Equine Coat Color Genetics

Equine coat color genetics determine a horse's coat color. There are many different coat colors possible, but all colors are produced by the action of only a few genes. The simplest genetic default color of all domesticated horses can be described as either "red" or "non-red", depending on whether a gene known as the "Extension" gene is present . When no other genes are active, a "red" horse is the color popularly known as a chestnut. Black coat color occurs when the Extension gene is present, but no other genes are acting on coat color.The Agouti gene can be recognized only in "non-red" horses; it determines whether black color is uniform, creating a black horse, or limited to the extremities of the body, creating a bay horse.

Chestnut, black, and bay are considered the three "base" colors that all remaining coat color genes act upon. There are a number of dilution genes that lighten these three colors in a variety of ways, sometimes affecting skin and eyes as well as hair coat. Genes that affect the distribution of white and pigmented coat, skin and eye color create patterns such as roan, pinto, leopard, white, and even white markings. Some of these patterns may be the result of a single gene, others may be influenced by multiple alleles, Finally the gray gene, which acts differently from other coat color genes, slowly lightens any other hair coat color to white over a period of years, without changing skin or eye color.


Read more about Equine Coat Color Genetics:  Fundamental Concepts and Terminology, Extension, Agouti, Alleles and Effects, Genetic Formulas and Color Definitions

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