Colorful World of the Gypsy Horse – Dilutes
Welcome to the final post in our multi-week special on Gypsy Horse colors.
There are a few genes that affect coat color that we have not discussed. We will be covering Pearl, Champagne, and Dun.
Let’s start with the champagne gene. Champagne is a dominant gene, like the black gene, meaning it will affect the coat the same way regardless of whether it is heterozygous or homozygous. Red hairs become a shiny gold and black hairs become a chocolate brown. As with all of these dilutions, the shades may vary depending on other color genetics in play. The skin of a champagne horse is pink with freckles and the coat will often, but not always, have a metallic sheen.
This is Lil Champagne Tease, an “amber champagne” appaloosa miniature stallion owned by Five Hills Farm.
Dun is also a dominant gene. Therefore, regardless of whether a horse has one dun gene or two, the effects will be viewable. One of the easiest ways to identify a dun is by a dorsal strip, a dark stripe running down the length of the horse’s spine. Some dun horses also have barring on the back of their forelegs and a shoulder stripe that crosses across their dorsal stripe. These dark markings are referred to as “primitive markings” because the same markings appear on primitive breeds of horses. There are three common shades of dun, each dependent on the base color.
This is The Real Deal (aka Dealer) owned by Superior Stables.
The first shade occurs when a black horse gets a dun gene. The resulting color is anything from a mousey brown to a silvery blue. Because of this, there are many names for this color: blue dun, mouse dun, black dun, and most commonly grullo (grulla). Pictured here is The Real Deal (aka Dealer) of Superior Stables.
A red horse with the dun gene does not have any black pigment. Instead of the black primitive markings, the markings are just a darker shade of red from the rest of the coat. This Icelandic Horse is a lovely example of a red dun. This is a public image so I don’t have any information on the owner.
A “classic dun” is horse with an agouti gene and a dun gene. In other words, the horse is a bay dun. These bay duns generally have a tan or gold coat. This mustang shows the tan color, as well as the leg barring.
The last dilution gene we’re going to discuss is one that is actually still fairly new to the horse world. It’s called pearl. Pearl is believed to be an allele of the cream gene or a mutation of it. This means that it not a separate gene from cream. You cannot have two cream genes and two pearl genes. Unlike the previous genes, pearl is a recessive gene. A horse that is heterozygous for pearl will not show any effects of it. There is one exception. If a horse has one pearl gene AND one cream gene, the color is affected. This is called a pseudo-double dilute because it acts like a double dilute of the cream gene. The skin is pink, and the eyes are blue, green, or dark tan. The color will vary in shades and depending on the base color. A black based horse becomes a pseudo smokey cream and a red based horse becomes a pseudo cremello. The horse will continue to lighten as it ages. It is almost impossible to know whether a horse is a homozygous for cream or a pearl/cream without genetic testing. However, the pearl gene does give the coat a metallic sheen so that might aid in the decision to test for pearl.
This young Gypsy stallion named Harrie of Vines breeding is a carrier of both cream and pearl. He is black based with an agouti gene. This makes him a Buckskin Pearl.
If a horse is homozygous for pearl and red-based, the dilution will be to a uniform apricot color with green or tan eyes. As of yet, a homozygous pearl Gypsy Horse has not been noted. That is not to say one has not existed, just that if it has no one knew. For an example of a homozygous pearl we have the lovely Andalusian stallion (photo from Aztec Stud).
There are many more combinations of these color and dilution genes that will undoubtedly come up in future articles. However, we have now touched on not just all the Gypsy Horse colors, but a few extras, as well. We hope you have enjoyed the series.