The Appaloosa
- Mother Nature's Most Favored Member of the Equine Family
by: Cecil A. Dobbin
--Part 3 of 3--

While this is the third and final portion of the study we have been presenting on "Mother Nature's Most Favored Member of the Equine Family," it is hoped that this work will generate continued interested in the study, development and continued refinement in breeding Appaloosas.


Secretariat is considered to be one of the best race horses of this century. Winning of the Triple Crown is but one of his outstanding accomplishments. One cannot help but be impressed with his near perfect conformation. Even though the Appaloosa is outcrossed to the thoroughbred in great numbers, we feel Secretariat is one of the truly great thoroughbreds and we should choose him as an example.

When he was retired to stud, Secretariat was mated to an Appaloosa test mare. This mating produced an Appaloosa stud colt (First Secretary ApHC #401602). Perhaps this example is little more than a 50/50 proposition where the next mating of this pair would not produce the Appaloosa. In yet another example, we will show how the mating of an Appaloosa to the thoroughbred can produce a near 100% Appaloosa offspring.

Secretariat was used here as an example which shows the Appaloosa, when mated to the very best in outcrossing, can produce an Appaloosa.

Bright Chip is an excellent example of being a step toward producing 100% Appaloosas in a breeding program. His record as a sire shows he has produced 307 foals with only 20 listed as solid-colored. Even so, anyone familiar with foals born solid-colored knows that such Appaloosas often develop color, coat pattern, and parti-colored skin in early stages of life. I wouldn't be surprised to find that most of the 20 head listed as solid did develop these Appaloosa features.

Bright Chip is an ideal example of the Appaloosa gene in this study. His sire, Bright Eyes Brother, is a product of the same Appaloosa gene carried by his mother, Chipita A., whose Appaloosa gene was passed to her by Ding Bob II. The sire as well as the dam have the same condition that governs their color. Each was born with their color and coat pattern intact, and in turn each retained the same color and pattern throughout life with no expression of change. Bright Chip, even though an offspring of the same color factors, did not inherit the same condition. Instead, he roaned out in the portions of his body that display his basic color. We point this out here as it shows how this one Appaloosa gene causes not less than 25 different factors that can be transmitted to the offspring.

The computer print-out on Bright Chip shows that he was outcrossed to a large number of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse mares.

We have had a great deal of difficulty in explaining the Appaloosa color and color habits so that it can be easily understood. The decision was made to use one mare as the principle example in this report, hoping a clearer picture can be presented of the Appaloosa's basics where it relates to color.

The mare Bright Delight was foaled in 1961. Her sire was Bright Eyes Brother and her dam was Peggy's Delight. Both parents were Appaloosa which is important to remember as we progress with this report. Bright Delight was a National champion which suggests she was a mare of top quality. She was also a full sister to the stallion, Mighty Bright, both owned by Lane Hudson. What is of interest here is her production record. This mare has produced twelve foals, all of which were colorful. Never did she produce a solid colored offspring. Yet more interesting is the fact that she was mated with only one Appaloosa, all other matings were to solid colored horses. Her foals and the stallions which sired these foals follow:

  1. Tahitian Dancer -- sired by Tahitian King (TB)

  2. (Foal died) -- sired by Tahitian King (TB)

  3. Mr. Big Wig -- sired by Wiggy Bar (AQHA)

  4. Sweet Lorrain H. -- sired by Wiggy Bar (AQHA)

  5. Prissy Lark -- sired by Lanalark

  6. Along Came Joe -- sired by Wiggy Bar (AQHA)

  7. Plaudit's Delight -- sired by Red Plaudit (App)

  8. Easy Walt -- sired by Easy Jet (AQHA)

  9. Apt To Be Easy -- sired by Easy Jet (AQHA)

  10. Easy Delight -- sired by Easy Jet (AQHA)

  11. She's Easy -- sired by Easy Jet (AQHA)

  12. Dee Bar O.J. -- sired by Dee Bar Bright (TB)

The important question here would be, how was this mare able to produce 100% color, especially so when she was mated to horses that were solid colored Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses?

We first took this question to a man well versed in genetics, Jack Williams of Canada. After a few minutes of calculating her possible gene makeup, he stated, "The answer is very simple. Her Appaloosa genes have aligned themselves in the proper position on the chromosome. When this takes place it would be impossible for her to produce anything other than an Appaloosa, regardless of the outcross. It places her at the top in dominance."

Next question to Jack. "If this can happen with one mare, what are the possibilities of developing other Appaloosas with the same factors?" Answer: The possibilities are unlimited. With proper breeding and understanding, the entire breed of Appaloosa could be brought to the homozygous dominant (or pure) state, therefore the breeders would be assured of color.

We go to the books hoping to gain a better understanding as it relates to Bright Delight's ability to produce 100% offspring. It is my impression that she would be considered as Genotype which is defined as a gene type that an individual inherits from both parents. We add to this the possible mutation involvement which is defined as a sudden and permanent change in an individual genotype. If the mutation occurs in the sex cell, the mutated gene may be passed to future offspring. We now compare Bright Delight's record to her full brother. Mighty Bright does not have a record of producing 100% Appaloosa offspring. The only possible reason we can think of as to why would be that he is minus the mutant factor.

(Joe's note (8/10/2002), thanks to Bob Lapp: Something that might have made the discussion of production records of Bright Chip and Bright Delight easier to understand would be that both those horses were few spots....and therefore homozygous.)

There are extremely important factors that belong to the Appaloosa that the breeder must realize and understand that will be dealt with when breeding the Appaloosa.

No. 1.   Equine science points out the Appaloosa is dominant, which in my opinion is the most important factor.

No. 2.   The Appaloosa is involved with not less than five color related factors which should be considered in and with any Appaloosa breeding program.

A.   A large percentage of Appaloosas are born with coat color and patterns that develop with the fetus. With this group, color may change over the first nine years (average) of this animal's life, to then cease all color changing activities and remain with the color present when the action stops for the rest of the animal's life.

B.   A percentage of Appaloosas are born with the color and pattern that does not change throughout life. We refer to this factor as the 'set color factor'.

C.   A percentage of Appaloosas are born solid colored in appearance. Some may be minus the Appaloosa parti-colored factor, even so, these Appaloosas will develop the coat color as well as the parti-colored skin over the early years of their life.

D.   There are a percentage of Appaloosas that are born with very colorful coat patterns to start early in life to lose the pattern to white, yet retain the Appaloosa parti-colored skin.

E.   There are Appaloosas that display a solid color but are involved with the Appaloosa parti-colored skin and the other Appaloosa factors such as striped hooves and white sclera. Some of these Appaloosas often times reproduce the highly colorful coat patterns even when mated to a non-Appaloosa outcross.

Much has been said about equine color dilution. Our own involvement with this factor leads us to believe the sorrel or chestnut horse is the best example. It ranges in color from a dark liver color to a very light sandy appearance.

The gray horse is also considered Dominant. When the gray is mixed with the Appaloosa the resulting foal may come extremely colorful to then start in the early stage of life to lose all color contrast to white.

This article is only a part of an on-going study of the Appaloosa and the opportunities that lie ahead. Each new discovery only leads to more questions. For example, we know the Appaloosa gene is a bank for many different equine colors as well as coat patterns, plus other factors that involves this one gene. This brings forth the question, "Can we isolate any of these factors, separating them from the mother gene to the degree that would assure a single base color or a single coat pattern that would become fixed through concentration of this condition?" We have established a breeding program based on this question where we hope to establish the following:

A.   A basic color that does not change.

B.   A coat pattern that only produces the blanket hip.

C.   100% Appaloosa production.

Even though we can vouch for the material used in this article, it is only a portion of what the Appaloosa gene stands for. Reaching back in the stud books published by the Appaloosa Horse Club, it is easy to show the Appaloosa has been crossed on grade horses as well as Appaloosas of unknown parentage. Records show that it has been outcrossed to Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Arabians as well as establishing a breed of ponies.

Is this not enough evidence that shows the Appaloosa gene is very special -- that it does hold unusual powers over other equine? We also are able to show that the Appaloosa can be bred to the state where it offers a high percentage of Appaloosa production, even though mating the Appaloosa to outcrosses.

We are continuing to pursue the tracking of this single Appaloosa gene over a 100-year period.

So, for one of the most often asked questions, "What is an Appaloosa?" Answer:  The Appaloosa is a magician with a magic wand in the form of a gene. Of all the horses in the universe, none can compare to the horse we call Appaloosa, very likely Mother Nature's most favored member of the horse world.

Copyright © Cecil A. Dobbin. All rights reserved.

This article first appeared on the world wide web in May 2001 at URL:

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