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A Horse,
of Course

with Don Blazer

A Horse of Course

If you are a horse, you can be brindled, but you can't be brindle. At least not yet.

Brindled means having a coat streaked or spotted with a darker color. In horses, it's rare, but it's there.

Brindle means a brindled coat or a brindled animal. There are no registered brindles in the horse world. That doesn't mean they aren't there, but rare; it means they aren't registered.

Brindle is kind of like having a bay horse which has had chocolate syrup poured over his withers, back and hips. The syrup runs down the horse's shoulders, sides and hind legs and makes irregular stripes. You know what the color brindle looks like in dogs; same in horses.

Usually brindle horses have texturing in their coat, similar to that seen in Appaloosa horses.

But if you ask most horsemen they'll tell you there is no such thing as a brindle horse. Brindle simply is not known as a color.

If you ask the breed associations they'll tell you they don't recognize the color brindle. It isn't that they are color blind, or that the color doesn't exist.

It just means they don't know what to do about it.

Sharon Batteate of Stockton, CA. has two brindle mares. One is a Quarter Horse, registered as a roan. The other is registered as a "brindle dun" by the International Buckskin Horse Association.

The roan, according to Sharon is a brindle, and the dun is a brindle without the dun factor. It shouldn't be labeled "dun," Sharon says. No matter how correct you are, you can't argue with breed associations. They have their own rules about things. (I often argue with them anyway!)

And I wouldn't argue with Sharon because she probably knows more about brindle horses than anyone in the whole world, and that's not an exaggeration. (Sharon has her own web for gathering information from around the world on brindle horses. She has been leading the worldwide effort to learn more about brindles since late in l989.)

Plus, I know Sharon is correct when she says there are brindle horses, because I had one. He was a Thoroughbred, registered as a dark brown or bay. (Now that description tells you something about the registration of colors.)

The first record of the brindle pattern in horses seems to have been made by J.A. Lusis in the publication Genetica vol. 23, 1942. According to Sharon, Lusis details the coloring of a Russian cab horse from the l800s, and documents it with photographs.

"There have been recent discussions of the color pattern by a number of experts including Ann Bowlings of the University of California, Davis. But to date, there is not enough scientific evidence available to present a formal paper of the subject," Sharon says.

So Sharon is helping to gather the needed information, and she needs your help. If you have any record of a brindle horse, or know of any brindle horses, contact Sharon at P.O. Box 8535, Stockton, CA 95208.

Brindle, she says, occurs in such diverse breeds as Arabians, Thoroughbreds, mustangs, Quarter Horses, Bavarian Warmbloods, Russian and Spanish breeds and horses of the Netherlands.

"We are not sure yet if the brindle pattern is from a single gene. There could be several genes involved, as in pinto/paint spotting which is the result of multiple genes," Sharon notes.

Many people confuse Dun Factor markings (stripe down the back, barring on the legs) with brindle. However, Sharon has gathered information on two horses which are brindle, but have no Dun Factor markings. The International Buckskin Horse Association now will register a brindle horse, but they want to associate it with the Dun Factor. The American Quarter Horse Association keeps a list of horses which owners believe to be brindle, but, Sharon says, they still register them as a base color. Sharon says her research indicates the brindle pattern seems to be inheritable, especially in terms of coat texturing. But the extend of striping is highly variable, and even varies with individual horses seasonally.

"However, before we start drawing too many conclusions about the pattern, we need to locate more examples for study," she cautions.

Of the known brindle stallions, Sharon reports none have produced the brindle color in foals.

"I believe we are on the right track, and we now have some stallions to monitor. But, I believe it will be another five years before we have enough scientific date for a formal paper on the subject."

I wonder if a Zebra is just a white brindle?
Don Blazer
Visit Don Blazer's Web Site

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"A Horse, Of Course"
Monthly Column
by Don Blazer

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