Manchado overo

I have had a few people ask me what made the Pato horse so different from any other sabino roan. Several people suggested that the horse looked no different from horses like the one pictured to the left of this group. (That photo came from Notorious Stock, and can be seen in its entirety here.) I’ve set the horse from the previous post alongside him with a photo of a leopard appaloosa rump beside it. It is the organization of the spots on the pato horse into clusters, which are reminiscent of a leopard, that made me wonder if he was displaying a manchado pattern along with sabino. The horse caught my eye because he doesn’t look exactly like either a sabino roan or a leopard, but visually falls somewhat in between.

I also had someone say they had not seen a manchado that looked “anything like” a leopard complex horse. Here is another comparison shot.

It is the quantity of round spots set inside the white ground, often concentrated on the hindquarters, that gives the manchado pattern a leopard-like appearance. (Left is a manchado, right is an appaloosa. Photo used with permission.)

That’s not to say that sabinos cannot have round spots set within a white ground.

But it is unusual to see that concentrated on the top of the rump, and spread continuously over the whole horse. We don’t know that it is impossible, but the oddity of it made me suspect something else might be there.

As I mentioned in the comments of my previous post, Martina Vannelli sent me photos of an oddly patterned Argentinian Polo Pony. I suspected at the time that he was another manchado. His spotting pattern is smaller and denser than that of the others I have seen, but I suspect that may be the effect of one of the sabino genes. Often sabino interacts with other patterning genes by breaking down the original pattern into smaller pieces.

His leg raps make it hard to see his markings but it appears that he has stockings on at least some of his legs. And of course his blazed face is typical of sabino.

We honestly don’t have enough pictures of manchado from enough angles to know exactly what it does, but given that it is primarily a top-down dorsal pattern (unlike sabino which is a bottom-up ventral pattern) I think that sabino might be redirecting the pattern somewhat on this horse. The markings here on the chest are a good example. It is a location that I would expect on a sabino, but the character of the patterning is a little different.

This is the angle that, to me at least, looks most like the manchado pattern. The round appaloosa-like spots is typical – just there are more of them, and each spot is smaller – as is the white tail. White tails seem to be a pretty consistent feature of the pattern.

I want to thank Martina for allowing me to share her photographs. And for those that just like to see pretty horse imagery, I highly recommend her Flickr account. She does beautiful work documenting the horses in Argentina.

Manchado is an extremely rare pinto pattern that has – to date at least – been found only in Argentina. Ever since I first began talking about the manchado pattern, that fact has caused many people to ask if I think there is essentially “something in the water” down there in Argentina that makes that strange color. Some assume that since the pattern is constrained to just that one country, it must be environmental. I am skeptical that there is something unique to any one country that can create such a dramatic pattern. Countries are, after all, human constructs. Why in Argentina, and not Brazil? Or Chile?

To me, it seems more likely that geographic constraints on a color are about founder effect, and not something strange in the Argentinian atmosphere. To put the founder effect in layman’s terms, it simply means that when you start a new group with a small set of animals, the quirky aspects of that specific set of individuals skew what happens later when the population gets bigger. The Argentinian love for odd coloring, for instance, meant that what was brought there was louder on average than the founders used in other countries. (Late nineteenth century literature is full of references to colored horses being bred for the Argentinian market.)

And the breeds where it has occurred aren’t as disparate as one might think. Breeds are more distinct from one another now, but they really were not as recently as 100 years ago. With the possible exception of the Arabian (and even that is open for debate), almost every Argentinian breed on record as having a manchado cannot rule out the use of local mares. At the turn of the last century, top-crossing – that is, the use of males to determine the “breed” designation – was the way things were done almost everywhere, and most certainly where horses of a specific type had to be imported. If a color was in the local mare population, and was not intentionally bred out, then it could spread pretty wide. That would be doubly so if the pattern was recessive.

And the individual horses we know of are not all unrelated. TheĀ  Hackney stallion that the pattern in the above illustration is based on is the grandson of one of the known manchado mares. Both have multiple lines to uniquely Argentinian horses. It would not be impossible to have a recessive pattern there in the native, pre-studbook population (perhaps already of Hackney descent) which then spread.

I think that is a more plausible explanation than something is making the horses odd-colored after conception. Here is the section on the color from Dr. Sponenberg’s Equine Color Genetics (Third Edition):

“The repeatability of the manchado pattern suggests a genetic cause, though the range of breeds in which it occurs is awkward because they are not related nor are they commonly crossed one with the other to produce breeding stock. Paintings of Hackney horses from the 1800s suggest that the pattern has been around at least since then, if only rarely. The sporadic occurrence of manchado suggests that it might be due to a recessive mechanism, and moreover that the allele is rare.”

That pretty much sums up my suspicions on the color as well.

For those that might like to see more examples of the pattern, pictures of a manchado Polo Pony are here, and of course the famous Arabian Trabag can be seen here and here.

(I should clarify that when I say the horses can be traced to Argentinian horses, that is not to imply that the bloodlines used were somehow questionable in nature. Many of the breeds have a long history in the country and have separate founder lines from other countries.)