Welsh Pony & Welsh Cob

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Casmaran Welsh Cobs and Cross Creek Welsh Ponies

A REFERENCE GUIDE: Arabian Coat Coloration.

by Margo Weise

Arabian horses of unusual colors have long been discriminated against and thought to be impure. With today’s technology, blood typing
has made these foolish rumors a thing of the past. Some of the most flamboyant patterns and shades were not thought impure in the desert but
were actually sought after. One of the Abbas Pasha’s most celebrated mares was Faris Saouda, a parti-color (wildly spotted) horse. This ancient gene is not a sign of impurity but exactly the opposite. The true parti-color is not a common spotting pattern as seen today, but instead is the failure of pigmentation cells to spread throughout the body of the horse, a unique mutation occurring mostly in hotbloods. The Abbas Pasha set great store by this color and collected 11 mares with these attributes. Faris Saouda can be found in most of the bloodlines available in the U.S. today.
The true parti-color is hardly ever seen today and is strictly hotblood in origin. Desert Name-Ablak This color is not related to the tobiano or the
overo gene groups. Appaloosa type spots in the Arabian also seem to be a throwback to the parti-color. These horses are not eligible for the
Appaloosa registry, even though some could be confused with the true Appaloosa.
With the exception of white markings, Arabians differ from other breeds in that they are always black-skinned. The color variance of the Arabian can be attributed to mutations of the basic hard coat colors of red, black, and bay, with grey being a phase of the white hair pattern group. White markings are a sign of domestication and differ from wild animals in that the markings are randomly placed, unlike the symmetrical markings of the zebra.
There are many variations in the markings and common colors that occur within the Arabian population; some are common and some extremely rare. We will attempt to cover them here in this work. In order to comprehend the basic concepts of purebred Arabian color, it is first necessary to understand the definitions of certain color-altering factors, such as shade, sooty, and mealy. These three factors effect the hair coloration without changing skin pigment.  Shade is governed by both genetic influence and environment. This influence gives the appearance of dilution without the dilution gene in some cases. Sooty is a modification that allows black hairs to intermingle with the basic coat to alter the general appearance of the color. This usually appears across the back. Sooty is also the element that turns the bay to mahogany bay. The mealy effect is caused by a single gene that is dominant and changes the hair color around the muzzle, eyes, and belly. The mealy component affects both red and black coats, changing the black to seal brown. The chestnut coat is merely lightened in these areas.

The Colors

Black can come in several shades: Jet black, raven black, blue black, and summer black. Desert Name-Aswad

Serr Ebony Star, a non-fading homozygous blackstallion. He has never sired a chestnut, and most of the mares he has been bred to are chestnut. The true black, with no brown in the ears, muzzle, or flanks, has always been rare but is becoming more popular due to many breeding programs that have bred into certain lines known to produce the color. Egyptian breeding is the most prolific of the black coloration through the mare Venus, root mare of the Hadban Enzahi strain and the stallion Dahman. Dahman was the sire of Rabdan, who appears three times in the fifth generation of Nazeer’s pedigree and is the grandsire of *Fadl. Polish black Arabians are represented through the line of the desertbred Kuhailan Haifi.

 Seal brown.

Seal brown is another rare color in Arabians and is believed to be a close relative of black, but the horse will have brown in the flanks, ears, and muzzle. Desert name-Adham

Bay is a brown or reddish-brown horse with black points that was considered to be the original color of the Arabian. Bay also comes in
various shades acquired through altering factors. Desert Name-Hamra.

Chestnut is a loose term for horses of reddish tint with no black points, which appears in many shades as well. The mane and tail color of
the chestnut group appears to be polygenic (not controlled by a single gene). Most mane and tail colors of the chestnut coloration group can be
divided into four types: Dark, red, light, and flaxen. Desert Name-Ashqar

Washy bay refers to a horse that could almost appear to be chestnut as the points of the legs, mane, and tail are neither black nor chestnut but a “washy” reddish color with a few intermingling black hairs. In most cases, this washy bay is actually a bay whose black points fade with exposure to sunlight, giving the bay the misleading appearance of being a chestnut.

White -  The white horse, born white with black skin, is the result of abnormal action of the grey factor in which the basic color of the coat has been entirely replaced before birth. These foals are born in what would otherwise be considered the adult coat phase. MS Czarthan AHR#44054 was one of these rare and unique horses. Desert Name-Abyad


The grey Arabian can start with any basic coat color, but is most common with dark horses. With the exception of the rose grey (a red chestnut that greys from the base coat to give it a rosy color), most greys go through several darkening phases where the horse eventually becomes near black before turning grey. It is impossible to tell what color the base coat of the horse actually was unless it was viewed as a foal.
Greys usually dapple at some point in the greying process. All colors are capable of dapples as it is associated with good nutrition, however, the dapple effect is most noted on the sooty shade horse by contrast. Desert Name-Kurush (White spots on the grey during the color transitions are clear white with underlying black skin. They are not to be confused with dapples.)

There are two basic types of grey: Those that lose pigment in the mane and tail and become white, known by the Desert Name-Safra bardah, and those that retain some black in the mane, tail, and sometimes the legs, Desert Name-Safra el jahra. Both types maintain the black skin pigment. Another form of grey is the fleabitten in which small flecks of color are viewed throughout the coat. These flecks are usually reddish but can sometimes be black or both. These colored flecks in no way represent the base color of the horse. Desert Name-Marshusha
Bloody marks are distinctive large reddish patches on a grey horse that increase in size as the horse ages. They are independent of both
background color and greying phases. Rarely, in a very aged horse, this coloration could appear uniformly red. This phenomenon appears to be a reversal of the greying process.


The rare palomino color is not a true palomino in Arabians but a phase of chestnut that is born lightened by shade. This rare yellow color was
highly prized by the Arabs. Desert Name-Asfar


The buckskin, similar to the palomino, is a lighter phase of the bay but not a true buckskin. The Arabian does not carry the dilution gene and suffers no loss of skin pigment with either of these phases. The light-tailed bay with a tan-colored tail is a unique occurrence sometimes seen in young horses. As the horse ages the black tail hairs appear until the tail is the regular black color.


The true lustrous red roan is seldom seen today. This is a permanent color and not a phase of grey. Roaning covers the entire body of the horse, giving a silvery appearance. Roaning in the coat is a dominant factor and should never skip a generation. Even in horses that are slightly roaned there will always be a few white hairs in the coat. This gene in Arabians is also an ancient trait. Desert Name-Maward   (Here a controversy arises in that color genetic experts are now saying that the Arabian carries no true roaning gene and that the unique roaning look of the Arabian is caused by the silver dapple, white, or sabino genes. To avoid confusion, we will continue to use the term roan in this work.   Flecks or ticking at the flanks and tail base thought to be associated with the roan may be present at birth or can be developed later. These are also permanent patterns and occur in all color horses.

 In the white dock, there is a fall of white hair starting at the tail base. This is usually referred to as skunk tail or rabicano, and is believed to be a type of sabino gene. Belly spots and body patches can be either clean-cut, ragged-edged, or roaned-edged but all have underlying white skin. These spots are ancient in origin and can be of any size. They are present at birth and are permanent. This sabino mutation occurs when the binding effect of certain enzymes is lacking.
Beauty marks are dark red or black spots that occur most commonly in the chestnut coat. They can be one or many in number, either large or small. The genetic control of these spots is unknown. The current name for this coloration is Bend Or, after the Thoroughbred horse most noted for them.
Birdcatcher spots are very rare and are associated with certain families. These random white spots occurring on any area of the body can appear at any time in life and just as mysteriously disappear.

The Phenomenon of White Markings
White markings can have roaned endings that appear lacy or can blend entirely with the solid coat. In this instance, the face and leg markings
will be roan instead of white. The leg run is another ancient variation to the stocking. Most white leg markings do not extend above the knee or hock, but in this case, the marking travels up the leg often in a broken line. This marking usually effects the hind leg on a full stocking and travels up the front of the leg. Detached leg markings are independent of other markings and do not touch the hoof. They most often appear below the knee. The high white leg markings are also an ancient legacy of the breed. These markings extend above the knee and hock even into the forearm. Coronary spots are fairly common and are solid-colored spots Detached white marking on the leg that connect with the hoof. They have underlying black skin within the white marking. This also is reputed to extend into the hoof, aiding in the striped coloration of the hoof.
An expanding blaze. Bald facial markings are rare in Arabians, but do happen. This is where facial markings continue past the face and extend into the head. The expanding blaze is an ordinary blaze that travels down the face until it reaches the muzzle where it abruptly extends to
encompass the muzzle in part or fully. This ancient unique pattern can produce white hooks that stretch out into the jaw and into the throat.
Desert Name-Sabha Dots within the blaze are dark dots with underlying black skin found within the white facial markings. They are completely
separate from the outside color. Desert Name-Sa’ad The dot within the blaze is a solid color marking, usually round, and very rare when found on the forehead.
The glass eye is very uncommon in today’s horses but was seen much more frequently in the desert. It has recently been associated with a form of spotting gene. The glass eye contains no pigment in the iris and appears blue. (There seems to be no vision impairment in horses with glass eyes.)
The Crabbet stallion Jeroboam was a glass-eyed horse. Arabian horses with no markings at all are extremely rare. A horse’s white markings seem to be similar to our fingerprints in that no two are really alike. In an experiment with twin embryo transplants, both twins were born
identical in every way except for their white markings. This concludes that white markings are a product of the individual and have no
association to purity.

 It is universally believed that the original horse was a drab littledun-colored fellow with a bay-type coat that could vary slightly as a camouflage measure according to the area in which he lived. If you were an artist setting out to paint this little creature and you had only the primary colors and black and white, which ones would you use? The answer is, all of them. The basic coat color of the dawn horse contained all the colors of today’s modern horses, and somewhere over the course of time, these colors separated into the glorious variations seen in the coat patterns of today.

Other related articles found in Arabian Horse Interactive:
The Black Mystique
The Glass Eye
The Kingmaker
The Continuous Grey of the Alcock's Arabian
The Black Stallion

dkb/br 14.3 1872




dun 1835





br 15.1 1840



REVOLT (sire of Coed Coch Glyndwr)

In the 21, 22 & 23 generations

over 20 crosses to

buckskin 1665



pal 17.3 1648

pal 1659 Barb


Do you doubt that grey covers a myriad of "sins"? See below...


grey 13.0 1924




grey 12.1 1917


grey 1913



Piebald 1908


Equine Color Genetics (2nd Edition)

by D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD is a professor of pathology and genetics at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Blacksburg, Va. His primary research interest is in genetic control of color in horses, sheep, goats and dogs. Dr. Sponenberg is also active in efforts to conserve rare breeds of livestock.

Overo spotting patterns have only recently been investigated as to their genetic control. They are dominant, but were previously reputed to be recessive. Part of the confusion over these patterns results from the fact that all three, frame, sabino, and splashed white, are frequently lumped together, when in fact each is distinct. At this point, the prudent course is to rely on the specific name for each pattern, while relying on overo (when meaning "non-tobiano), which is what the term has come to mean.  (pg. 66)

Paint/Pinto Patterns

Sabino: Definition and Classification

Another of the overo patterns, called sabino in this guide, has a hopelessly confusing terminology. (pg. 67)

The specific pattern referred to as sabino in this guide is variously called sabino, calico, speckled, flecked or particolored. In the Welsh Pony, flecked and roaned sabino horses with minimal pattern on the body are called "with roaning" as in "bay with roaning". (pg. 68)

The sabino pattern usually involves extensive leg white and facial white. Body spots are usually on the belly, and can either occur as roan areas, speckled areas, or rarely as white patches with clean, crisp edges. Most sabinos are flecked or roaned, and this is especially true in horses with extensive spotting. On extremely white sabinos, color remains as roan or speckled areas on the ears, tail base, flanks, and chest. Some sabinos are solid white, although most have at least some color on the ears. The minimal pattern is simply extensive white marks, and is easily missed as being a paint pattern. Some sabino horses have whole or partial blue eyes. (pg. 68)

The sabino pattern is confusing and has been poorly studied. Accurate identification of minimally marked individuals can be difficult, and has contributed to this confusion. Minimally marked sabino individuals lack body spots and have only white socks and lots of facial white. Such animals are almost never classified as spotted, but are capable of producing spotted offspring. (pg. 69)

Sabino: Genetic Control.

The sabino allele (Sbs) behaves in many cases as though it is a single gene. Recently it has been documented that overo patterns (probably sabino, frame, and splashed white all lumped together as overo) behave as if they are the result of dominant alleles in the Paint breed. Some few instances of lethal white foals have occurred from intermating sabinos, although in other instances white foals produced by such matings have been viable. (Pg. 69)

To further confuse the issue, the current sabino classification may itself include a few genetically distinct patterns, much as the overo classification includes frame, sabino, and splashed white(pg. 69)

The production of lethal white in addition to viable white foals from sabino breeding also is an indication that more than one genetic mechanism may be operational. For these reasons, it is suspected that the sabino classification includes two or three distinct patterns. If this is true, these are expected to be genetically distinct from one another. (pg. 70)

Splashed White: Definition and Classification

Splashed white has a somewhat restricted range in a few breeds such as Welsh Pony, Finnish Draft Horses, and Paint horses. It can occur as a very rare surprise in a number of other, generally sold-colored breeds. It can easily be confused with lightly roaned or lightly speckled sabinos. In North America, most horses that appear to be splashed white are really cleanly marked sabinos, which lack the roaning and speckling that usually accompanies common manifestations of sabino. Differences between splashed white and sabino horses can be subtle, and the result is that some horses are nearly impossible to identify accurately unless parents or progeny are inspected, as they can shed light on which pattern is present. (pg. 70)

Splashed White: Genetic Control.

Splashed white is rare, but may be occurring more commonly in the Paint breed in North America. It has been studied in some European populations such as the Welsh Pony and the Finnish Draft Horse, and the prevailing hypothesis was that it was a recessive pattern. However, Dr. Ann Bowling's recent work with overo patterns indicates that the splashed white pattern is actually due to a dominant gene (Spls). Homozygotes have not been documented, which is similar to the cases for frame and sabino alleles. (Pg. 70)

General Consideration of "Overo" Genetics

A major problem that has confused recognition of the frame, sabino and splashed white patterns as arising from dominant genes is that they frequently pop up out of parents that do not have body spots. This phenomenon occurs with the frame, sabino, and splashed white patterns. Some such unexpected spotted horses are no doubt new mutations to these alleles. However, some probably result from the persisitence of minimally marked horses that have the genetic machinery for one of the spotting patterns, but are not themselves expressing body spots. These minimally marked horses do persist in registered populations, such as the American Quarter Horse and Welsh Pony, in which body spots would eliminate them from registration. Only when body spots appear do breeders take note, at which point the patterns seem to have come from nowhere. A close look at ancestors, though, will usually reveal an extensive leg or head mark that betrays the presence of one of these spotting genes. When spotted horses, from nonspotted parents, are themselves used for breeding they do consistently produce the patterns in the same manner as would be expected from dominant genes.

Preservation Breeding the Past & The Future

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