Last Updated on February 20, 2022
Paint horses come in many amazing color combinations, and the minimal splash horse coloring is highly sought after. But what do minimal splash horses look like and how do horses get these markings?
Let’s take a look at the fascinating world of horse color genetics and find out!
How Do Horses Get Their Coloring?
The color of a horse is determined by its genetic DNA, inherited from its parents. The foal will get one set of genes from its dam, and another from the sire. These genes form pairs which create the color and markings of the horse.
Every horse has one basic pair of color genes, that decide the basic coat coloring. These can only be one of two options – red or black. If a horse inherits a black color gene from each parent, the basic coat color is black. A pair of red genes gives chestnut coloring, and one each of black and red will result in a bay horse.
With many horses, this is the end of their color genetic story, which is why these colors are so common. However, other horses will also inherit color modifying genes, that alter the base color of the coat. There are many different types of color modifying genes in horses:
- Dilution genes, which lighten the base color of the coat. This gives horses distinctive coloring such as palomino, buckskin, and cremello.
- The grey color gene, which will overrule all other color genes and gradually turn the hairs of the coat grey.
- White spotting pattern genes, which distribute white hairs amongst the base coat color. These can be interspersed, as in roan coloring, or in larger white patches.
What Is A Splash Paint Horse?
A splash paint horse is one that has large white patches of hair over its body. This type of coloring is referred to as pinto markings, and it is very common in American Paint horses. In the past, horses with pinto coloring were highly prized by native Americans, who would select horses with white spotting pattern genes to breed from.
The colored hairs of a splash Paint horse will be determined by the base coat color of the horse and any color modifying genes that are present. The horse will then have white patches of hair over specific areas of its body.
The best way to describe splashed white markings is to imagine that the horse has been dipped into white paint! The lines between colored and white hair are clearly defined, without any feathering or blurred edges.
White hair will cover the legs and often extend up onto the body. The white markings then extend over the underside of the abdomen and up the sides of the chest. The topline of the horse will be colored.
The tail of a horse with splash white markings is often white, or may be white-tipped. A splash white horse normally has extensive white markings on its face. It is very common for splash white horses to have blue eyes.
Read more about Is There A Silver Gene In Horses?
What Is The Difference Between Splashed White And Sabino Markings?
Fans of pinto horse coloring will have noticed that splashed white and sabino markings are very similar! However, there are some subtle differences that can help to identify the color of the horse.
The areas of white hair on a splashed white horse are crisp-edged and blocky, whereas a sabino will have less clearly defined edges to its white markings. A splashed white tends to have horizontally distributed white patches, including the face markings. Blue eyes are also much more common in splashed white horses.
However, to complicate things even further, a horse can have more than one white pattern gene mutation! This can lead to the classic characteristics of certain coat colors becoming less obvious. Breeders of pinto horses try to avoid crossing horses with different white pattern genes, to keep the coloring as pure as possible.
What Is The Splash White Gene In Horses?
There are six different genetic mutations that can cause splashed white coloring in horses, labeled SW-1 through to SW-6. Some of these are more common than others, and it is thought that some combinations of the splashed white gene are more likely to result in genetic abnormalities.
Horses with splashed white coloring have a higher risk of deafness, particularly if the white hair extends to the ears. It is also thought that pairing of the less-common splashed white genes may lead to embryonic death.
What Do Minimal Splash Horses Look Like?
As the name suggests, a minimal splash horse will have fewer white markings than a full splash white horse. The body of a minimal splash horse may have no white markings at all, but some characteristics will set it apart from a horse with non-pinto coloring.
The clues will lie in the shape and distribution of white markings on the face and legs. A minimal splash horse will have oddly shaped face markings, such as an off-center star or lopsided snip.
If the horse has a blaze, it will be straight edged and wider at the bottom than a normal blaze. It is also common to see a crooked blaze or one that is more prominent on one side in a minimal splash white horse. The upper lip of a minimal splash white horse normally remains colored, not white.
The leg markings on a minimal splashed white horse have distinctive crisp edges, with clear demarcation between the white and colored hair. The extent of the white markings will range from full white legs on all four limbs, through to a slim white band on the hind coronets.
So, as we have learned, the minimal splash horse coloring occurs when a horse inherits the one of the splashed white genes from its parents. This creates large patches of white hair over the base coat of the horse. Horses with minimal splash markings often have solid colored bodies, but will have unusual and distinctive white patches on the face and legs.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on minimal splash horse coloring! Have you ever owned a horse with these distinctive white markings? Or perhaps you would like to try and breed a minimal splash horse? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
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