colour is similar in some ways to golden dun - golden colour body with black mane tail and legs. There are important differences though - the body of a buckskin will be golden, whereas the golden dun tends to be a more faded shade. The legs of a pony with dun won't be truly black - just darker. A buckskin has black points. Duns always have a dorsal stripe - this can occur in other colours, including buckskin, but in a dun will be absolutely sharp, while other colours tend to have a blurry line that 'leaks' into coat colour. Duns also tend to have a darker mask on the face and upper legs, which a buckskin doesn't. Duns often have zebra striping - buckskins usually don't.

Bay with two cream genes gives a shade known as perlino - here the black points are faded too. Perlinos have the same pale cream body colour that cremellos do, but they have a darker shade of mane and tail - the hair here remains a darker, slightly orangey shade.

Black with one cream gene is known as smokey black - often they appear to be black, and the existence of their cream gene is known only when they inexplicably produce a palomino foal when put to a chestnut.

Black with two cream genes is known as smokey cream - these horses are really indistinguishable from cremellos and perlinos, and virtually impossible to identify.

Pic shows a palomino. Although his baby coat is very pale, there is no way he could be cremello - his eyes are dark, his skin is dark, and the darker colour round his muzzle and legs shows the colour he will most likely end up.
 

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And onto dun....

Dun is a simple dominant - that means if a horse has dun, it'll be dun - and the shade will be the same reagrdless of whether it has one copy of dun or two.

Dun differs from cream in that it dilutes both red and black pigment equally, where cream will dilute only red if a horse has one gene, and both black and red if a horse has two.

Dun is known as an 'atavistic' colour - this means that if horse are left to breed among themselves, without human interference, they will, over generations, gradually develop dun colouring.

Dun has several characteristics, some of which were toughed on in the 'cream' post. I'll relist them here.

Duns always have diluted body colour, a little like horses with cream.

Duns always have a dorsal stripe.

Duns often have zebra markings on the legs, and a darker 'mask' of colour on the face - may also show 'cobwebbing' on the face too.

The ears often have a fawn colour inside, and dark tips.

They also often have a lighter colour 'lining' the mane and tail - a two-tone mane and tail (often seen in Highlnds, and in Fjords).

Dun on chestnut - red dun, has darker chestnut mane, tail and legs, and diluted body colour

Dun on bay gives bay dun, or yellow or buckskin dun. Legs will be darker, but not black as in a bay with cream, and the body colour is less 'brilliant' - a aby dun has a very red dilute body, a buckskin dun more yellowy colour.

Dun on black gives grulla, or grullo - also known as mouse dun, the body colour is a shade of grey-brown with darker points. Depending on other modifiers (such as sooty) the colour can vary from a silvery grey through to a dark chocolate.
 
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Wally

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Ljóssie, known in Germany and Iceland as Isabelle, pale yellow dun. He has a distinct stripe and zebra markings, often mistaken for Palomino.
 

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Champagne is a dilute similar in appearence to cream, but again with several distinguishing markers.

Champagne is similar to homozygous cream (cremello) in that it dilutes both skin and hair pigment, but differs in that heterozygous cream dilutes only hair and not skin. Champagne horses have pink or pumpkin skin (sometimes mottled) regardless to how many genes they carry.

There is currently no test for the champagne gene.* The best way is to have known a foal from birth - champagne horses have a few unique pointers that ocur from birth.

*A test for champagne is now available - the mutation responsible for champagne has been identified by the University of Kentucky.

One unusual trait most champagne horses have is that they are born dark - bay, black or chestnut - but with pink skin and blue eyes. As the foal coat sheds out, they lighten in colour, the skin mottles, and their eyes darken to an amber or hazel shade. This is the reverse of most horse colours, which tend to be born pale, and darken as they grow older.

Champagne dilutes black and red pigment - black becomes a lighter chocolate colour, and red becomes a golden colour.

Champagne on chestnut gives Gold Champagne. These horses are very similar to palomino in appearance - golden body colour, with pale mane and tail. Some have white mane and tail - others have a more golden shade. They differ from palominos in that they have pink skin (although sometimes this can be so mottled it gives the appearance of being dark in places) and amber eyes.

Champagne on bay is called Amber Champagne. It resembles a buckskin, but the legs, mane and tail will be pale in colour (brownish instead of black).

Champagne on black gives Classic Champagne. This is a striking colour - similar to that seen in Weimaraner dogs. The coat is a sort of grey brown, with darker points, on a pink skin. These horses, like all champagne horses, have light amber or hazel eyes.
 
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chev

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Thanks Wally!

Finally, silver dapple.

This gene is probably one of the most striking of the dilutes - it works on black pigment, and not only dilutes it but changes it completely to a lighter chocolate colour. Mane and tail are lightened to a silvery cream colour, the effect of which can be quite dramatic.

Silver does not dilute red pigment.

Silver on black horses will cause the body to change to a flat chocolatey colour, with a darker head or mask. The shades range from a pale milky brown colour through to a deep grey brown. Mane and tail hair is subject to a more extreme lighening, and can be almost white. The gene occurs in several breeds - notably the Rocky Mountain horses, Icelandics, Welsh, Missouri Fox Trotters and more.

Silver on a chestnut will have no visible effect. For this reason, some bay silver dapples born to chestnuts carrying the silver gene are mislabelled liver chestnut, or dun, or flaxen chestnut.

Silver on bay creates a colour that varies from a red body with dark legs and an almost white mane and tail through to colours remarkably similar to some liver chestnuts.

Foals are often born with white eyelashes, and hooves show characteristic black and white striping - not at all like the striping seen on Appies and Paints.

This is Causemountain Excalibur, verified silver dapple Welsh pony. If you look closely you can see the white eyelashes on the second pic.








So there we go... the dilute genes. Not all dilutes occur in all breeds - the Icelandic is one of the few breeds that carry all four dilutes, which accounts for the wild range of colours they appear!
 
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Wally

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Here are all the main duns available in the Fjord horse......any colour you like so long as it's dun!:D :D
 

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chev

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Brilliant! Shows the lightening along the edges of the mane nicely too - this isn't restricted to the Fjord, although it's most notable in Fjords - it's a characteristic of the dun gene.
 

Mossy

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Advice please. Moss started off grey with darker points and zebra legs. He is definitely silver all over now, slight flea bite effect in summer, black skin, and hooves and no dorsal stripe. Both parents were exactly the same. Pure Highland. If I have understood you correctly, dun working on black???. If you have H&H 30th Dec his back end is in the Spooners Picture.
 

chev

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Don't have H&H to hand - but is he a bit like the middle Fjord in Wally's post? Sounds very much like dun on black - at it's lightest, the colour is known as silver dun (or silver grullo if it's a Mustang!).
 

Wally

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The middle Fjord is known as White dun and is the rarest of the dun colours. The silver dun is bottom right.

Here's Kvikur (bloke) he's silver dun.
 

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Wally

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What colur would you describe this as?
 

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Thanks for the dun stuff Wally. Fjords I know have their own very strict definitions.

As for the colour of the last one... silver dapple on black - and a really nice example of it too! The silver has diluted the black body to that dark chocolate colour, and the mane and tail to that almost white colour. It's really very striking when it's that dramatic!

edit to add that this kind of colouring can actually be quite deceptive - a flaxen chestnut with the dun gene can appear very similar to silver dapple - as can some palominos, amazingly enough, particularly if there are other modifiers like sooty at work.

One way to tell if a silver dapple really is a black with silver is to test for the base colour - if it comes back as red, it's not a silver.

*Edited to add that a test for silver itself (the Z allele) is now available.*
 
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Wally

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Oohh you do know your stuff....and this chev?

This is facinating........
 

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chev

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Looks like another silver dapple to me - although the body is lighter than the first, and the mane isn't quite as white, it's still very typical of the way silver modifies a black coat. This one actually has dapples too - in spite of the fact that it's known as silver dapple, not all horses with this gene are dappled at all!

This one does also have a darker mask so it's possible there's a dun gene in there somewhere too, although that's not neccessarily the case.
 

Jaimee

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Chev you said dun usually has a dorsal stripe. It is the most consistent characteristic of dun! A horse which has the dun gene will always have a dorsal stripe and it will have vivid edges, countershading can have a similar effect but not usually sharp edges to the stripe :)
 

chev

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True - but there are also dun factor markings, which may or may not include the dorsal stripe. A horse that shows dun factor markings may have the dilute body colour, the mask, and the lighter hair in mane and tail for example but no obvious stripe - it's believed that dun factor markings may be part of a more complex set of genetics than a simple dun gene (especially given the fact that horses left to breed untouched can develop dun colouring over several generations where none of them carried the dun gene to begin with).

To register a horse with a dun horse society though it must have a dorsal stripe.
 

Floob

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Wally - we have those exact pictures hanging up on the wall at the RS.

So Freyja is a red dun (Fjord brown dun on Chestnut)

And melody is a bay dun? she almost looks like a bright bay, but with distinct dorsal stripe and dark (but not quite black mane and tail).

Honey is also a bay dun, but much lighter and more like buckskin

Joe must be buckskin then? He definetly has black points and a black mane and tail with yellow body, but he goes darker in summer and he gets dapples?
 

willumau

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Hi Chev
Thanks for all your information on dilute genetics. In October I posted photos of Velvet who was born very very black. Her Dad is Perlino so we knew she was a dilute and you advised she was Smokey Black. Her colouring has really changed now and I have posted some photos of her at 11 weeks.
Link below

http://www.newrider.com/forum/showthread.php?t=99889

The stallion owner has advised that she is a Black Buckskin because she also has Agouti. What I am surprised by is the light buckskin colour patch that is growing at a rapid pace from her nearside shoulder, it just suddenly appeared as a small patch at the top of her leg when she was about 4 weeks old and is spreading fast - it is now all up her shoulder (as in photo). If you have time, I would really appreciate your comments in my post. I have also noticed some horizontal striping going around her neck, it is black/darkred shaded striping, difficult to see unless you are close up.

Considering I was expecting a Palomino foal from my Chestnut mare I am intrigued by this little foal of many colours.

Lynda
 
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Black Beastie

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I know a stallion that is double dilute for cremello and palomino and If he is out to another palomino then he usually produces either cremello foals or light palominos. When he was put to a strawberry roan he produced a Palomino the first time and a buckskin the second and whe he was put to a black mare a gorgeous gold/black dun faol was the result.

i always wondered what the breeder meant by double dilute but I didn't want to seem ignorant by asking!!!

Here is the buckskin.... Iwas gonna buy her but parents said no :mad:

Nikki xxxx
 
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chev

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willumau - that's an amazing change! Yes, she's buckskin not smoky black. It's unusual to find bay based foals born quite that dark, but it can happen; one of my fillies was born black and shed out to the most incredibly dark bay. More unusual still to see a buckskin foal born that dark! but she'd definitely buckskin! :D
 
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