Tag Archives | color shifting

More examples of appaloosa color shifting


I have been busy with work on the upcoming book, but I wanted to share some good examples of the color shifting found in some horses with the Leopard Complex (Lp) mutation. Appaloosa shows are less common than Paint shows in this area, so I was glad when one was scheduled for the Garrison Arena in nearby Clemson, South Carolina on a weekend that I was free to attend.

The mare above is a shade of warm pewter gray that is very common in appaloosas. I would expect her to test black (E_aa) and negative for dilutions, just as my mare does. What is interesting is that not all black appaloosas end up looking like this. At the same show, there was a jet black leopard. Just why the color shifts on some, but not all, is not yet known, though it does not seem necessary for there to be a true dilution gene present for it to occur.


The change in this guy is more subtle. He might be mistaken for a sun-faded black horse, but look closely at his lower legs. They do not look black, nor do they have the reddish or  yellowish tones that are more typical of sunburnt hair. Instead they have a dark chocolate tone. In my experience, that “off” color is even more noticeable in person – especially in natural light.

That brings me to the last horse. This mare may well be chestnut, but I would not be entirely surprised if she was in fact black-based. Her odd tone is present to an extent in this photo, but it was more obvious in person. She would certainly be an interesting one to test.


I would also add that all three of these horses are probably homozygous, and the last two images are good shots to show how homozygous horses have shell-colored hooves on their unmarked feet. My own mare is heterozygous, and as her images (linked above) show she is actually more diluted in color than the first two of these. Whatever causes the shifting, it does not seem to be influenced by whether or not the horse is homozygous for Lp.

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More appaloosa color shifting


Nicole Jory shared a photo of her appaloosa pony, Jack, in the comments section of the post on snowflake patterns. I wanted to share him here because he is also a great example of color shifting on a bay appaloosa. His stockings hide it on the other three legs, but if you look closely at the left foreleg you can see the odd pewter color where the leg would normally be black. For some reason color shifting seems more common on black appaloosas than on bays, so I was happy to find such a good example.

He also has what I call an “occluding spot” over what would probably have been a bald face. Nicole suspected he was carrying a splash pattern, and I would tend to agree. Blue eyes and this type of face marking are very common in Appaloosas that trace back to Bright Eyes Brother, who is believed to have carried classic splash (SW1).


Jack will make a good jumping off point for the next set of posts about those occluding spots, which I hope to post later over the weekend.

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More appaloosa color shifts


I apologize for the delay in getting these images up. I had hoped to slip them in before I got caught up trying to meet a few deadlines, but that did not work out as planned. Posts to this blog don’t really follow a set schedule, but I suspect they will once again be a bit erratic as I try really hard to finish the revisions to the book. (Yes, I did decided to revise the sections on splashed white to reflect the current studies.)

These are more examples of the kind of color shift seen in some black appaloosas. As I mentioned in the previous post, many – but not all – black appaloosas have a base color that is diluted to a pewter-bronze color. The elderly fewspot gelding in the picture above was mentioned in the comments section of the previous post. Colt was owned by my friend Marge Para, who said he had been registered as a red roan. I suspect a lot of these horses end up registered that way. Here is a close up of Colt’s feet showing a color very similar to that of my mare.


Here is Colt’s lower leg coloring alongside the legs from the previous post. The tone is very similar.


Here are a few more images of an Appaloosa that has this same kind of hard-to-describe body coloring. Although the testing status is not known, it matches the tone seen in other color-shifted black appaloosas enough that I would suspect her of being black rather than dark chestnut.



This one is another difficult color to classify. Because this horse has areas that are more red-gold in tone than pewter-bronze, I suspect he is genetically brown or dark bay.


Here is a face shot that shows the reddish-gold on the end of the nose, contrasting with the more chocolate tones of much of the rest of his coat. On a  brown non-appaloosa those chocolate areas would be black – or at least have a lot of black shading.


Horses like this one, where there are red tones along with cooler, chocolate tones can be especially hard to identify. Many silver dilutes on brown or dark bay can be like this, too. What often makes them stand out compared to a liver chestnut is the discordant warm and cool tones, with the warm tones usually falling where a dark bay or brown horse would be red-gold. With appaloosa patterns, this is even harder to see (particularly in pictures) because the roaning can make areas appear brighter when in fact it is caused by white hairs and not a change in actual color.

I have to thank Kimberley Smith for sharing her photos. I am always grateful for permissions to use photos on the blog, since multiple images are great for showing the range of a color or pattern.

I also mentioned the well-known diluted mare Ava Minted Design in the comments. I decided to save her for a future post, since her situation is a little unique.

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