Last Updated on January 21, 2022
Horses and ponies come in various coat colors, with a wide range of different markings. But what determines the color a horse will be? And is there a cream gene in horses?
The genetic influences behind horse coat colors are a complicated and fascinating topic. It can be great fun trying to figure out what makes a horse turn out a certain color! Let’s take a look at the cream gene in horses and find out what makes this unusual coat color.
What Makes A Horse Have A Cream Coat Color?
The reason that some horses have a cream coat color is that they have a gene called the cream dilution gene. There are several different dilution genes in horses, such as the dun dilution gene and the champagne dilution gene. However, the effect of these dilution genes will be different according to the basic coat color of the horse, and how many copies of the dilution gene they have.
Interestingly, there are only two basic coat colors in horses – red (chestnut) and black. The other most common color, bay, is a combination of the two. All the other coat colors we see in horses are based on these three colors but are modified by other genetic factors.
So, when a horse has a dilution gene, this lightens the coat. Depending on the gene and whether the horse has one or two copies of it, this may happen all over the body or just at certain points. This is why we get horses that have legs, manes, and tails that are a different color to the body.
If a horse inherits the cream gene from just one parent, it will have a lesser effect than if the gene comes from both parents. A good example of this is when a horse with a bay base color also has cream genes. One cream gene will result in a buckskin color, whilst two will give a much lighter perlino color.
Fun fact – some breeds, such as Arabians and Haflingers, do not carry the cream gene! This means you will never see any cream-colored horses in these breeds.
Read more about Best Names For Colored Horses
Is The Cream Gene In Horses Dominant?
The cream gene in horses is dominant, and if it is passed on it will always affect the color of the coat. The level of the color change will vary according to whether the horse has one or two copies of the gene.
This means that, if we know the genetic makeup of the dam and the sire, we can accurately predict the color that a foal could be. For example, if you take a mare and stallion that each has one cream gene, there is a 25% chance that their foal will have two cream genes. However, the base color of each parent will also affect the coat color of the foal.
However, there is one gene that is the genetic trump card and will always out rule any other genetic color influences! This is the grey color gene, which causes depigmentation of the hair. This is a gradual process, so a horse can be born any coat color and turn grey over time.
Find more information about How Do Horses Get Their Color? Horse Color Genetics
Can You Get A Cream Horse Without The Cream Gene?
Confusingly, there are many other dilution genes that produce a coat color very similar to the cream gene! And to make matters even more complicated, a horse can have more than one dilution gene, giving an effect called a ‘pseudo double dilution’.
Dilution genes that produce colors very similar to cream include the champagne gene, the silver dapple gene, and the pearl gene. The dun gene can also produce a color that is very similar to a single cream gene.
So, as we have learned, a horse will have a cream-colored coat if it has the cream dilution gene. However, it is not quite as simple as this! There are many different variations of the cream coat color, and which one a horse depends on many other genetic factors.
We’d love to hear what you think about cream-colored horses! Have you always dreamed of owning one of these beautiful equines? Or maybe you’ve managed to accurately predict the coat color of your new foal? Leave a comment below, and we’ll get back to you!
What Are Cream Colored Horses Called?
The gene that gives horses a coat color can result in many different types of cream coat color in horses. Horse coat colors with the cream gene include:
Palomino - golden coat with white mane and tail
Buckskin - golden coat with black mane and tail
Smoky Black - a dull black coat color, sometimes with amber eyes
Cremello - almost white coat, mane, and tail; with blue eyes
Perlino - also almost white with blue eyes, but with a reddish tinge to the mane and tail
Smoky Cream - pale cream coat with a coffee-colored tint to the mane and tail
What Is The Cream Gene In Horses?
In horses, the cream gene (CCr) is a dilution gene, responsible for diluting the skin, coat, and eye colors. The strength and extent of this color change depends on the base color of the horse's coat, which will be either black or chestnut.
The cream gene in horses also has different effects depending on whether the horse has cream genes from one or both parents. The presence of other dilution genes will result in other changes to the shading of the coat colors.
What Colorings Are A Result Of The Crème Dilution Gene?
When a horse has a cream dilution gene, the color of the coat will depend on what the base color is and whether it has one or two cream genes.
A chestnut horse with one cream gene will be palamino, but one with both cream genes will be cremello. A black horse will be either smoky black if it has one cream gene, or smoky cream if it has both. The buckskin and perlino coat colors come from a bay base coat with the cream dilution gene; the former has one cream gene and the latter has both.
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