Last Updated on March 6, 2022
Cremello and perlino horses are two of the most beautiful coat colors of all. But when it comes to cremello vs perlino, what is the difference?
Many people struggle to tell these two colors apart. Let’s look at cremello and perlino coloring in horses and find out how to identify which is which!
How Do Cremello And Perlino Horses Get Their Coat Color?
The cremello and perlino coat colors in horses both come about as a result the same gene, but with one big difference – the original base coat color of the horse is not the same.
Every horse inherits a base coat color gene from its dam and its sire. This can be either a black gene, or a red (chestnut) gene. A horse with two black genes will be black in color, one with two red genes will be chestnut, and a horse with one of each will be bay.
Many horses have just these genes, which is why these three colors are so common. But some horses also carry other genes, which modify the base coat color of the horse.
One example of this is the cream coat color dilution gene. This acts on the base coat color of the horse, lightening it in a very specific way. The effect of this gene varies according to the base coat color, and also whether the horse inherits the dilution gene from one or both parents.
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Color Dilution Gene And Coat Color
Let’s take a look at what effect the cream coat color dilution gene has on different base coat colors:
Chestnut base coat color with one copy of the cream dilution gene will create palamino coat coloring.
Chestnut base coat color with two copies of the cream dilution gene will give a cremello coat color.
Bay base coat color with one copy of the cream dilution gene results in buckskin coloring.
Bay base coat color with two copies of the cream dilution gene gives perlino coloring.
Black base coat color with one copy of the cream dilution gene will create smoky black coat coloring.
Black base coat color with two copies of the cream dilution gene results in a smoky cream coat color.
The reason for this difference is because if a horse has just one copy of the cream dilution gene, it will only affect the hairs with red pigmentation. If a horse has two copies of the cream dilution gene, it will act on both the red and the black hairs.
So, when it comes to cremello vs perlino, both horses will have inherited two copies of the cream coat color dilution gene, but they will have a different base coat color. A cremello has a chestnut base coat color, whereas a perlino has a bay base coat color.
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Cremello Vs Perlino – What Is The Difference?
So, how can we tell the difference between a Cremello and a Perlino by looking at them? There are many similarities between these two coat colors, but on close inspection, you will see some subtle differences too.
Both the cremello and the perlino have a distinctive pale cream coat color. This is because the base coat color of the body of the cremello and the perlino is the same.
However, it is when we look at the mane and tail that we can see a clear difference between the cremello and the perlino, This is because the base color of the mane and tail of the cremello is chestnut, whereas the perlino is based on a bay which has a black mane and tail.
So, the effect on the color of the cremello mane and tail is much more dramatic than the perlino, and it will have hair which is a creamy-white color. The mane and tail of the perlino will appear slightly darker, and have a reddish tinge.
Do Cremello And Perlino Horses Have Blue Eyes?
Interestingly, a horse with two copies of the cream coat color dilution gene will have blue eyes. This means that cremello, perlino, and smoky cream horses will all have blue eyes.
The reason for this is that they have no pigmentation in their eyes. In these coat colors, the skin around the eyes is characteristically pink.
All horses that carry two copies of the cream dilution gene will pass this on to their offspring. So, the foal of a perlino, cremello, or smokey cream horse could be any one of the six colors that originate from the cream dilution gene.
Cremello Vs Perlino Summary
So, as we have learned, when it comes to cremello vs perlino, there are some subtle differences between these two horse coat colors. Both colors are created when a horse inheirits the cream dilution gene from both its dam and its sire. However, the cremello coloring originates from a chestnut base coat color, whereas a perlino comes from a bay base coat color.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on cremello vs perlino – do you prefer one of these colors more than the other? Or perhaps you’re not sure if your horse has a perlino or buckskin coat color? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Is A Cremello Horse Rare?
A cremello colored horse is quite rare, and horses with this coloring are quite uncommon. Some breeds of horse are more likely to have cremello coloring, such as the American Quarter Horse.
Is Perlino A Double Dilute?
To have cremello coloring, a horse must inherit the cream coat color dilution gene from both its dam and its sire. This is termed a 'double dilute', and is the reason that this coloring is quite rare.
Do Cremello Horses Sunburn?
Horses are prone to sunburn on areas of skin that lack pigmentation, such as horses with patches of white hair. A cremello horse actually has pigmentation in its skin, although it is very pale. This means that a cremello horse is less likely to get sunburn than one with a white face.
However, the pink skin of a cremello is still relatively sensitive, and should be protected in sunny weather. A face mask or nose net can be used to protect a cremello horse from sunburn.
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
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN REVN RVN A1