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Coat Color Genetics. The Reason Behind Paint Horse Coat Color. Paint Horses are a unique breed known for beautiful and colorful coat patterns. The base coat color can be any color in the equine spectrum. Superimposed over the base color are white spotting patterns. The Paint Horse.

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coat color genetics

Coat Color Genetics

The Reason Behind Paint Horse

Coat Color

the paint horse
Paint Horses are a unique breed known for beautiful and colorful coat patterns.

The base coat color can be any color in the equine spectrum.

Superimposed over the base color are white spotting patterns.

The Paint Horse
paint horse color patterns
Paint Horse Color Patterns
  • Tobiano: white markings usually cross the back between the withers and tail.
  • Overo: white markings usually do not cross the back between the withers and tail.
    • Frame Overo
    • Sabino
    • Splashed White
  • Tovero: a combination of the Tobiano and Overo coat patterns.

How are these unique coat patterns created?


Coat color patterns are created by genes. Genes carry the genetic codes that create a horse’s size, conformation and color. Let’s continue to learn how genes create coat colors.

the reason behind the coat pattern
The Reason Behind the Coat Pattern
  • Genetic inheritance determines a Paint’s coat pattern. What is genetic inheritance? It is the genes (genetic codes) parents pass on to their offspring.
  • Why is this important? It is important for Paint Horse breeders to understand genetic inheritance so they can breed for certain coat patterns, possibly raising the value of their horses.
  • What does a gene do? Genes transfer the genetic information from a parent to its offspring, determining the appearance of the offspring—including the coat color and pattern.
what are genes

Genes are the tiny, basic units of inheritance found in DNA.

Genes determine color, size, and make-up for every living species.

Each equine species receives half of their genes from their sire (father) and half from their dam (mother).

Physically, genes are linked together like a strand of pearls to form a chromosome.

What are Genes?
what are chromosomes

Chromosomes are made up of genes.

Every Paint Horse has 64 chromosomes.

Each chromosome was initially created through fertilization, where genetic information from the sire (father) was united with genetic information from the dam (mother).

Loci and Alleles are also found on chromosomes.

What are Chromosomes?



Actual photo

what are loci

The different points or markers along a chromosome.

Loci are like street signs in a busy city, allowing us to find our way along a complex chromosome.

At a specific locus, scientists can locate certain genes. These genes appear at that locus for every individual of that species.

At one locus there can be two Alleles

What are Loci?

Loci are numbered. This depicts a chromosome half.

what are alleles
What are Alleles?
  • Alleles
    • Two alleles are found at each loci on a chromosome.
    • Alleles code for the different ways a gene can be expressed.
    • For example, consider your eye color. You have a loci on a chromosome for eye color. At that loci there are two alleles—one from your mother and one from your father. The dominant of the two alleles is the eye color that you display. This is your phenotype (the eye color seen). The genetic classification (what we can’t see but what is on the loci) is called the genotype.
the genetic explanation
The Genetic Explanation
  • In coat color genetics, one of the goals is to identify the genes (genotype) in the parents and predict the probability of coat colors (phenotype) in their offspring.
  • As scientists identify genes that contribute to coat color, they assign them a letter.
    • Letters range from A-Z,
    • Can be capital or lower case (A, a),
    • May have a super script (Ast )
  • If Paint Horse breeders understand how genes work, they can selectively breed for certain coat colors.
what is simple dominance
What is Simple Dominance?
  • Simple Dominance explains how genes are expressed.
    • In Simple Dominance, two genes (one received from each parent) are passed on to the offspring. The parents’ genotype determines the genotypic possibilities of the offspring.
    • In Simple Dominance, one gene is dominant over the other. The characteristic for which this gene codes is physically displayed. Scientists identify this dominant gene with a capital letter.
    • The recessive form of the gene is submissive to the dominant form and will not be physically displayed. However, it will always be found in the genotype and could be passed on to this individual’s offspring. Scientists identify this recessive gene with a lower-case letter.
    • Because two genes are passed to an offspring, several pairing possibilities can occur. Homozygous or heterozygous pairing can occur in the offspring’s genotype.
what is homozygous pairing
What is Homozygous Pairing?
  • Homozygous
    • “Homo” means “same.”
    • A homozygous genotype is two of the same alleles (two dominant or two recessive) at one locus.
    • Consider the Black or Sorrel base coat colors. “E” codes for Black and “e” codes for Sorrel. E has simple dominance over e.
    • A homozygous dominant pair for Black base coat is EE. If one dominant E gene is in the genotype, the Black coat is expressed. This is an example of simple dominance because only one dominant E results in a Black coat.
    • A homozygous recessive pair for a Sorrel coat is ee. Because e is recessive, the only way a Sorrel coat will be expressed is if you have a homozygous recessive genotype of ee.
what is heterozygous pairing
What is Heterozygous Pairing?
  • Heterozygous
    • “Hetero” means “different” or “other.”
    • A heterozygous genotype is two different alleles at one locus.
    • One allele of the pair is dominant, while the other is recessive.
    • For example, what color would a foal with the genotype Ee be? Remember, E has simple dominance over e, and E codes for Black where e codes for Sorrel.
  • The coat color will be Black because E is dominant.
congratulations you have successfully finished exploring the basics of coat color genetics
Please proceed to the “Let’s Review” portion of the presentation. Remember to use the “Let’s Review” worksheets as you see what you have learned. Congratulations, you have successfully finished exploring the basics of coat color genetics!
let s review
Let’s Review
  • What are Paint Horses known for?

Answer: Paints are known for their unique coat patterns.

  • What are genes?

Answer: Genes are tiny units of inheritance found in DNA that code for the make-up of an individual.

  • What makes up a chromosome?

Answer: Genes make up chromosomes, loci are found on chromosomes and alleles are found at loci.

let s review20
Let’s Review
  • What is the title given to specific parts along a chromosome where two alleles are found?

Answer: Loci

  • Why are there two alleles at each loci?

Answer: Two alleles are at each loci because the offspring receives one from its mother and one from its father.

  • What is genotype?

Answer: The genotype is the genetic material that we can’t see expressed on the outside of an individual, such as a recessive allele.

let s review21
Let’s Review
  • What is phenotype?

Answer: The phenotype is the physical appearance of an individual, a characteristic that we see, such as that determined by a dominant allele.

  • In simple dominance, what allele will be expressed?

Answer: The dominant allele is expressed in simple dominance.

  • If I have a heterozygous pair of alleles, what genotype do I have?

Answer: I have one dominant allele and one recessive allele.

great job you have completed part 1 of coat color genetics

Great job! You have completed Part 1 of Coat Color Genetics!

You may test your knowledge with the quiz available at

This presentation has been provided courtesy of the American Paint Horse Association.