left to right: White Mustang of undetermined genetics, Champagne+Creme "American Cream Draft" horse, Perlino Mustang, and Maximum Sabino Mustang
White and Whitish Horses

WHITE HORSES
are the usually end result of
THE GREY GENE's progressive greying process, or the purest expression of the CREME or
CHAMPAGNE  genes. They can also be Maximum White Overo pintos (which look like, but ARE NOT Lethal Whites) , or more rarely - Dominant Whites.


White as end result of Greying

Cremella mare


American Cream Draft Horse
Ivory Champagne Stud horse

Most horses that appear white are actually "grey", meaning they were born another color and then turned grey as the pigment was gradually eliminated by the "grey" gene. 

Cremello "White" horses are pink-skinned and blue-eyed.

WHITE
can also be Dominant White.

"Dominant White" is a genetic allele that produces a pure white horse with dark eyes.

Dominant White horse (photo: UC Davis)

This is an uncommon gene, however, though there are horse breeders who specialize in it.
"Gretchen," adopted by Gwilda Byrd, may be a Dominant White. She has pink skin, pure white hair, and dark eyes. However, Maximum Sabino may also have these traits.

Horses that appear white may be cremello, gray, perlino, ivory champagne, "Dominant White, or an extreme form of one of the appaloosa or pinto patterns, in which the colored areas are so small as to be virtually undetectable.

The "Dominant White" gene is a dominant allele that is rather rare and was formally believed not to exist. But it does occur occasionally. A Dominant White horse has normal-colored eyes and pure white hair. Skin color is variable. There is now a genetic test for Dominant White, read about it by clicking here.

Please note that, despite common usage of the term, true "Albino" horses do not exist, or have never been documented to exist.

A true Albino would have pink eyes - albinism is the total lack of any pigment, including the skin and eyes. Look at an albino rabbit or mouse to see a true albino animal. Horses called Albino are usually Cremello - which is a pale cream color with blue eyes, or Maximum Whites - again, with blue, not red or pink eyes.

LETHAL WHITE: There is a particular genetic disorder, always fatal within a few days of birth, that occurs in certain pure white foals. It is called OVERO LETHAL WHITE SYNDROME (OLWS). It results from being homozygous for the recessive gene that - in heterozygous form - is associated with the lovely Frame Overo pinto color pattern.

Overo Lethal White foals are born alive, but die soon - generally within 72 hours - after birth, due to an incompletely developed digestive tract.  

Any white horse older than just a few days is NOT a lethal white. Sabino and Tovero can occur in maximal form, called Maximum Sabino and Maximum Tovero. These horses appear as pure white horses from birth. They may have one or a few tiny dark spots somewhere on their body, or they may not.

For this reason, when a pure white foal is born, DO NOT DESTROY IT until you are sure that it is a Lethal White!!! The newborn foal above was originally believed to be a Lethal White, but the owners wisely waited for symptoms, which never occurred, and today he is a happy, healthy weanling colt!


Maximum Sabino foal
 

 

This foal, owned by Tammi Vogel, is alive today thanks to information Tammi was able to learn from this website! When the pure white foal was born, he seemed normal, but local hore folks all warned that it was only a matter of time until symptoms would start and he would die a painful death - so she should call the vet out and have the foal put down.

Tammi made the vet appointment but luck was with her and the vet couldn't come out until much later. During that time, she researched Lethal White on the Internet and came upon this website, where she learned of Maximum White Overos - in this case, Maximum Sabino, judging from the mother's lacy spotting pattern.

I happened to check my email early that morning and my heart jumped to my throat when I saw the photo and the diagnosis. DON'T PUT THAT FOAL DOWN! I responded and called her on the phone. We had a nice conversation and she was very relieved to be able to give the foal a chance.

Three days later he was still fine, so the vet never needed to come out to do the dreaded deed.

Many months later, "Go Check Whitie" (named for the frequent text message Tammi sent to her family while she was away at work) is healthy and strong, a completely normal weanling colt!

 

 


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