Mystery patterns: Sunset Champagne Symphony and Cayuse Two Up

Mystery solved

Once again our monthly mystery horse is actually two horses. But this time instead of being Paint horses with unusual patterns, we have a dilute mystery! Both horses have pale gold coats, darker silvery manes and tails, and unusual light eyes. They both also have freckly skin around their eyes. The fascinating thing is that genetically the two horses aren't the same colour at all!

The first horse we will look at is Sunset Champagne Symphony, a filly. She is the foal of a chestnut roan dam, and an amber cream champagne sire. We tested her for agouti and red/black, cream, champagne, dun and d1 (just in case d1 was in there too) and the roan marker.

Sunset Champagne Symphony has a bay base coat colour. She is E e (the little e is from her chestnut dam) and A a (one copy of the bay factor, and one copy non-bay). She is also positive for cream (one copy) and champagne (one copy). She's negative for dun and d1, and is also negative for the roan marker. Together these results confirm that she is an amber cream champagne. The subtle freckling on the dark skin around her eyes is typical of a horse carrying the champagne gene.

The second horse in this mystery is Cayuse Two Up, a colt. He is out of a bay Appaloosa mare and a palomino leopard Appaloosa stallion. We tested him for agouti and red/black, cream, champagne, pearl, and Appaloosa. We also tested for W20 and SW1 to see if we could find a reason for the big white marking on his face.

Cayuse Two Up has a chestnut base coat colour: e e. His agouti is A a (one copy of the bay factor, and one copy non-bay). He is Appaloosa (positive, two copies). He is also positive for cream (one copy), but negative for champagne, pearl, W20 and SW1. Together these results indicate that despite the light eyes and dark mane and tail, Cayuse Two Up is actually palomino and also homozygous for Appaloosa.

When we first saw photos of Cayuse Two Up we really thought he might be a buckskin pearl! If you haven't seen a buckskin pearl have a quick look at this one to see the similarity in the body and eye colour. We even repeated both the pearl and the red/black tests to make sure. However a close look will show you the distinctive light skin of a real cream pearl just isn't there for Cayuse Two Up. And with respect to the champagne gene, Cayuse Two Up's freckled skin shows strong Appaloosa freckles rather than the subtle freckles you can see around the eyes of Sunset Champagne Symphony.

So why does Cayuse Two Up have a darker mane and tail than his body? At the moment we just don't know. Colour shifting due to the appaloosa gene has been suggested, but every other example I've seen has colour shifting to a lighter colour rather than darker. Perhaps it is sootiness, but restricted primarily to the mane and tail. Unfortunately there's no test for sootiness, so that's just speculation at this point.

And why does Cayuse Two Up have light eyes? Once again we don't have an answer for that question. The equine DNA testing laboratory at UC Davis has a new test for tiger eyes (check out their fantastic eye colour figure here), which are found in Paso Finos... but Cayuse Two Up isn't a Paso Fino and his eye colour is closer to green than yellow or amber. This one will have to remain a mystery for a while longer too.

We hope you've enjoyed this month's mystery horses. They are both stunners!

Cayuse Two Up looks closer to a classic palomino colour now he is older.


The filly and colt

Sunset Champagne Symphony is an amber cream champagne (bay + cream + champagne).

Sunset Champagne Symphony has green eyes.

Cayuse Two Up is palomino and homozygous Appaloosa. (That's chestnut + cream + 2x Appaloosa.) He is a very unusual palomino colour.

Cayuse Two Up also has very unusual light eyes. While some horses with the cream gene are born with light eyes, they usually darken with age.