Coat Colours & Patterns Explained

All horse colours are derived from THREE BASE COLOURS which are

  • Black

  • Bay

  • Chestnut

In Shetlands, these THREE BASE COLOURS are DILUTED by the CREAM & DUN genes to produce various colours and characteristics.

Other colour genes present in Shetland ponies are

  • Mushroom - see separate heading

  • Grey - this gene causes the pony to 'grey-out' over time

  • Sooty - more research is being undertaken

  • Flaxen - more research is being undertaken

The DUN & GREY gene's are DOMINENT, the CREAM gene is INCOMPLETE DOMINENT and the MUSHROOM gene is RECESSIVE.

The Cream Gene

A Single Dilute

The CREAM gene DILUTES the 3 base colours to give a lighter coat shade and colour.

A Shetland which carries ONE COPY of the CREAM gene is known as a SINGLE DILUTE, and is HETEROZYGOUS for the CREAM gene.

This means the Shetland has 50% chance of passing on the CREAM gene to its foal.

To clarify:-

  • A BLACK Shetland carrying ONE COPY of the CREAM gene is known as a SMOKEY BLACK.

  • A BAY Shetland carrying ONE COPY of the CREAM gene is known as a BUCKSKIN.

  • A CHESTNUT Shetland carrying ONE COPY of the CREAM gene is known as a PALOMINO.

SMOKEY BLACK

A Double Dilute

A Double Dilute

BUCKSKIN
PALOMINO

A Shetland which carries TWO COPIES of the CREAM gene is known as a DOUBLE DILUTE, and is HOMOZYGOUS for the CREAM gene.

This means this Shetland will always pass on the CREAM gene to its foal. All DOUBLE DILUTES have BLUE EYES.

To clarify:-

  • A BLACK Shetland carrying TWO COPIES of the CREAM gene is known as a SMOKEY CREAM.

  • A BAY Shetland carrying TWO COPIES of the CREAM gene is known as a PERLINO.

  • A CHESTNUT Shetland carrying TWO COPIES of the CREAM gene is known as a CREMELLO.

SMOKEY CREAM
PERLINO
CREMELLO

The Dun Gene

The DUN gene works in a similar way to the CREAM gene by DILUTING the 3 base colours to give a lighter coat shade and colour but it also has its own characteristics called 'Primitive Markings' which are specific only to the DUN gene.

  • A dark coloured DORSAL STRIPE down the middle of the back and into the tail.

  • A darker MANE & TAIL than the body coat color.

  • Usually darker shading on FACES, LEGS & EAR TIPS.

  • Horizontal dark striping on the back of the forelegs (which can be very faint)

Primitive Markings

BLACK DUN TOBIANO
DUNSKIN TOBIANO
CHESTNUT DUN

A Shetland which carries ONE COPY of the DUN gene is HETEROZYGOUS for DUN which means this Shetland has 50% chance of passing on the DUN gene to its foal.

A Shetland which carries TWO COPIES of the DUN gene is HOMOZYGOUS for DUN which means this Shetland will always pass on the DUN gene to its foal.

 

To clarify:

  • A BLACK Shetland carrying the DUN gene is known as a Black Dun, Blue Dun, Mouse Dun or Grullo/Grulla.

  • A BAY Shetland carrying the DUN gene is known as a Bay Dun, Yellow Dun or Golden Dun.

  • A CHESTNUT Shetland carrying the DUN gene is known as a Chestnut Dun, Red Dun, Palomino Dun or Cream Dun.

The Mushroom Gene

LIGHT MUSHROOM
MUSHROOM

The MUSHROOM gene DILUTES the base colour of CHESTNUT by removing all the redness in the hair.

 

There are many different shades of Mushroom ranging from a very pale creamy beige to a dark liver chestnut colour.

 

Manes and tails are usually lighter in colour than the body hair, an off-white in most cases but some may have a mixture of black/grey hairs which give the impression of a silver colour.

 

However, the SILVER GENE is NOT PRESENT in pure Shetland Ponies.

A Shetland can be a MUSHROOM CARRIER if it has ONE MUSHROOM parent and these CARRIERS are HETEROZYGOUS for MUSHROOM.

 

A Shetland can only be HOMOZYGOUS for MUSHROOM if BOTH parents are MUSHROOM or a MUSHROOM CARRIER, and it is MUSHROOM in colour.

The MUSHROOM gene is UNIQUE to Shetland Ponies.

DARK MUSHROOM
MUSHROOM DUN
MUSHROOM CARRIER

Characteristics of British Spotted Ponies 

A quality pony with adequate bone and substance, hardy and active and real pony character of miniature, riding or cob type up to and including 14.2hh.

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All British Spotted Ponies must carry some or all of the following characteristics:-

  • White Sclera around the eye.

  • Mottled/Spotted Skin - this part-dark, part-pink skin is usually most evident around the genitals, lips, muzzle, eyes and inside the ears.

  • Striped hooves - born striped and very rarely change to striped on solid colour spot bred ponies.

  • Colours & Patterns as follows -

LEOPARD SPOT
Spots of any colour on a white or lightly coloured background
SNOWFLAKE
White spots on a dark base coat. Can be all over or just on the hind quarters.
NEAR LEOPARD SPOT
is very similar to the Leopard Spot but the pony will usually have a darker head, neck & legs with the remainder of it's body being similar to that of the Leopard Spot
BLANKET SPOT
An area of white over the hips and hindquarters with or without spots. Any base colour. The blanket can extend over the entire back and shoulders. The latter must display strong breed characteristics.
FEW SPOT
White base colour with only a few spots. Strong characteristics often accompanied by varnish marks (groupings of dark hairs within an area - usually nose, cheek bones, stifle, gaskin and knee)
MOTTLED/VARNISH ROAN
The coat is most often irregularly ticked with white, having also large or small roan spots, their outlines rather blurred. Sometimes also a coat looking like an ordinary roan but in which dark blots (varnish marks) appear.
Please Note: 
Piebald and Skewbald markings of any kind are not eligible for registration.
Also breeding to greys is highly discouraged as this dilutes the colour and can introduce the greying (fading) gene. A fader foal could be born beutifully covered in spots but over time and years the spots start to fade until you are left with a grey
SOLID COLOUR/SPOT BRED
is a pony bred from spotted parents but which does not display the the spotted coat pattern. Interestingly some ponies born solid colour can and very often do develop spots as they get older.Solid colours are eligible for a seperate register but must be of proven spotted breeding and preferably show some breed characteristics. 
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Dun, Dilute & Mushroom Shetland Ponies, British Spotted Ponies,

Silver Ponies & Welsh Part Breds