July 2012

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 onĀ 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 thisĀ 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.


My friend Steph Michaud sent some pictures from the 2012 Minnesota Horse Expo, which included the really loud chestnut leopard DREA Chief Fireagle. He is a great example of what the leopard pattern looks like on a horse without markings. Appaloosas with white on the face and legs tend to have smaller spots with wider areas of white between them. This effect is sometimes called the Sabino Boost, because the sabino patterns appear to boost the amount of white in other patterns at the expense of the colored areas. Fireagle is particularly interesting because this type of loud patterning is more often seen on appaloosas with a bay or black base color than on those that are chestnut.

But I wanted to share the pictures because Fireagle has what are sometimes called “moldy spots”. Part of what makes the leopard pattern so desirable among appaloosa breeders is that unlike the other colored areas on an appaloosa, the spots do not roan out with age. A leopard is all spots, or nearly so, so the pattern does not change significantly over time. Leopards with moldy spots are the exception in that they develop random white dots inside some of their spots. The amount seems to vary, with some spots developing pinholes of white while others appear to roan out completely.

Because this is something that develops with age, it is sometimes mistaken for greying. Appaloosas that inherit the grey gene do lose their spots, but moldy spots are not caused by greying. Greying does other things to the appaloosa patterns which is worthy of a later post, but that will require tracking down some decent pictures. This, however, seems to be some variation on the normal actions of the Leopard Complex gene.

What I have always found interesting about moldy spots is that they highlight the separate nature of the clustered spots. Loud appaloosas have large patches of color that give the impression they were made by a number of individual spots that overlapped. Because only some of the spots develop “mold”, appaloosas with this trait show that the spots really are distinct entities. They may look like one large colored patch, but as far as the body is concerned they are truly layered. (This can be seen most clearly on Fireagle’s croup, where the different spots have faded in varying degrees.)

This ties in with the upcoming post about occluding spots and badger faces, which are other instances where colored areas behave like layers in a drawing. From there I’d like to get back to the discussion on Belton patterning with some of the images that have been sent to me since the initial post on that topic. That should also put things back on track for regular postings, so stay tuned!

Anyone who has followed the results from the new splashed white tests knows there have been some really surprising results, both in how many horses test negative, and in some of the horses that have tested positive. For those of us that had been studying “classic splash” (splashed white-1) for a while, some of these were perhaps less surprising because we knew that there were blue-eyed horses that looked somewhat like splash, but that did not produce the classic pattern (what we believed to be homozygous). But even there, there have been unexpected surprises. Probably the most dramatic was the Bald Eagle family of Australian Paints. For those that have the Gower color book, this is the splashed white family that was profiled there. I would have guessed (wrongly!) that those were homozygous classic splashes (SW1/SW1) with some type of sabino patterning.

I may have another wrong guess. I have believed that classic splash (SW1) would be found in Marwaris and Kathiawaris. There are certainly horses that have the right kind of pattern. I had hoped that the test on the blue-eyed tovero Marwari above would come up positive, but she was negative. It would have been better if we could have tested one of the horses with the classic pattern like those linked, but it is not a breed with a lot of representatives in the West, so I was tickled to have any blue-eyed horse to sample.

This test coming up negative makes me wonder if those are homozygous splashed white-1 horses, or if there is another mutation that truly makes the same pattern. The Bald Eagle horses at least have some visual differences. I had a particular interest in seeing if the classic pattern (SW1) was in the Marwaris or Kathiawaris because they are so far removed from the breeds where classic splash was first documented. When Valto Klemola found and named the splashed white pattern (what would eventually be splashed white-1) in 1931, he believed it originated in the northern European breeds. It certainly is more prevalent in those breeds than anywhere else except perhaps the American breeds. Finding it in such a genetically distant breeds like the indigenous horses of India would be really interesting, since it would suggest this particular splash mutation is very old.

My friend’s blue-eyed mustang Jag also tested negative for all three splashed patterns and for frame. He has been pictured on the blog before, but here he is again.

It will be interesting to see how many of these horses have splash-type mutations (MITF or PAX3), or if they have unrelated mutations that also happen to give horses blue eyes.


My husband says there is a saying in product development that there always comes a time when you have to shoot the designer, or the product will never make it to the marketplace. It probably says a lot about his good sense that he waited to mention this until after I approved the final proof – one of a seemingly endless successions of “final” proofs – of the book. There is no question that the designer on this project (that would be me) should have been shot some time ago!

But it is done. As I type this, I am waiting for confirmation that Amazon has begun to stock it. It is already available for order from my own website, which has recently been revamped. Now when you visit horsecolor.info, you’ll get a splash page that asks if you are looking for information on the pottery or horse color. Clicking on the Horse Color link will take you to information about horse color, and from there to a page where you can order the print version of the book. (The Kindle version is still in the works.)

In the next few weeks, I will be doing some much-needed maintenance work on both the website and this blog. On the top of my list is moving the Splash Project page to the website. While this blog is wonderful for free-form discussion, I have more options for organizing the information on the Splash Project page with a true web page. I also plan to work on a better structure (and more consistent use of) the blog categories. With more than a year’s worth of archived posts now, the ability to find past topics of interest is even more important.

This will also help me put together a list of those topics that never were developed as intended. While the posts here tend to wander a bit, I do try to go back and finish those posts that were meant to be a set, but that hasn’t always happened. Now that the book is put to bed, I will try to tie up some of the loose ends here. I also have a really large backlog of posts that have waiting while I was finishing up the book. It has only seemed quiet here for the last few weeks!

Really I was looking at too many of these…

Those are page spreads from Color Descriptions section of the book. Here is one from the chapter on Hackneys in the Breeds section.

It has been a long process, and I have certainly learned a lot about publishing in the past year. Hopefully that will pay off in a shortened time frame for the next few volumes!