A Look into the Cream Gene
Palomino and Cream Dilute horses and ponies are truly striking and totally unique to the average bay, black, chestnut or grey. Ever wondered what causes the change? It’s all down to the genes.
A Look into the Cream Gene with the British Palomino Society
Firstly any horse or pony that isn’t black, chestnut or bay has had a genetic mutation that has acted in diluting the horse’s coat, hence where the meaning came from, dilute.
The mutations start in the MATP segment of the gene within the DNA and will affect the coat, skin and eye colours by lightening them.
There are a number of these mutations, but the cream dilute is regarded as the most popular and affects black and red pigments in the skin.
Other mutations include champagne dilution, dun dilution, pearl dilution, silver dilution and grey.
Alleles are described as different versions of the same gene and if a horse carries the Cream Dilute gene it is abbreviated CR and in its recessive non-cream form it is written ‘cr’.
Single Dilute is where the horse or pony carries one copy of the cream gene and is also known as heterozygous. This term means that within the pair, a certain gene will carry two different alleles (CRcr) – one pair of genes contains one dominant and one recessive gene.
A buckskin horse is where a bay horse has a single copy of cream. A palomino is a chestnut or sorrel with a single cream gene and a smokey black is black with a single cream gene.
So this mutation dilutes red pigments to yellow and gold and can affect the mane and tail mostly.
Other horses may be homozygous for a type of gene where they carry two copies of the same allele (CRCR), also known as double dilutes.
Unlike the single dilute, the mutation will affect both the red and black pigments. Still turning the red to yellow and gold, but also turning the black to red.
In this instance a bay horse with the two copies of the cream gene are called perlino, a black horse with the two copies is known as smoky cream and a sorrel or chestnut horse carrying two copies is known as the cremello.
The double dilute gene can also mean that the horse’s eye colour will turn blue. Blue eyes can also be inherited from other colours, for example the splash gene on a cream coat can result in a palomino with blue eyes however this is only considered a cream dilute. Again a palomino and white tobiano or overo can have blue eyes, but is a cream dilute, not a palomino. We also see this effect when we introduce cream and champagne etc.
Double dilutes will pass down the cream gene whereas the single dilutes have a 50% chance of them not being handed down to the offspring.
It’s no wonder these beautiful horses and ponies are so admired and here at The British Palomino Society we want to celebrate these beautiful shades.
Members of the society have access to register their palominos or cream dilutes and apply for a passport if one is required. For those who already have a passport, the society can over stamp the existing passport.