Oddities


 

Charli

In the first volume of the Equine Tapestry series, I talked about two cases of unexpected dilute foals. The first was a Dutch Draft filly, Marinka van’t Heereind. The second was the Alt-Oldenburg filly Gaja. There is further information in the upcoming volume that covers the light breeds, where similar horses have been born to purebred Arabians. More recently, an entire family of Morgans has been documented that appears to have this same as-yet-unidentified dilution. Laura Behning has put numerous pictures up with photographic pedigrees on her Morgan Colors site. I highly recommend visiting her page!

Possible New Dilution in Morgans

There are also photos of the Arabian family with the similar dilution on the New Dilutions website.

Mireyenion Tos

The color has been called “light black” for lack of any better term, since it appears to dilute the black hair more strongly than the red hair. Because both the Morgans and the two Arabians are closely linebred, and because none of the parents are unusual in color, it is believed that this might be a recessive dilution. It should be noted that these horses have all tested negative for the known dilutions. In appearance, many have looked like the Laura Behning’s Morgan mare, Positively Charmed (“Charli”), who is pictured at the top of this post. Charli is a tested smoky black with the silver dilution. That particular combination produces a body color like milk chocolate, while the skin tends to have a purplish cast. Many of these horses also have paler eyes, but I have not yet seen a silver smoky that had eyes quite as pale as those seen in this Morgan family.

ChubariGreyhound

 

Elvis Brown posted this very interesting Greyhound to the blog’s Facebook page, and was kind enough to give me permission to share him here. Mr. Brown says he owned the dog from age three, and that he had always had the white spots, though at that time he was black. He is thirteen in this picture, and the greying is due to age. Mr. Brown also mentioned that someone from the Greyhound society had previously seen an Irish-bred Greyhound with a similar pattern.

These are somewhat reminiscent of Tetrarch Spots – sometimes called chubari spotting – in horses. Those take their name from the famous Thoroughbred, The Tetrarch, who was well-known for the unusual white spots on his coat. His daughter Mumtaz Mahal and (to a lesser extent) granddaughter Mumtaz Begum were similarly marked.

the_tetrarch_813

 

This kind of spotting in horses is associated with progressive greying, but progressive greying in dogs is different. In dogs grey is strongly associated with black pigment (eumelanin). It is most often seen in longhaired breeds, like the Bearded Collie, or in breeds that do not shed, like the Poodle and the Bedlington Terrier. Greyed dogs tend to be lightest where their hair is the longest, like on the topknot of some of the terriers, and darkest where the hair is short, like on the ears. This suggest that the hair loses pigment as it grows longer, rather than with each shed like a horse. Another interesting aspect of greying in dogs is that while it lightens black pigment, if the gene for black masking is present, it does not alter the black there. That is why Kerry Blue Terriers are born black and turn blue-grey while their face remains dark. The black mask, which would not otherwise be visible on a black dog, is revealed by the greying.

KerryBlue

 

Whatever caused the white ticking on this Greyhound, it does not sound like it is related to greying. In size and placement, the white spots actually look a bit more like Birdcatcher Spots, which are more common on red horses than black ones. Quite a few horse owners report those as increasing in number with age, so they could be considered progressive, though the various kinds of white ticking in horses is another under-researched topic. I have some images to post for that, as well as an update on a related horse from a previous post, for tomorrow.

PerlinoMismark4

PerlinoMismark2

I have seen a few double-dilute foals with unusual dark patches recently, so I was happy when Jess Aisthorpe gave me permission to run the images she took of her day-old cream dilute filly. The patches on her body are not from being wet or dirty, but are a deeper color than the rest of her coat.

PerlinoMismark

The largest area of dark hair covers her left shoulder, but she has smaller patches on both sides of her body and her face.

PerlinoMismark5

PerlinoMismark3

Her markings are very similar to those found on the smoky cream Morgan, Prairie Hill Apache. To date, the other examples of these darker cream patches that I have seen have all been on black-based double creams. The color on Jess’ filly is not yet known, but she has a buckskin sire and a grey dam with a palomino grandsire, so it is possible that she is a perlino or smoky cream.

It would be interesting to know if markings like these are visible – and a pronounced – when the horse is mature. So far the examples I have seen were all in very young foals. If you have experience with double-dilutes with markings like these, please share them. It would be interesting to see more examples, especially if there are both foal and adult photos.

 

While searching through some old binders, I found some photographs of an unusual Appaloosa pattern. I apologize for the rather poor quality of the images, which were taken in a poorly lit arena using a traditional (non-digital) camera. I’ve tried to bump up the brightness without losing too much in the way of detail. Apparently the horse was never in the right position to get a good side shot, which is a shame.

He caught my eye because of how abruptly his coat transitioned to the dark areas of his pattern. Also unusual was how rounded the edges were. This is especially visible on his face and neck.

 

The other unusual aspect of his pattern was the “bleached edge” effect on some of the roaned areas. You can see one on the bridge of his nose, both in the picture above and this one from the front.

 

The above shot also shows how the roaned areas appear to “pool” around the dark parts of his legs. Dark leg marks like this are pretty common on appaloosas, but the nature of the roaning, which looks a lot like fleabiting on a grey, all in discreet areas (with those oddly rounded edges) while areas of relatively clear bay remain is quite odd. If this was an artistic representation, and not a real horse, I would have said the artist needed to work on more realistic transitions  on the legs.

 

On both the leg shots, the faintly whiter outline on the roan areas can be seen. The blanket pattern on his hindquarters, though, is pretty normal. I’ll include a close shot, since the spots show a really nice contrast between the two different types of halo-spotting. The darkest spots have halos that are made up of a mix of white and colored hairs, while the centers are colored. The centermost spot has a halo created by dark skin underneath white hair. The center of that spot is a mix of white and colored hair, though elsewhere there are spots that have dark skin halos and purely colored hair centers.

These photos are probably close to 15 years old now, and I never did learn the name of the horse. If anyone recognizes him, please drop me a note. I’d love to be able to look into his background.

Few posts on this blog have generated as much traffic as the ones about Wing’s Sable Sky, the American Saddlebred with a reversed dappled pattern. (Previous posts about her can be found here and here.) Posts about Sable Sky prompted Julia Bahr to send in photos of her Missouri Foxtrotter Rex’s New Taste of Dallas. Those images showed the progression of the roaning on Dallas as she aged, but because she is a palomino the effect was more subtle than that on Sable Sky.

Soon after that, Joanne Abramson sent pictures of her reversed dappled Miniature mare, Pacific Lady Godiva. Joanne not only had great current pictures, but a series of photos at various ages that show the progression of the roaning. Even more helpful, the base color on Godiva is black bay, so there is plenty of contrast. (For those that have read my book, Joanne may be familiar as she was mentioned in the Acknowledgements. She color tests her entire herd, and posts clear pictures and full testing status, including negative tests, on the Pacific Pintos site. For those with an interest in color, it is a wonderful resource that I highly recommend!)

Pacific Lady Godiva is homozygous for black (EE) and heterozygous at Agouti (Aa). She also tested positive for frame, making her a really good example of just how minimal that pattern can be. (Extremely minimal frames appear to be more common in Miniatures, in my experience.)  Just what might be causing her reversed dappling is open to speculation. But is is clear that the pattern developed over time. Here she is as a weanling.

Not in particular how little white there was on her face at this point, compared to her as a mature horse. Likewise, as a foal she does not appear to have white on her legs, yet as an adult she has an extensively roaned left fore as well as some roaning on the right fore. (In the first two images, she is seven years old.)

The early stages of the roaning are visible in these photos of her at age four. Like the Foxtrotter Dallas, the roaning is more pronounced on the face at this point.

This photo of her back was taken at age six. This placement is a bit different from the two gaited horses in that her patterning is more concentrated along the topline, whereas theirs appears to be more concentrated on the sides. In that way, Godiva is reminiscent of some of the odd Connemaras discussed in the earlier post Ponies Don’t Read. (I have it on my to-do list to contact the owner of Wintermist Sweet Shannon for permission to run photos of her. I have really good images, but nothing runs on the blog without express permission from the photographers, and sometimes that creates a bit of a delay on my part.)

What I also find interesting about Godiva is that her patterning, at least in photos, is not entirely symmetrical. She is more extensively dappled on her right side than on her left, as these face shots show.

I should add that this type of coloring does not really have a name. I have called it “reversed dappled roaning” for lack of any widely accepted terminology. Images of Wing’s Sable Sky – both Dee Dee Murray’s lovely photo and the snapshots that ran with the original Craigslist ad for her – have been widely shared across the internet. Many have called her “giraffe-marked”, which is certainly descriptive. It is also potentially confusing because that term is already widely used, along with the term lacing, for the pattern of reticulated spotting in Miniatures and other breeds.

Certainly the pattern on Godiva is similar in location, and lacing is also progressive. It does look a bit different, though. Cindy Evans took this pictures of Ace of Spades, a Miniature with lacing. It is quite possible that his pattern will progress a bit over time, but the way the pattern extends down the sides (and especially on the neck) on Godiva is a bit different.

But perhaps more importantly, the outline looks quite different. Lacing most often looks like a thin white outline. The pattern on Godiva is wider and has a softer, more diffused outline. (Hopefuly I have not given anyone vertigo by tilting the Joanne’s image of Godiva’s back to match the angle on the image of Spades!)

Seeing detailed images of the progression of this pattern was really helpful. I am really interested to see if the patterns on the three horses in these posts – Godiva, Dallas and Sable Sky – get any more extensive with age.

I also have to thank all the owners and photographers who are so generous with providing images and information for this blog. You help make putting together this blog such an enjoyable experience!

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.

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.

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.

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!

 

 

Earlier this year I posted about an unusual Saddlebred mare offered for sale on Craigslist. That mare, Wing’s Sable Sky, generated more interest than almost any other horse posted here on the blog. Since then Dee Dee Murry has taken some professional shots of what I believe is the same mare. This picture shows the odd reversed roaning even more clearly.

I also received a note from a Julia Bahr about her Missouri Foxtrotter mare Rex’s New Taste of Dallas. As you can see from this picture, Dallas has the same kind of reversed roaning as Sable Sky.

 

There isn’t as much contrast on Dallas as there is on the Saddlebred mare because of her pale base color, but the arrangement of the roaning is remarkably similar. Notice the very pale ears on the Saddlebred, which are also pale on Dallas. There is also a concentration of mottled roaning on the face.

 

Notice how there is a dark line of color on what are otherwise nearly white ears. In some ways this is like a reverse of the kind of pale spider lines seen on some dapple greys.

 

That same reversed veining is visible on her stifle, too.

Dallas is just two years old in these pictures. As a foal, she did not look particularly different from any other palomino tobiano, but Julia said that when she began to shed the edge of her blaze became less distinct and she began to develop snowflakes on her face. Now her body coat has begun to dapple. If the mare at the top of the page is in fact Wing’s Sable Sky, she would be nine years old.

It seems that whatever this is, it is to some degree progressive. With so few horses to go on, it is hard to know what the range of expression might be. Hopefully more horses with a documented history like Dallas will come to light, and a more complete picture of this type of roaning will emerge. In the meantime, a big thank-you to Julia for sending in the photos!

I want to thank everyone for their patience. I have been called away to deal with family issues more than usual this year, and I apologize that I have once again gotten off-track. Barring any further complications, the current topic of color oddities will return tomorrow.

In the meantime I wanted to share a link to a really interesting dog. Recently a puppy was discovered with the same pattern as a siamese cat. This coloring is a form of partial albinism and is caused by a mutation of tyrosinase, one of the enzymes involved in producing pigment. The mutation makes the enzyme temperature sensitive, so that the warmer parts of the body are pale while the cooler areas (like the extremities) are dark. For that reason, pretty much any mammal with this type of mutation is going to look much like the cats. In addition to cats, the pattern is also found in rabbits, mice, guinea pigs and rats like the ones pictured above. (The photo was taken by Diane Özdamar, whose wonderful gallery of rat photos can be found here.)

Up until this one was found, there was no evidence that dogs had a similar mutation. The puppy was said to have been found on the streets of Russia, but he disappeared before he could be tested. A photo of him can be found here. I wish I knew more, but that is all the information I have. Perhaps there are more like him somewhere in Russia. It would be a shame to lose the color now that it has occurred.

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!

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.

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”!

This is “Gump.” He’s a Paint Horse that shows here in the Carolinas, and is the horse that first had me wondering about the possibility of a dark ticking pattern that was separate from any of the white patterning genes. As you can see, he has quite pronounced spotting on his face much like one might expect to see on a leopard. The problem is that were he actually a leopard as well as an overo, those spots would replace his bay areas, not his white areas. (For those just joining the conversation, the two previous posts explain this in much more detail.) I suspect those familiar with leopard patterns would also recognize that there area around his mouth doesn’t look right for the appaloosa pattern, either. It is too “clean”, with the spots and the white very clearly defined. If you cover his face so that just his muzzle shows, he looks like a pinto with “kissy spots” and not a leopard appaloosa.

So he is just a pinto. Here is a side shot to show the rest of his pattern.

As this picture shows, he’s a frame overo. That white on the side of the neck and again on the side of the body are classic placements for that particular pattern. He probably also has one of the sabino patterns, since he has high stockings in the back. Frame does not typically add white to the legs, so frame horses with white legs are usually carrying something else in addition to frame. Since the various sabino patterns are widespread in riding horses, and especially in stock horses, it’s the most likely cause.

What struck me about Gump is that his pattern has a torn, angular look, which is quite different from his extremely round ticks.

There is spotting on his leg white, too, though I did not manage to position myself for the best lighting in this photo. Like the spots on his face, these are round even though the rest of his stocking goes up in ragged angles.

The character of the ticking and his pattern do not match.

That is particularly interesting to me, because most of the pinto patterns interact with one another. They don’t just overlap one pattern on top of the other. The presence of one tends to effect the appearance of the others. That overall influence gives most patterned horses a harmonious look. It also complicates matters for those of us interested in teasing apart and defining the different patterns, when the action of one mutation changes the actions of a second, unrelated mutation. Sheila Archer, of The Appaloosa Project, refers to this as patterns “talking” to one another. I have always liked that way of phrasing it, and would say that much of what I find most interesting about patterns these days revolves around those “conversations” between the patterns. The discordant patterns on Gump say that whatever is causing his ticking, it doesn’t seem to be “talking” to the rest of his patterning. That would at least suggest that it is something separate from whatever is causing his pinto pattern.

Gump sat in my “weird stuff” file for years, until last month, when a Facebook friend linked to this horse. When I first saw the image as a thumbnail, I assumed someone had found Gump. The ticking and even her base color is that similar! But that’s not Gump. That’s an Australian sport pony named Haley’s Comet.

Around the same time, another horse came to my attention. Her image was used on the header of the Paint Horse Connection, a quarterly newsletter that goes out to American Paint Horse Association members, and in an article in the Paint Horse Journal.

Like Gump, she is a frame overo, but without the sabino-type leg white. And like Gump, she has the spots that are very concentrated on her face, compared to the spots on her body. Because her body has broad areas of white patterning, it’s even more striking on her.

That was what made me think of the Belton pattern in English Setters. They sometimes have that same kind of larger, more concentrated spotting on the face compared to the body.

They aren’t all like that. One of the most interesting thing about the ticking (Belton) pattern in dogs is that it does have a lot of variation even within a single breed. But on a horse this kind of concentration on the face is quite unusual. Heavily concentrated dark ticking is odd in horses. Having it more pronounced on the face is stranger still.

You might notice that these horses all have a similar spotting arrangement, but that arrangement is rather different from Vision Morinda, the horse posted previously. Her ticking is more uniform, smaller and denser. It is hard to know, with so few horses like this, if these are variations on the same trait, or different things entirely. But having seen a handful of horses like this now, I know I’ll be looking at ticking more closely in the future. And certainly if any readers find horses with interesting spots inside markings or patterns that don’t fit what might be expected for a tobiano or one of the overos, please pass them along!

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