Tag Archives | somatic mutations

More unusual markings

Cherokee

Readers probably remember this horse from a post made back in August. At the time there was some discussion about whether or not this might be the result of a somatic mutation, or if it was caused by a reaction to something applied to the coat. Because the outline of the markings give the look of a horse smeared with an ointment, quite a few readers thought some kind of reaction to a topical substance must be the cause.

Since that post, the photographer has been in contact with the owner. The horse is named Cherokee, appears to have had the markings at least since he was a yearling, since they are noted on his passport from that age. His name would tend to suggest that his unusual markings were present in some form from quite early. His owner said that his is supposed to be an Irish Draught and Thoroughbred cross, though she mentioned that he does pace so the cross might be with a Standardbred.

But even more intriguing, another reader found a horse with a similar type of marking. This time it is a purebred Arabian mare. Her owner, Sami Alhassoun, kindly gave me permission to share her photos here.

Duja3

Her name is Duja Alforsan and she is of local Egyptian breeding. Sami says that she was born with a white spot on her shoulder about 2 centimeters across. It grew as she matured, but stabilized at its present size when she was fully grown. She has had six foals, none of which have had this type of marking, nor have they produced it in their offspring.

Duja2 copy

The similarity to the markings on Cherokee is quite striking. It does not sound like either case involved anything applied to the coat, so it seems increasingly likely that this is some kind of somatic mutation. That might explain the unusual, non-organic outline. As I mentioned in the original post, the markings on Cherokee – and now Duja – are reminiscent of the odd white striping that some horses have.

Duja

And a hat tip to Maria Hjerppe for coming across Duja and putting me in touch with Sami. One of the best parts about doing this blog is the wide network of people out there looking for unusual horses. I have come to believe that one unusual horse is almost never the only one!

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Unusual white markings

Napoleonic1

I know I promised the “really strange” horse, but I think I will just have to call this Mystery Horse Week because I have a few more odd horses to share before I get to the one I intended. My friend Caroline Jones sent these images from a Napoleonic re-enactment. The horse has odd streaks of white hairs on both sides of his body. It looks almost as if someone smeared white ointment on random parts of his body!

Napoleonic2

In some ways the white areas remind me of some of the white striped horses, like the part-Arabian DA Remote Control. The marks on this horse are broader – more like smears than stripes – and less opaque, and they are present on both sides. To date most of horses with a pattern like the one linked have had stripes only, or at least primarily, on one side of the body.

Napoleonic3

This particular shot shows the varying density of the white hairs a little better. (And the Napoleonic costuming is cool, too.)

If this is not environmental (ie., if it was not caused by something smeared on the horse), and I had to guess, I would suspect that this is another type of somatic mutation, much like the white striping is thought to be. I do believe I have seen at least one other horse with this kind of marking, but I cannot remember where. Certainly if any of the readers has a lead on more horses that look like this, please pass it along. If there is one thing this blog has taught me, it is that if there is one horse with some odd type of pattern, there are probably similar ones somewhere. And that’s what I’ll post for tomorrow’s Mystery Colored Horse. Earlier this year a very odd Saddlebred surfaced, and appeared in this post. Others like her have since surfaced, but just recently someone shared photos of a horse with a documented background, including foal pictures. That should give me enough time to finish assembling the images for the really unusual horse.

Edited: I substituted the word “mystery” for “strange”. While I love anything strange, I realized that the kind folks who sent in pictures of their horses might prefer them to be called something other than “strange”!

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White markings and fungal infections

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

I have had a number of people contact me asking about the color on this mare, currently with the Another Chance 4 Horses rescue. I apologize to those easily upset, since these are photos of a horse in obvious need of a more caring owner. I do want to talk about her coloring, though, because horses like this are often misidentified. I’d love to see her find a good home with someone who would feed her properly, but I also think that all animals are more likely to find permanent homes when the people around them understand what they are – and what they are not.

Horses with this kind of coloring have occurred in the past, and in the case with the most concrete information, it was believed to be the result of a fungal infection. That was the WC Saddlebred Simply Striking. Here is a picture of Simply Striking as he was before the condition. Here is one from after the infection, where he shows a strong resemblance to the rescue mare. In later photos, the white areas are far less distinct, which suggests that some of the hairs later come back dark again. The discolored areas also appear to have spread, though whatever has been used to treat the infection might play a part in that, too.

If infection is part of this type of color, that is important to know because that would place horses like this mare into the same category as horses with somatic mutations. That is, they are “cool colored horses that didn’t come from cool colors and will not themselves produce cool colors.” This is important because historically horses of unexpected colors were hidden, so as not to reflect poorly on the breeding programs that produced them. In some cases, perfectly good horses were culled from breeding just for producing a horse of questionable coloring. The tables have turned somewhat in recent years, so that horses are now more desirable (at least to some) for their unusual colors. That puts horses like this mare at risk for ending up homeless again, since someone looking to recreate the pattern is likely destined for disappointment.

The other problem is when the pattern is mistaken for something else. It seems most often horses like this end up misidentified as appaloosas. Here is a purebred Thoroughbred mare, Pelouse’s Queen, with a similar pattern.

She was part of the Money Creek appaloosa breeding program. In the 1970s, when she was of breeding age, good Thoroughbred mares were in demand to improve the Appaloosa breed. The idea that they could contribute color as well, and lessen the chance of a solid foal, would have been very appealing. In today’s market, it is not hard to imagine someone purchasing a mare like Pelouse’s Queen with the idea that they might be able to found a line of purebred “appaloosa” Thoroughbreds. If her pattern, like the one on Simply Striking, was the result of an infection, then she would be no more likely to pass along color than any other brown Thoroughbred. (Whether she might have a genetic predisposition to recurring fungal infections might be another issue entirely!)

The mare pictured at the top was listed as a “pintaloosa”. In all likelihood, she doesn’t have either a pinto or an appaloosa pattern and would probably breed like an ordinary chestnut mare. Like horses with somatic mutations, she truly is unique. Hopefully she will find a home with someone who appreciates her.

[Note: there is a link to another horse like this in the comments section, and I am hoping to post some more detailed shots of yet another horse in the near future.]

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