Oddities


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.

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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!

Body-clipping a horse can give some really strange results, but I thought this warmblood was particularly interesting. I’ve noticed that clipping a horse sometimes reveals dappling that is not evident on the regular coat. That seems especially true for silver dilutes. I’ve also noticed that some clipped horses are rather unevenly colored, and that even more of them grow back with uneven color, but this is the first one that I have seen where those uneven areas look so much like a dappling pattern in reverse.

Here are some more angles on the same horse. (And thank you again to Kim Smith for sharing her pictures. Getting such numerous clear shots of unusual colors is such a treat!)

Notice on this last one how the dark area on the hind leg follows the pattern of the veins, just like ordinary dappling does in reverse.

I must admit that my own experience with clipping is very limited, so I don’t know how common reverse dappling might be, and whether it is something seen when the horse is clipped or something that appears as the coat grows back. Perhaps owners of Miniature Horses, which are often clipped for showing purposes, can share their experience with color changes.

I do know that horses like this are often mistaken for roans or even for duns, especially in photos where the difference in hair length cannot always be seen, because of the contrast between the head and the body color.

This five year-old Saddlebred mare was recently listed on Craigslist, and her owner has allowed me to use her photos here. Longtime readers of the blog might remember the unusual greys that were discussed here (“Ponies Don’t Read”) and here (“Another Unusual Grey”). When I saw those horses, they reminded me of some a handful of unusual roaned Morgans that I had seen, though they were definitely not greys. This mare, however, is a lot more like the Morgans. You can see their pictures on the Morgan Colors site. The one most like this mare can be seen here:
Sleepys Select Rose
Sleepys Select Rose (winter coat)

I have seen a handful of other horses a bit like this one, all with roaning on the body that tends towards dappling or reverse dappling, dark legs and white on the face. I’ve tended to categorize them as some kind of odd sabino roan, simply because right now just about anything that produces roaning and white markings gets lumped into that category. Of the existing categories, it was the closest match. But it is much more likely that what we call “sabino” is a lot of different things. What seems to be true of horses like this mare is that they are usually connected – when their backgrounds can be determined, at least – to sabino roan families of a certain visual type. Those are horses that look quite a lot like true roans, only they are more uniformly roaned over their entire body. They usually have dark legs and some white on the front of the face, rather than the wrap-around blaze typical of ‘flashy white’ sabinos.

I have inquired about this particular mare’s background, to see if there are similar connections, and will post any information I receive. In the meantime, if readers have horses with extensive roaning and white on the face but not the legs, but that are not true, dark-headed roans, I would love to see them.

UPDATE: The mare’s name is Wing’s Sable Sky. Her owner is in the process of getting larger pictures taken, so hopefully I can share those in the near future.

 

Back in July, I posted about an unusual grey Connemara stallion (Ponies don’t read). There I linked to two unusual grey Iberians, Comico IV and Comico VI. Recently someone sent me a link to the stallion in the video above. He is Favacho Único, a Mangalarga Marchador from Brazil. His resemblance to the two Comico horses is striking.

Many wanted to call Comico IV a rabicano. I think the dramatic white tail head (pictured here) was what gave people that impression. In the video of Único, that same trait is very noticeable. It can also be seen in the photo of him on the farm’s website. The concentration of the white on the face and legs is also very similar to the Comico horses.

He does have a grey parent, and he does have grey offspring, although whether the color came from him or not is not immediately clear. Grey is a common color in that particularly bloodline, so ruling the stallion in or out as the source is difficult. It is clear that whatever is going on with his greying, it was progressive. He is presently 27 years old. Here is a video of him as a younger horse.


That is an extreme amount of greying for a horse that, while definitely older, isn’t truly ancient. Still, it is even more unusual for a grey horse to look so dark so late in life. That could have been said for the Comico horses as well. They are certainly oddities!

Whatever it is, there are more horses like him among the Herdade horses, the bloodline that produced Único’s sire. This is Herdade Cadillac. Here is the dam of Herdade Cadillac, Herdade Alteza. The sire of Único, Herdade Teatro, is a paternal half-brother to Cadillac. Notice these horses the same concentration of greying on the face and legs. The stallion, Cadillac, even has the same kind of irregular white spots on the body that can be seen on Único. Finding it within a family like that suggests that there is some kind of genetic component. It would be interesting to test the horses (those still living) to see if they are genetically grey. If that is the case, then it would seem that there is some kind of modifier at work that changes the way the greying progresses.

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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