A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Silver, Taffy, or Chocklate

I'm starting to get less and less original on my titles.  Well, today's gene is called different things in different breeds/areas.  Most people refer to this gene as the silver gene, while Rocky Mountain Horse owners call it "Chocolate" and in Australia it's referred to as Taffy.  It's all the same dilution gene, and it's represented with the letter Z.  Don't ask me why they chose that letter!

I don't have a horse with this gene, so again, I'll be sharing pictures of other people's horses, and linking to the site I found them.

The most common color associated with this gene is Silver Dapple.  These are black horses (E? aa) with at least one dominant copy of silver (ZZ or Zz).  The silver gene only affects black pigment, so this gene can easily hide on a red horse, like Agouti can.  It will have an effect on a bay horse, and often silver bays are mistaken for chestnuts.  Like with all other genes, you can of course stack these up, resulting in colors like Silver Amber Champagne Dun (or E? A? crcr Ch? D? Z?).  Again, those question marks represent places where the other allele is either unimportant, or unknown.

Here is a great example of the silver gene on a black horse.  This horse's color would be called silver dapple, even though this horse shows little if any dappling.
Notice how the main body color is lightened to a chocolate color, and the mane and tail are white?  For some reason, silver has a stronger effect on the hair in a horse's mane and tail, then it does on the body color.  The horse above would be a darker shade of silver dapple, while the horse below would be the typical appearance that the color earned its name for.
He's obviously a silver color with dapples.   And I have to mention here that I just love ponies.

Of course, on a bay, the horse would have a very different appearance.  The black pigment at the points (legs, muzzle, tips of ears) is diluted to a brownish color, sometimes as light as a redish color, while the mane and tail again show the most dilution.  This horse is an easy to identify silver bay, and you can see how easy it would be to confuse it with a chestnut.
The points on his legs are still darker then his main body, but his mane and tail are a lovely shade of blond.  Here is an example of a horse that could easily be mistaken for a chestnut or sorrel.
Silver is actually very common in Rocky Mountain Horses like the stallion above.  You can see the sooty coloring on his lower legs though, which gives away his true color.  In most chestnut/sorrel horses their lower legs are lighter then their body, not darker.  The horse below is a flaxen chestnut, compare how similar his color is to the horse above.
While these two horses look similar, they have very different genetic reasons for why they are the color they are, and what color foals they could produce.

Because silver only affects black pigment, in true red based horses, such as chestnut/sorrel, palomino, or gold champagne, there is no effect on the horse's body color.  These horses are carriers of the gene, and could, if bred to a black based horse, have offspring who exhibit the silver trait.  In the past, silver has "come out of nowhere" because of its ability to hide on red based horses, and mistaking the genetics of many silver bays.  As a dominant gene, only a single copy is required for a horse to exhibit this color, and at least one parent must have the gene to pass it on, but the ability of this gene to hide has made tracking it through pedigrees difficult.  Now that there is a DNA test for silver (Z) it has become much easier to breed for this color.

Whoops!  Almost forgot to add your daily gene test!

So, what color is this horse:

Ee AA gg dd crcr CHch Zz?

Two right answers (the base color with modifiers, or the horseman's term for it).


  1. Bay modified by champagne and silver - would this be the chocolate color with white mane and tail in Rocky Mountain horses, as in your 3rd and 4th pictures above?

  2. Hey! I beat Kate here, but the test wasn't on yet! Teacher's pet! :(
    Amber champagne with the silver mane and tail (instead of the usual chocolate) and probably sooty legs.

  3. Silver Amber Champagne is the horseman's term for it. Also silver bay champagne is acceptable, or bay with silver and champagne (same thing).

    And no, this would look like the champagne horses discussed previously, but with flaxen or white manes and tails. The gold body color of the amber champagne might be slightly lighter, or as light as "off white" in extreme cases. A horse like this could often be mistaken for an isabella palomino (the really pale shade of palomino). It would not look like a cremello simply because the eyes would not be blue, but instead the typical champagne eye colors.

    Sorry about the late answer.

  4. EvenSong - sorry - I waited a long time to comment especially so you could get in first, but it didn't work!

  5. Sorry Evensong! I wrote the whole thing up, and got distracted towards the end, and completely forgot the test!

  6. I would have failed anyway as genetic coloring and patterns have always confused me. lol!
    Very interesting, though. I've always had a thing for Rocky Mountain horses that have the flaxen manes and dark bodies. So striking!


  7. EvenSong - sorry - I waited a long time to comment especially so you could get in first, but it didn't work!

  8. Bay modified by champagne and silver - would this be the chocolate color with white mane and tail in Rocky Mountain horses, as in your 3rd and 4th pictures above?

  9. My horse, Cole's mother is a silver bay. Thank goodness he didn't get the silver gene, or I may not have been able to afford him!

    I actually think the silver gene is responsible for the popularity of the Rocky Mountain over other gaited horse.

  10. What is a silver taffy. I always thought it was like a palomino but someone told me it wasn't could you please help

  11.  Silver is the name of the gene (like Creme is the name of the Palomino/Buckskin gene).  Taffy is the term used to describe the colors produced - in specific breeds (Rocky Mountain and a couple others).

    Silver is just a dilution gene that only affects black pigment.  The article above explains how the gene works.

    Keep in mind that horses have many genes that affect color.  We write out those strings of letters, and each pair (e.g. A/a, or Ee) is a gene (where Aa and Ee are 2 separate genes).  The effect of all those genes together is what makes the color.  At the end of the article above, I list a genome (a string of gene letters) and ask people the color.  This is an example of how all the genes together make the color, not just one here, or one there.

    So Silver or Taffy is different then Palomino because it's at a completely different place in the DNA.  I'm assuming that a silver taffy would be a RMH term for "silver dapple" or the silver gene on a black horse.  I have an example of one in the article.

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  13. Chestnut body with a flaxen main and tail!