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How Your Horse Got His Color (And Why You Should Care)

https://www.besteverpads.com/how-your-horse-got-his-color-and-why-you-should-care/

By Lindsay J. Westley         Apr 28, 2015

Congenital Stationary Night Blindness, Overo Lethal White Syndrome (OLWS), Breeding Planning, Genetics

A horse’s coat color genetics are important not just for aesthetic reasons or breed registry inclusion; they can also have serious health implications.


UC DAVIS VETERINARY GENETICS LABORATORY (2015) - http://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/coatcolor.php
 

A REFERENCE GUIDE: Arabian Coat Coloration.


To understand horse color genetics you need to realise that horse colors are under seperate genetic control from patterns and markings. Therefore when first learning about horse color genetics it is generally helpful to initially ignore white markings.

If you are specifically interested in spotting or appaloosas these have a genetics of their own. The underlying color, whether a paint is black (as in piebalds) or chestnut (as in skewbalds) for example, is determined by the genes controlling horse color. Similarly red roans are chestnuts with a roaning pattern, with the coat color and roaning determined by separate genes.

White markings and patterns are due to an absence of color. White leg and face markings are under complex genetic control making it relatively difficult to breed for even markings (i.e. several genes affect these characteristics.) Gray is interesting in that the action of graying genes cause a more or less gradual change in the underlying coat color.  It is a process that occurs with ageing so that a gray foal is born some other color and eventually looks almost white though they are not genetically white horses.

See: Genetics by D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD below

Splashed White: Definition and Classification

Splashed white has a somewhat restricted range in a few breeds such as Welsh Pony, Finnish Draft Horses, and Paint horses. It can occur as a very rare surprise in a number of other, generally sold-colored breeds. It can easily be confused with lightly roaned or lightly speckled sabinos. In North America, most horses that appear to be splashed white are really cleanly marked sabinos, which lack the roaning and speckling that usually accompanies common manifestations of sabino. Differences between splashed white and sabino horses can be subtle, and the result is that some horses are nearly impossible to identify accurately unless parents or progeny are inspected, as they can shed light on which pattern is present. (pg. 70)

Splashed White: Genetic Control.

Splashed white is rare, but may be occurring more commonly in the Paint breed in North America. It has been studied in some European populations such as the Welsh Pony and the Finnish Draft Horse, and the prevailing hypothesis was that it was a recessive pattern. However, Dr. Ann Bowling's recent work with overo patterns indicates that the splashed white pattern is actually due to a dominant gene (Spls). Homozygotes have not been documented, which is similar to the cases for frame and sabino alleles. (Pg. 70)

General Consideration of "Overo" Genetics

A major problem that has confused recognition of the frame, sabino and splashed white patterns as arising from dominant genes is that they frequently pop up out of parents that do not have body spots. This phenomenon occurs with the frame, sabino, and splashed white patterns. Some such unexpected spotted horses are no doubt new mutations to these alleles. However, some probably result from the persisitence of minimally marked horses that have the genetic machinery for one of the spotting patterns, but are not themselves expressing body spots. These minimally marked horses do persist in registered populations, such as the American Quarter Horse and Welsh Pony, in which body spots would eliminate them from registration. Only when body spots appear do breeders take note, at which point the patterns seem to have come from nowhere. A close look at ancestors, though, will usually reveal an extensive leg or head mark that betrays the presence of one of these spotting genes. When spotted horses, from nonspotted parents, are themselves used for breeding they do consistently produce the patterns in the same manner as would be expected from dominant genes.


A Reference Guide: Arabian Coat Coloration.


WPCSA - Welsh Pony & Cob Society of America

 

The excessive white issue NEVER WAS, and IS NOT whether a pony or cob is a purebred or not.
THE ISSUE IS whether an animal itself meets the rules and requirements for registration in the purebred registry..
Excessively white marked Welsh ponies and pinto Welsh do not meet the rule on color. The registration rule states NO PIEBALDS OR SKEWBALDS. Piebalds and Skewbalds ARE pintos, or in more modern nomenclature 'paint color', specifically Overo. In the near past there were diagrams printed by the WPSA designating the acceptable and unacceptable areas of white on the body. BELLY SPOTS and DISJOINTED WHITE were unacceptable.
That is the issue at the WPCSA, and it is obvious that if a WPCS rule, or policy suits the goals of the
 WPCSA Board of Directors and it's Committees, every effort is made to adopt a similar program.
But if a WPCS rule or policy does not suit the direction in which the Board of Directors wishes the WPCSA to go the BOD appoints a Committee to study the matter,  the resulting recommendation by the Committee will be followed regardless of the opinion of the general membership. In the case of registration of excessively white Welsh, it was the opinion of a majority of the general membership attending the General Meeting in 2006 that the WPCSA SHOULD begin a separate Registry for those purebreds exhibiting coloration which prevented them from being registered in Sections A, B, C or D (as does the UK Registry). In this case the BOD decided it is not fair to segregate excessively white and pinto Welsh into their own section of the registry, instead those excessively white and pinto Welsh have been registered in the original sections despite the piebald and skewbald rule which remains on the books. However, the WPCS of Great Britain (which the WPCSA purports to emulate) has revised their registration rule again, to exclude totally Piebald and Skewbald of Tobiano and Overo patterns!

The markings and patterns of the sabino and splash white are not acceptable in our breed registration rules. We believe that purebred Welsh ponies and cobs exhibiting and carrying sabino and splash white, both overo pinto markings, should be registered with the description "SAB/SPL" following their registration number, including their offspring whether loudly colored or not. This designation would make it clear to all breeders and owners of these animals of their historic genetic makeup and allow the breeder or owner to make their own intelligent decisions regarding the breeding of the animals.

These excessive white ponies could be shown in the classes designating their Sections A, B, C and D, in which the Rules for Registration would prevail. This would dispel the current misrepresentation that ponies with excessive white markings represent the Welsh Breed Standard. The decision made by the Board of Directors of the WPCSA to accept excessive white and characteristically pinto Welsh in its' purebred registries will have longstanding negative effects on Welsh ponies and cobs, and severe adverse effects on the Welsh Breed Standard in the USA.

 

The Welsh Pony Book

by Olive Tilford Dargan,  Printed privately for Charles A. Stone  :  1913

....... there were too many doors left carelessly open. The larger pony of the lower lands was becoming mixed with Cardinganshire cob; and some owners were guilty of letting half-bred Shire colts have the run of the hills. In time the only safe place for the mountain pony would have been the topmost crests, but for an event of happy effect upon his destiny. This was the organization of the Welsh- Pony- and Cob- Society in the Royal Show Yard at Cardiff. Lord Tredegar was the first president, and after him the Earl of Powys. King George became a patron, and the society aquired an impetus that proved it had not been born too soon. The formation of a Stud Book was the initial practical business of the Society, and its first volumes derive special value from the fact that Wales has always tended to the patriarchial system, and her traditions, whether of horses or families, can be relied upon. There have always been wise and prudent breeders in the land; men who could, in some degree, counteract indifference and hold to ideal aim....... Nature long ago accomplished her best for the Welsh pony, and while he was practically an isolated type it was easy to maintain her standard. But with multifarious breeds and half-breeds in proximity, the carelessness of man was beginning to undo her work, and Wales might have followed Ireland in the deterioration of her pony stock and the loss of a fixed type, if the Society had not actively intervened........ Finally, after many difficulties, unwearying effort, and a constant display of good nature, the committee secured the passage of the Act and put an end to what one of the overworked members, exasperated to humor, termed the "unlimited liability sire system."

The UK WPCS Registration rules read:

10. NON-ACCEPTANCE

The Society shall have the right to decline to accept an application for registration or entry when, in its opinion:

10.1 The application form has not been completed in sufficient detail.

10.2 The name of the animal is unsuitable or objectionable.

10.3 The animal is piebald or skewbald in colour.

See the UK WPCS page for their information on The Excessive White Issue

and how THEY HAVE SOLVED IT, ON PAPER IF NOT ACTUAL CONDUCT!

The Welsh Pony and Cob Society
Cymdeithas y Merlod a'r Cobiau Cymreig

A Little History

by Margaret Blackert, Tylwyth Welsh Ponies

“Piebald and skewbald are terms that have been used to describe horses having any of the asymmetrical white patterns.  Piebald refers to a black horse with any of these white spotting patterns, since piebald derives from “magpie,” a black-and-white bird.  Skewbald refers to a nonblack horse with any of these patterns.  Both terms originated in Britain , where white spotting is rare on horses….the terms piebald and skewbald also ignore which specific pattern is present.”[1]

Originally, the stud books of the Welsh Pony and Cob Society (WPCS) ( UK ) allowed any color.  Wynne Davies, noted author and long-time Welsh breeder states that of the 38 stallions registered in the four sections in Volume 1 of the WPCS (UK) Stud Book, “20 were of the hardy black, brown or bay colours, 14 were dark chestnuts, 3 were roans, and only one was grey (Dyoll Starlight).  There were more greys amongst the mares (mainly in Sections A and B rather than the Cobs), the 571 mares being made up of 367 blacks, browns or bays, 109 chestnuts, 40 roans, 34 greys and 21 duns or creams.”[2]

Lady Wentworth, renown breeder of the 1920’s to 1940’s, wrote in a booklet PONIES, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE “Piebalds and skewbalds are never seen amongst correctly bred ones and heavy daubs of white are much disliked.”[3]

So while the piebalds and skewbalds were not clearly excluded from all sections of the WPSC (UK) until 1950-51, they were clearly undesirable.  The Foundation Stock program was still in use, and some outside blood was allowed in the WPCS Stud Books (UK).  Perhaps the reason to add the terminology to accept any color except piebald and skewbald was to keep out “Gypsy blood”, or perhaps it was to restrict the influence of the outside blood which had already been accepted. But the exclusion did not mark a change in sentiment.  It was, rather, a reinforcement of the established custom.  

In an Email from January 4, 2006 , Wynne Davies wrote: “In WPCS UK piebalds and skewbalds were accepted (but not encouraged) up to vol 32 (1939 - 1945).... Vol. 34 (1950 - 51) states Pie and skewbalds banned.”[4]  In the first 39 Stud Books published in Britain , (covering to 1956 and 14,000 ponies) I found a total of four ponies of piebald or skewbald color, and one of those was Foundation Stock. Neither piebalds nor skewbalds were registered as such here in the United States

In America , our stud books combine the years 1913 to 1955 in Volumes III and IV.  This is the first document from the WPCSA I have found to say "Any color, except piebald and skewbald" (page XXIII)[5].   There is a publicity leaflet for Geo. E. Brown’s Stud of Welsh Ponies in Illinois , USA , 1907, which states “Colors, mostly bays and blacks, free of white marks, a few strawberry roans and steel greys.”[6]  This statement indicates he considered no markings a desired trait.   Piebalds and skewbalds were never encouraged in Britain , and never accepted here.  Therefore, the reasoning that by removing Rule 6 the board is merely putting the rules back to the way they “used to be” is misleading, and cannot be considered a valid point.

Science

Two different genes exist in the Welsh which can cause explosive expressions of excessive white.  The more common is the sabino, characterized by high white as the white can creep up into belly spots, roaning through the flanks, and even full fledged pintos.  The British Piebald and Skewbald association has a photo of a sabino pony on its website[7].

It is rare that the sabino will do this, but people who breed them should consider this when making their breeding decisions.   Linebreeding and crossing certain lines seems to really bring this trait out into full-fledged pintos. 

        The other gene is the splash gene.  It is a dominant gene, so you would expect to see it more often than we do; however, it seems there are "suppressor" genes, which limit its expression[8].  So it can sometimes appear without warning.  But there are signs to look for.  "Bottom heavy" facial markings, belly spots, and high and disjointed leg markings indicate the pony may carry the splash gene.  One really needs to be careful with these markings. Environmental factors may or may not have an effect on the expression, but the genes must be present, first, in order for there to be white markings.

        Squamous cell carcinoma is a real threat for equines with pink eyelids, a common trait consistent with sabino, and particularly splash patterns.  I recently attended an equine ophthalmology seminar at Texas A&M University , and the speaker was berating the Pinto and Paint associations for not doing more within their breeds to try to educate owners of the problems associated with wide white facial markings.

        Currently, people have been selecting for "chrome", high white stockings, and wide blazes.  They are wildly popular, especially for first-time buyers who are easily influenced by flash, and competitors in large divisions trying to catch the judge’s eye.  Ponies with lots of white have a greater likelihood of carrying the sabino or splash genes and therefore a greater likelihood of producing excessive white than their more conservative counterparts.  Recently, I have seen the term “sabino” used to promote ponies in advertisements, so there is no doubt that it is the current fashion.

Because of its popularity, we are seeing more white in general, especially in Britain .  Over there, they do not require photos for registration, so they tend to have a few registered that would not have passed our registration rules.  This brings us to the root of the issue.

Currently

       It seems someone purchased a stallion and imported it to the US.  It was NOT a pinto and was registered with the WPCS (UK), however this pony has proven to throw pinto markings.  Our Purebred Registration Eligibility Rule 1 states “Ponies or cobs imported from other countries will be registered at the discretion of the Board of Directors”.  Historically, the Society did not accept FS (Foundation Stock) or FS1 ponies, and would only “list” FS2 mares.  In fact, in Vol. 1 of our Stud Book, the original Rule (5) states:  “Our aim must be to raise the standard, and make it more difficult to obtain an entry in our Stud Book.  For upon keeping up a high standard and insisting upon other desirable qualities …depend the well being of our Stud Book and the future success of our society.”[9]  Instead, our current board believed they had to accept this pony.  They ignored Purebred Registration Eligibility Rule 5, and at the Fall Board Meeting, they changed and effectively abolished Rule 6, which set the white limits[10].

There were other issues, as well, which prompted the rule change.  There is the European Union edict that all animals from registered parents must be allowed to be registered.  This is so that European Union passports can be issued.  This does not affect us, unless we plan to sell a pony to Europe , and even so, the United States is not part of the EU.  But the WPCS (UK) was going to have to change their rules to accept any pony with excessive white.  Well, two weeks after our Board altered Rule 6, the WPCS (UK) established a Section X for ponies that would not otherwise be accepted for registration (excess white, offspring of unlicensed stallions, etc.).  This is a new classification, and the rules are still being worked out, but the British Society’s current rules indicate offspring of ponies listed in Section X are not eligible for registration in Sections A, B, C, or D, they are not allowed to show in WPCS shows, and they are not eligible for WPCS sales[11]. They do have papers and can get their passports, but they do not have all the rights and privileges of a registered section A, B, C, or D.

        Another factor which may have weighed in on the decision- making process for members of the board is the change the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) made in their registration rules.  The AQHA lost a legal battle against someone who wanted to register their Quarter Horse with excessive white against the AQHA rules.   Whereas I'm sure the plaintiff was able to claim a large monetary devaluation because the horse was not allowed AQHA papers, I do not feel the same could be said of a Welsh Pony.  Half-Welsh papers are an option, and, unlike Quarter Horses, many ponies are sold for a great deal of money without their papers.  There are also Sports pony registries which will accept them.  And, while the AQHA is now accepting horses with excessive white, printed on the papers, they have a disclaimer which reads, "This horse has white markings designated under AQHA rules as an undesirable trait and uncharacteristic of the breed." Rule 205, section d[12].  This is repeated in the judging rules.  The AQHA did not exactly welcome them with open arms.  Most of the other Mountain and Moorland breeds have strict color limitations[i].  We are not the only ones.

        Traditionally, it was assumed the piebald and skewbald restriction was to maintain purity—if a piebald or skewbald appeared, some would assume there was a mistake in the breeding shed; it was thought purebred Welsh could not produce such markings.  Now, with DNA testing, we can prove the parentage.  We know now that there are registered Welsh which can and do produce excessive white when the right genes get together. Leaving the restrictions in place, however, can limit the influence of these genes from generations back for generations to come.  When too many of these genes get together, often through inbreeding or linebreeding, they will manifest themselves as excessive white markings.  Excluding piebalds and skewbalds is not a safe-guard which can be replaced by DNA tests.  DNA will only ensure accurate recording of first-generation parentage.  Excluding excessive white markings encourages breeders not to breed individuals so closely related that there is a good likelihood a pinto will be produced. Without the rule as a foundation, there will be no reason for Welsh breeders to exercise discretion when breeding lines known to produce excess white.

The Future

The board did not take action at the meeting in Orlando. While they figured out how to charge for registration of older animals, and what to do with points already won in the Half-Welsh division, they forgot about current Purebred Registration Eligibility Rule 5, which is still “on the books” and says “Piebalds and skewbalds are not eligible for registration”. The WPCSA officials are registering ponies against their own rules.

The Welsh breed would be much better served with the creation of a section E or, to follow the lead of the WPCS, a section X.  Any animal which did not meet the standards set by the old Rule 6 could be listed in this section, following DNA tests to verify parentage.  They would not be allowed to show in purebred classes, but they would be allowed to compete in the Half-Welsh division, as they always have been.  Offspring could be reentered in the appropriate section A, B, C, or D if they met all the registration rules.

Summary

        Some say only a few ponies will be affected.  If this is true, then why cause such a division in the breed for so little gain?   I’ve also heard the argument that nobody is required to register a pony if they feel it has too much white.  I consider this view short-sighted.  I believe this change will affect us all.  Removing this rule contradicts and therefore weakens our breed description which continues to say “any color except piebald and skewbald.”  All the literature from the Society, all the encyclopedias, reference books, and even coloring books which describe the Welsh pony as any color except piebald and skewbald will be contradicted by every piebald and skewbald pony registered.  The breed description is the standard to which all Welsh ponies should be held, and the breed description must be revered, not ignored. 

In addition, I find this rule change to be in violation of Article I of the By-Laws, where it says "The purpose of this Society is to maintain a Registry....while striving to maintain its purity and trueness to type and to further its welfare in every way."  This purpose is repeated in the Rule Book.  Allowing the registration of piebalds and skewbalds conflicts with that mandate.  Having the breed description and the rules in opposition weakens the ability of the Society to ever do anything to maintain the purity and trueness to type of the Welsh Pony and Cob.

So, while there may have been several factors which led to the board’s unanimous decision to change the rules, none of them, singularly or considered all together, warrant making this decision which has such far-reaching effects on the purity, trueness to type, and health and welfare of the Welsh breed.  A few may benefit by being able to register and show their pinto ponies as Welsh, but the breed as a whole, will suffer.  The sanctity of the breed description, that which enables people to recognize Welsh characteristics and determine if a pony or cob has the traits necessary to be a good representative of the Welsh breed, that which the Society was established one hundred years ago to maintain, will be forever compromised with the change.

Various Breed Descriptions and Registration Rules

Fell -  "White markings are restricted to a star and a little white on hind fetlocks."

New Forest - "They come in most colours other than broken colours or blue-eyed cream"

Connemara - "Grey, bay, black, brown, dun (buckskin), with occasional roan, chestnut, palomino and dark-eyed cream." Connemaras are the ONLY native breed that does not include "against excess white" phrasing in the breed standard - this from Irish, UK , and various EU Connemara sites as well as ICCPS (International). Interestingly, the breed standard at the US site includes the statement, "Piebalds and skewbalds are not acceptable for registration."  Looking at pictures on Connemara sites & googling images for "Connemara pony" suggest that excess white is not a problem as the many pictures I looked at showed modest if any white - ONE pony with 4 socks out of over a hundred pictures viewed and many, many meeting the strict Exmoor standard of no white whatsoever. If high white and crop outs do not appear in quantity to raise traditionalist eyebrows, that could be why there is not always a rule or warning against it. Could the US tastes for chrome have prompted that particular warning note?

Exmoor breed standard specifically states absolutely no white at all.

Dartmoor - "The usual colors are bay, brown, black and occasionally grey, chestnut or roan. White markings on the head and legs should be minimal" (from US Dartmoor page) or "Piebald and skewbalds are not allowed. Excessive white markings should be discouraged" (from official breed standard on UK page).

Highlands Ponies - "Unlike some other native breeds Highland ponies do not have to pass a subjective assessment of conformation or height before they are entered in the Stud Book - a pure Highland pony pedigree is all that's needed. (One exception to this: white markings are not liked as possible evidence of cross-breeding in the past, and Highland stallions cannot be registered if more than a small white star present).

Dales - "White markings are confined to no more than a star, snip and white hind fetlocks."

Shetland - "any colour other than spotted.”

Fell -  "White markings are restricted to a star and a little white on hind fetlocks."

New Forest - "They come in most colours other than broken colours or blue-eyed cream"

Connemara - "Grey, bay, black, brown, dun (buckskin), with occasional roan, chestnut, palomino and dark-eyed cream." Connemaras are the ONLY native breed that does not include "against excess white" phrasing in the breed standard - this from Irish, UK , and various EU Connemara sites as well as ICCPS (International). Interestingly, the breed standard at the US site includes the statement, "Piebalds and skewbalds are not acceptable for registration."  Looking at pictures on Connemara sites & googling images for "Connemara pony" suggest that excess white is not a problem as the many pictures I looked at showed modest if any white - ONE pony with 4 socks out of over a hundred pictures viewed and many, many meeting the strict Exmoor standard of no white whatsoever. If high white and crop outs do not appear in quantity to raise traditionalist eyebrows, that could be why there is not always a rule or warning against it. Could the US tastes for chrome have prompted that particular warning note?

Equine Color Genetics (2nd Edition)

by D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD is a professor of pathology and genetics at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Blacksburg, Va. His primary research interest is in genetic control of color in horses, sheep, goats and dogs. Dr. Sponenberg is also active in efforts to conserve rare breeds of livestock.

Overo spotting patterns have only recently been investigated as to their genetic control. They are dominant, but were previously reputed to be recessive. Part of the confusion over these patterns results from the fact that all three, frame, sabino, and splashed white, are frequently lumped together, when in fact each is distinct. At this point, the prudent course is to rely on the specific name for each pattern, while relying on overo (when meaning "non-tobiano), which is what the term has come to mean.  (pg. 66)

Paint/Pinto Patterns

Sabino: Definition and Classification

Another of the overo patterns, called sabino in this guide, has a hopelessly confusing terminology. (pg. 67)

The specific pattern referred to as sabino in this guide is variously called sabino, calico, speckled, flecked or particolored. In the Welsh Pony, flecked and roaned sabino horses with minimal pattern on the body are called "with roaning" as in "bay with roaning". (pg. 68)

The sabino pattern usually involves extensive leg white and facial white. Body spots are usually on the belly, and can either occur as roan areas, speckled areas, or rarely as white patches with clean, crisp edges. Most sabinos are flecked or roaned, and this is especially true in horses with extensive spotting. On extremely white sabinos, color remains as roan or speckled areas on the ears, tail base, flanks, and chest. Some sabinos are solid white, although most have at least some color on the ears. The minimal pattern is simply extensive white marks, and is easily missed as being a paint pattern. Some sabino horses have whole or partial blue eyes. (pg. 68)

The sabino pattern is confusing and has been poorly studied. Accurate identification of minimally marked individuals can be difficult, and has contributed to this confusion. Minimally marked sabino individuals lack body spots and have only white socks and lots of facial white. Such animals are almost never classified as spotted, but are capable of producing spotted offspring. (pg. 69)

Sabino: Genetic Control.

The sabino allele (Sbs) behaves in many cases as though it is a single gene. Recently it has been documented that overo patterns (probably sabino, frame, and splashed white all lumped together as overo) behave as if they are the result of dominant alleles in the Paint breed. Some few instances of lethal white foals have occurred from intermating sabinos, although in other instances white foals produced by such matings have been viable. (Pg. 69)

To further confuse the issue, the current sabino classification may itself include a few genetically distinct patterns, much as the overo classification includes frame, sabino, and splashed white(pg. 69)

The production of lethal white in addition to viable white foals from sabino breeding also is an indication that more than one genetic mechanism may be operational. For these reasons, it is suspected that the sabino classification includes two or three distinct patterns. If this is true, these are expected to be genetically distinct from one another. (pg. 70)

Splashed White: Definition and Classification

Splashed white has a somewhat restricted range in a few breeds such as Welsh Pony, Finnish Draft Horses, and Paint horses. It can occur as a very rare surprise in a number of other, generally sold-colored breeds. It can easily be confused with lightly roaned or lightly speckled sabinos. In North America, most horses that appear to be splashed white are really cleanly marked sabinos, which lack the roaning and speckling that usually accompanies common manifestations of sabino. Differences between splashed white and sabino horses can be subtle, and the result is that some horses are nearly impossible to identify accurately unless parents or progeny are inspected, as they can shed light on which pattern is present. (pg. 70)

Splashed White: Genetic Control.

Splashed white is rare, but may be occurring more commonly in the Paint breed in North America. It has been studied in some European populations such as the Welsh Pony and the Finnish Draft Horse, and the prevailing hypothesis was that it was a recessive pattern. However, Dr. Ann Bowling's recent work with overo patterns indicates that the splashed white pattern is actually due to a dominant gene (Spls). Homozygotes have not been documented, which is similar to the cases for frame and sabino alleles. (Pg. 70)

General Consideration of "Overo" Genetics

A major problem that has confused recognition of the frame, sabino and splashed white patterns as arising from dominant genes is that they frequently pop up out of parents that do not have body spots. This phenomenon occurs with the frame, sabino, and splashed white patterns. Some such unexpected spotted horses are no doubt new mutations to these alleles. However, some probably result from the persisitence of minimally marked horses that have the genetic machinery for one of the spotting patterns, but are not themselves expressing body spots. These minimally marked horses do persist in registered populations, such as the American Quarter Horse and Welsh Pony, in which body spots would eliminate them from registration. Only when body spots appear do breeders take note, at which point the patterns seem to have come from nowhere. A close look at ancestors, though, will usually reveal an extensive leg or head mark that betrays the presence of one of these spotting genes. When spotted horses, from nonspotted parents, are themselves used for breeding they do consistently produce the patterns in the same manner as would be expected from dominant genes.

Preservation Breeding the Past & The Future

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