Horses are known for their beauty and power, but their stunning coloring is what makes them really stand out. These unique markings are determined by the genes passed down from the parents to the foals they produce. A simple online tool allows people to predict the possible coat colors of a foal by using basic horse genetics. A foal’s color is determined by the combination of dominant and recessive genes. The Horse Coat Color Generator takes into account the color genes of the dam and sire, and then calculates the likelihood that a baby horse will inherit these genes and express them outwardly.
To understand the complexities of horse genetics, it helps to know what alleles are. These are mutations that alter a gene’s normal function. Generally, dominant alleles are represented with capital letters while recessive alleles are represented with lower case letters. A person who has two copies of a dominant gene will display the trait. For example, a black horse will have the E gene which will cause him to show that color. If he also carries a recessive gene, such as the r gene, he will be heterozygous and exhibit a brown or chestnut appearance.
There are two primary pigments that determine the equine coat color: black and red. Black horses are the dominant phenotype for colors such as bay, brown, grulla and buckskin, while red is recessive for black-point coloring (mane and tail rims, ear rims and legs) and zebra dun.
Many other inherited colors and patterns stem from these two basic base color genes. Among these are champagne, cremello, red dun and silver dapple. Other dilutions, such as pinto and sabino, are combinations of these basic genes with other modifier genes.
The roan genes, such as the w gene for white and the r gene for splotches, allow horses to be a combination of base colors. For example, a horse can be a chestnut roan, blue roan or black roan if it receives the w gene from its sire and the r gene from its dam.
Another unique roan pattern is the sabino. A sabino is a semi-dominant paint with white face and body markings and white hooves. Unlike other white horses, which can be affected by the deadly overo lethal white syndrome, sabino foals are typically healthy.
As with all things related to equines, there are still more genes that will eventually be discovered and mapped to a specific color and/or pattern. Until then, the Horse Coat Color Generator is an invaluable resource for horse breeders, owners and enthusiasts.