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Breeding for Dilute Colors, continued ...


The champagne allele is rare. It is dominant and lightens all colors. At birth, a champagne foal always has pink skin and blue eyes. The coat is usually dark, but lightens with age. Its eyes may gradually turn green or amber. The skin may darken to a pumpkin or purple shade, often with freckles.

The champagne allele, when combined with black, lightens it to a color similar to the slate of a grullo dun, but without the primitive marks. Champagne lightens bay to amber with dark points, very much like buckskin.

A champagne sorrel can be gold all over, or gold with a white mane and tail like a palomino.

When combined with the cremello or silver dapple alleles, a champagne horse may look like a cremello.

There is no genetic test for the champagne allele. However, pink to purplish skin and eyes ranging from blue to amber are reliable signs of champagne.

Silver Dapple

Silver dapple is rare except in a few breeds, notably Icelandic and Rocky Mountain horses, and Shetland ponies. It is a dominant allele that lightens black to colors ranging from flaxen to chocolate brown. It leaves red on the body unchanged, but on the mane and tail it lightens red to flaxen. Silver dapple horses may be confused with sorrels, palominos, or buckskins. A tip-off to the allele is that a silver dapple always has white eyelashes.

Doubling the silver dapple allele does not increase the dilution. Thus, you cannot tell whether a horse is homozygous just by looking. It is not a good idea to breed for homozygous silver dapple because such horses tend to have poor vision.

There is no genetic test for the silver dapple allele.

Compound Dilute Colors

The dun, cremello, champagne and silver dapple alleles can all appear together in one horse. Cremello with champagne creates a shade of crème, and looks very much like homozygous cremello. Silver dapple plus cremello can look like champagne or crème. Combinations that include cremello, champagne or silver dapple can also throw a faintly yellow body with pale brown mane and tail. Except for the missing lineback, such a horse looks like a claybank dun.

Dun with other dilution alleles, even with homozygous cremello, can be very light yet still show a faint lineback and other primitive marks. These are called cream duns or white duns.

Summary: Your Best Breeding Bets

100% Certain Breedings:

For a palomino, breed a sorrel with light mane and tail whose color is caused by homozygous chestnut to a homozygous cremello that is also homozygous chestnut.

For a crème, breed one homozygous cremello to another.

Good Breeding Bets:

You can be almost 100% certain of getting a buckskin if one parent is homozygous cremello, either parent is homozygous bay and no more than one parent carries a recessive black allele.

A homozygous lineback dun will throw linebacks with 100% certainty if bred to any other color. Because there is no genetic test for homozygous dun, your best bet is to use a stallion that has thrown only linebacks.

Homozygous champagne will throw champagnes with 100% certainty if bred to any other color except a cremello crème. Because there is no genetic test for homozygous champagne, your best bet is to use a stallion that has thrown only champagnes even when bred to non-champagne horses.

A buckskin that is homozygous bay will throw 50% buckskins if bred to a sorrel or bay, and will not throw cremellos.

A palomino can throw 50% palominos if bred to a sorrel and will not throw cremellos.

If you breed a silver dapple to a non-silver dapple (make sure the eyelashes are not white), you should avoid getting a nearly blind foal. Depending upon whether the silver dapple is homozygous, you will get either a 100% or 50% chance of a silver dapple foal.



University of California at Davis tests for bay, recessive black, chestnut and cremello: http://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/service/horse/coatcolor.html

International Champagne Horse Registry
PO Box 4430
Paso Robles, CA 93447-4430

American White Horse and Crème Horse Registry
90,000 Edwards Road
Naper, NE 68755

Equine Color Genetics, by D. Phillip Sponenberg, 2nd ed. (Iowa State Press, 2003)

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