Chemically, all horse colors are made up of two chemicals: Phaeomelanin or Eumelanin.
Genetic modifiers work on these two pigments (eumelanin and phaeomelanin) to create all the variety of colors and patterns that we see in horses.
WHAT ABOUT WHITE?
There MAY be a third base color - Dominant White, but this is very rare if it exists at all. Recent research throws the existence of a separate White gene in doubt, although many textbooks still include it.
Most White is the result of genetic modification that blocks or removes the base color.
Most White horses are, genetically:
What About ALBINOS?
In horses, no true Albino (an individual lacking any pigmentation) has ever been found. If you stand a so-called Albino horse next to a pinto, you will see the difference. The "Albino" is usually the pale cream of Cremello, whereas the white on a pinto is pure white.
Maximum Sabinos or Maximum Toveros are true white and can have blue eyes and mostly light skin, but they are not albinos. Usually there will be at least one small dark spot in the skin or at the tip of the ears. And their eyes are blue or brown, not red or pink.
Dominant White horses are also pure white, but they, too, are not albinos.
A true albino would have no pigmentation at all - uniform light pink skin, white hooves, red/pink eyes.
Is BAY a BASE COLOR?
Many people speak of BAY as a base color.
Bay can be considered a base color in that it is the foundation for a variety of other colors, such as buckskin and dun and red roan.
But since Bay is Black modified by an additional gene - Agouti - it is not a "BASE COLOR" from a genetic point of view.
photo by Joy Hartman
The Base Colors:
The Single Dominant Genes:
Agouti | Appaloosa |
The Pinto / Paint Patterns:
Tobiano | The Overo Complex: Frame | Sabino | Splash | Tovero
The Incomplete Dominant Genes:
Champagne | Creme
The Recessive Genes:
Red | Flaxen
Colors with multiple genetic bases:
Blue | Brown | White | Roan-like Effects
Other pages in this section:
|A Quick Overview of Color Genetics||Genetic Notation Systems||How to Tell the Various Pinto Patterns Apart|
|Palomino or Flaxen Chestnut?||Overo Lethal White Syndrome||Sorraia Mustangs|
Since this is a Mustang website,
I use and prefer pictures of wild, or formerly-wild horses wherever possible.