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A Horse of a Different Color – Unusual Horse Colors
 By mosquito   •   14th Sep 2010   •   33,156 views   •   8 comments
We’ve had a lot of talk about coat colors (A Horse of a Different Color - Tutorial), so I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the most unusual horse coat colors. Some of these are still mysteries, but whatever causes them, they certainly are fun to see.

The Rabicano
Often confused with a roan, a rabicano horse doesn’t actually have a roan gene, even though it looks ‘roany’. How can you tell the difference between a rabicano and a roan? The roan coloring of a rabicano is usually only on its belly and flanks, and rabicano usually have white hairs at the top of the tail, called a ‘skunk tail’.

A recently discovered gene, pearl horses look a bit like palominos, but don’t have the lighter manes and tails. It only occurs in horses with quarter horse or Spanish breed descent, and it still isn’t entirely known how the gene works. In quarter horses, it seems to always trace back to a horse called My Tontime, and her grandson Barlink Macho Man, so it is sometimes called the ‘Barlink factor’.

Dark and light shading
Some horses appear to be bay or chestnut, but seem to be ‘marbled’ or have areas of light or dark coloring. Horses with dark patches, usually on the back and shoulders, are called ‘sooty’, and horses with light patches are ‘pangare’. Fjords, with light underbellies, are often pangare. Pangare horses also often have lighter, ‘flaxen’ manes and tails. The sooty modifier often explains dapples on bay horses too.

Called the ‘Z’ gene or ‘Z’ factor, silver is a dilution of a black coat, usually resulting in a dark chocolate color with a very light mane and tail. Where it comes from is still unclear, but it certainly is beautiful!

Silver Horse z gene

One of the rarest of all equine colorings, brindle is a bit like ‘sooty gone crazy’. On a brindle horse, the coat appears a lighter color with striped clumps of dark hairs, a bit like a tabby cat (even more rare is a dark coat with white stripes). Brindle is what is called a ‘chimeric’ gene. Chimeric genes occur when a mare is pregnant with two non-identical twins, but the two embryos become ‘fused’ into one. What you actually have is two coat colors from two different horses all mixed up. This means chimeric genes, including brindles, are almost totally random and it is almost impossible to breed for it. Geneticists are still trying to figure out the truth behind the brindle gene. It is definitely striking though, and brindle horses often cost a lot of money.

Brindles horse

Weird spots
Unique to horses in Argentina, manchado colored horses look like paint horses in many ways, but don’t carry any genes for spots. It only occurs in Argentina, so it is probably caused by something in the environment, but what it could be no one knows. Birdcatcher spots are random white patches of hair on a dark coat. The pattern is also not genetic, and takes its name from a through bred racehorse that had the spots. Similar to Birdcatcher spots, Bend Or spots are non-genetic dark spots, also named for a thoroughbred racehorse.

Weird spots horse

Some grey horses are born with dark patches that never lighten, keeping a brown or chestnut color reflecting underlying coat color genetics. These are called ‘bloody shoulder marks’, because for no know reason they commonly occur on the shoulder, although they can appear anywhere.

Shiny horses
Most horses can shine just fine with good grooming, but some are born with extremely glossy coats. Some are the result of breed characteristics, like the Akhal-Teke, who have shiny or metallic coats because the hairs of the coat are hollow and reflect more light. Some other horses have this shiny, or ‘satin’ appearance too. Some horses with the ‘champagne’ color gene, which lightens base coat colors, can also have a striking sheen, but it isn’t clear why. Is there a ‘shiny’ or ‘satin’ gene that occurs outside of the Akhal-Teke, maybe unique to ‘champagne’ horses? We just don’t know yet.

Pearl Horse

Having a horse with an unusual color is a lot of fun, but remember beauty is only skin deep. It doesn’t matter if your horse is a one-in-a-million genetic oddity, or one of a million bays, a good horse is worth its weight in gold!

A Horse of a Different Color - Tutorial

A Horse of a Different Color – Unusual Horse Colors
A Horse of a Different Color – Unusual Horse Colors
A Horse of a Different Color – Unusual Horse Colors
A Horse of a Different Color – Unusual Horse Colors
Horse News More In This Category:  General      Horse News More From This Author:  mosquito
Dark Star  
silver usually only happens in rocky mountain horses or thats the most common
  Sep 14, 2010  •  8,774 views
Softball Girl  
So cool are those your horses?
  Sep 14, 2010  •  8,807 views
Wow!! That is some sweet coloring there!! I've never heard of many of those colors!
  Sep 14, 2010  •  8,777 views
HPH Polo  
Actually, the horse in the pic you are calling "pearl" is a perlino. This is a double dilute of buckskin- meaning you have to breed two buckskins together and the offspring gets both dilution genes in order to get this color. Just like breeding two paliminos and getting a cremello. This can occur in any breed of horse that has buckskins or palominos.
  Sep 14, 2010  •  8,916 views
HPH, sorry, that photo was meant to illustrate the 'shiny' coat of the Akhal-teke, not the pearl color. Oops!

As for silvers, the silver gene originates in Scandinavia, so descendants of Scandinavian horses, including Icelandic and Nordic ponies, the British pony breeds, and even Scandinavian warmblood breeds also produce silvers. It is suggested that the Rocky Mountain Horse and some other gaited American breeds that produce silvers (like the Fox Trotter) may trace their ancestry - and even their gait - to Scandinavian ponies.The color may be a key to finding one link in the heritage of the American horse!
  Sep 14, 2010  •  9,758 views
Mystic Magic  
Wow those colours are soo cool. I have herd of most but that really helped understand them all.
  Sep 15, 2010  •  8,893 views
Dark Star  
I'm just saying, they are really common in common gaiting horses (Rockies, Walkers, Fox Trotters)
  Sep 15, 2010  •  8,774 views
There is no such thing as a "Chimeric gene".
  Dec 18, 2010  •  8,833 views
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