Snowflakes and marbles


Before I move on to badger faces, I wanted to share another unusual appaloosa from Steph’s files. She took these pictures at the 2012 Midwest Horse Fair, and I apologize for my less-than-perfect color corrections on them. This particular horse seemed intent on staying in the shade, so I had to play with the settings quite a bit so that his pattern was more visible.

Appaloosas that develop clusters of white hairs are often called snowflake appaloosas. Appaloosas that have larger, overlapping clusters of white hairs are sometimes called marbled. Horses that inherit both varnish roan (Leopard complex, or Lp) and grey seem particularly prone to developing the marbled pattern, but it also occurs on non-greys like this horse. Appaloosas like this tend to stand out from other appaloosa roans because they look more blotchy and contrasted, as the picture of this guy among other appaloosas shows.


If you look closely, this guy looks to have some kind of lacy, spotted hip blanket in addition to the marbling. The marbling also extends down the tailhead in fairly distinct round spots, which I thought was interesting. Like the moldy spots on yesterday’s horse, the whole effect looks very layered, with the darkest spots sitting on the topmost “layer” of the coat.


The marbling was not evenly spread across the coat, but concentrated on the forehand and on the chest in particular. That is more noticeable in this shot.


In some ways those areas are reminiscent of type of patterns seen on horses with the white fungal markings. There are also horses that develop a similar pattern that is not thought to be related to the appaloosa patterns. You can find some of those, and some marbled appaloosas, on this Pintrest board.


Many appaloosas get some clustered spots of white as they roan. Here they are on the ears of my own near-leopard mare.


Around the same time she acquired white spots on her neck, chest and face, though those the existing roaning made them less noticeable than the ones on her ears.


It is not known why some appaloosas develop such an exaggerated version of this kind of clustered white spotting while most do not. Perhaps it is a modifier that redirects the roaning process, much like the Bend Or pattern appears to redirect the the sooty hairs into clusters on some horses. It is also possible that some of these horses may have some unrelated white spotting pattern, since breeders often assemble breeding groups that contain similar-looking colors that have a very different genetic cause.

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13 Responses to Snowflakes and marbles

  1. Nicole Jory July 31, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    snowflake apps have got to be my favorite color pattern. just love it. I used to have a gorgeous little appaloosa pony who was both a possible splash and snowflake… man was he stunning.

    I never really thought about the fact that apps have “layers” of spots… now I will notice it every time I see one! Very interesting!

  2. Jamie COughlin July 31, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    The snowflake pattern used to be much more common but as the QH “look” took over in the 80s you saw less and less of them. But in the 60s and 70s esp. with the Goer line and a few others you used to see quite a few of them. The ares of more concentrated white are pretty typical of the progression of the pattern. YOu can see that on the Pinterest TB/App cross too. The snowflake pattern does seem to get more white over time than the usual marble pattern but unlike greys you can see SOME old color left! I thought itsumm bad that so many people thought this pattern was “ugly” in the past and avoided it. I think it is quite striking. Black Horse Ranch had a few very nice snowflakes in their herd once upon a time.

  3. Nicole Jory July 31, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    whenever I see a nice snowflake I get a chill.. they are so lovely! Here is another pic of my little guy, unfortunately all the good pics I have of him were before I had a very good camera so they really don’t show his pattern very well.

  4. Bette Thatcher August 1, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    I used to have a Varnished Roan Mare that wqs pretty special She could do everything.Unfortunatly they ger old and pass on. I now have a miniature Black mare that had Snowflakes in a very nice pattern last year but they seem to have dissapperaed with her winter coat. Hope that they cone back with her Spring coat as the pattern is very pretty. I love the pattern

    • The Equine Tapestry August 1, 2012 at 7:24 am #

      My mare (the one pictured in the lower part of the post) loses hers when she has her winter coat. So far they reappear each spring, along with new ones, but they aren’t always in the same place. Owning an appaloosa has really made me appreciate just how much they change from day to day!

  5. Virginia August 1, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    I have been looking for this answer for over a year! Thank you. My appaloosa mare was a beautiful blanketed when I purchased her as a 4 year old. She had a couple of white spots along her neck and one on her face. The following year she shed out with just a little bit of roaning along her neck, the following year was a more dramatic difference and now this year she really has almost no color along her front end where once she was solid. Last year she foaled a solid, chestnut colt. Only the slightest small star. This year she foaled a solid palomino colt…but as he is shedding out he has all of these white spots, mostly around his face and behind his ears. He also has white, irregular spots around his body coat that appear to be where he could have lost hair and sun bleached before he shed out except he only had one spot where he had a bump and lost any hair at all. A few of them have a definite lighter color skin underneath. Around his sheath area he has spots also but they are darker than his skin color. When hefinishes shedding I will send pictures along with close ups, if they turn out, of his spots.

    • The Equine Tapestry August 2, 2012 at 6:44 am #

      I would love to see them. I find it really interesting how differently appaloosas roan out.


  1. Overlapping and Interacting « The Equine Tapestry - August 7, 2012

    […] seems to be far less common. That is one reason why some forms of snowflaking (like the one in this post from a few days ago) are so interesting, because it appears that some types do overlap existing […]