Last Updated on January 26, 2022
Horses come in a wide range of colors with many different markings. Champagne-colored horses are highly sought after but can be fairly uncommon. But have you ever wondered how a horse ends up a beautiful champagne color?
The science behind horse coloring is a fascinating topic, as there are a huge number of genetic variations that result in a wide range of coat colors and markings. Let’s find out more!
Why Do Some Horses Have A Champagne Colored Coat?
The color of a horse’s coat is determined by the genes it inherits from its parents. The dam and the sire of a foal each pass on one copy of each pair of genes, and it is the resulting combination of genes in these pairs that creates the coloring of the horse.
To start with, all horses are based on just two colors – black and red (chestnut). The combination of these two basic colors gives us the very common bay coloring seen on horses. However, other genetic influences can cause this basic coloring to do weird and wonderful things!
The gene that creates a champagne-colored coat is called a dilution gene. Dilution genes act on some or all of the hairs on the body, mane, and tail, creating multiple variations on the basic coat colors. Other dilution genes in horses include dun, cream, mushroom, silver, and pearl.
The champagne dilution gene will dilute any black hairs to a taupe color, and turn all red hairs gold. This gene is unlike some of the other dilution genes, as it acts on all the hair, including the mane, tail, legs, and face.
If a horse has a champagne dilution gene, this is always dominant and will always result in champagne coloring. Unlike other dilution genes, the effect does not change if the horse has one or two copies of the gene. However, if a horse has both copies of the champagne dilution gene then there is a 100% chance that its offspring will inherit its champagne coloring.
Horses with champagne dilution genes can also have other color-influencing genes. So, a champagne-colored horse could potentially also become a grey horse, or you could have a champagne-colored horse with paint horse markings.
What Are The Different Types Of Champagne Horse Color?
The gene responsible for creating champagne coloring will create a different effect depending on the original coat color of the horse. Here are the three main types of champagne horse color:
Classic Champagne Colored Horses
This coloring occurs when the horse has a black base coat color. The champagne dilution gene changes all black hair to a taupe color. The result will be a horse that has a dark tan-colored body, with brown points.
Gold Champagne Horse Color
Gold champagne is the result of the champagne dilution acting on a red base coat. So, if a horse is sorrel or chestnut, the hairs on the body will become golden, and the mane and tail will be almost white. This causes a lot of people to mistake a gold champagne horse color for a palomino.
Amber Champagne Colored Horses
Amber champagne coloring occurs when the base coat of the horse is bay or brown. The red hairs will be diluted to tan, and the black hairs diluted to brown. This coloring closely resembles a buckskin.
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How To Tell If A Horse Is Champagne Colored
As we can see, the champagne coloring in horses closely resembles many other horse colors. So, is there a way we can identify if a horse has champagne color genes?
Luckily, there are some tell-tale signs that set champagne-colored horses apart from those with other color dilution genes, such as dun or cream. Here are some key features that you would normally expect to see in a horse with champagne coloring:
- Skin Color – this should be pink or lavender colored, with many dark freckles.
- Eye Color – normally blue-green at birth, darkening to amber, hazel, or light brown as the horse grows older.
- Coat Appearance – champagne horses often have a metallic sheen to the coat
Champagne Colored Horses Summary
So, as we have learned, champagne-colored horses have a very unusual and striking appearance and are highly sought after. This coloring occurs as a result of the champagne dilution gene, that lightens and changes the color of black and red hairs. The resulting coloring varies depending on the original base coat of the horse.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about the champagne horse color! Do you dream of owning a horse with a beautiful champagne coat? Or perhaps you prefer a palomino or cremello color? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
What Is A Champagne Colored Horse?
A champagne colored horse is one that carries a specific gene that lightens the base coat color. The reason that it is called champagne is because the resulting color very much resembles this classic alcoholic beverage!
The type of coloring that a champagne colored horse has depends on what the base coat color is, and whether there are any other genetic factors involved. The champagne dilution gene will lighten black hairs to a taupe color, and red hairs will become gold.
Are Champagne Colored Horses Rare?
Champagne colored horses are very rare, as the gene responsible for this coloring is only found in a few horse breeds, most located in America. The champagne coat color gene is found in famous American breeds such as the American Quarter Horse, the American Saddlebred, and the Tennessee Walking Horse. The American Cream Draft horse is famous for its gold champagne coloring.
How Do You Get A Champagne Colored Horse?
To get a champagne colored horse you first need a dam or sire that carries the champagne coat dilution gene. This is much more prevalent in certain breeds of horse, particularly in America. Tests are available to identify if a horse carries the champagne gene, and the likelihood of it being passed on to any offspring.
If a champagne colored horse has two copies of the champagne dilution gene, there is a 100% certainty that its foals will also have champagne coloring. If it has just one copy of the champagne gene then there is a 50% chance of a champagne foal.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE