The colors of the icelandic horse

Icelandic: (the body colour)-slettuskjóttur, or -hjálmskjóttur.

English: Splash white.

German:  Klecksschecke.

Dansh:  Splashbroget or hættebroget

Swedish: Bukskäck.

Description: The the homozygous horse has a bodycolour with big white spots, with 4 white socks, a white belly and often white flanks , and a white face (bald face), and blue eyes. The back is usually not with white spots. A very rare colour.

Heterozygous splashed white horses can have all, a few or none of the five signs.

Some genetics:  The splashed white colour is on the Spl-locus.  This is an incomplete dominant gene (that is, sometimes you can see it’s expression/color on the horse, sometimes not), spl, that turns spots on the body into pigment-less areas, that is, white. All horse-colours can become splashed white.

If the horse carries the Spl gene, the phenotype (how the horse looks) can be very variating:

If the horse is heterozygous (has just one Spl gene), it could show the gene by having an extremely wide blaze (“helmet”), or having a wide and irregular blaze, it might have 1 or 2 blue eyes, it might have 1 or 2 socks. The heterozygous horse does not nessesarily show all these signs, just some of them, or none of them.  If the base color is black or bay, and the horse has a blue eye, it is very likely that it is heterozygous splash (chestnuts often have a “regular/normal” blaze, but if a black or bay horse has a blaze it is in most cases a splash carrier).

If the horse is heterozygous splash, it is common that you don’t see it at all, the horse just simply has no extra markings because of the gene.

If the horse is homozygous splash (has 2 splash genes), it will have 2 blue eyes, a wide white blaze, white socks, and a white belly spot (it can be big or very very small, I’ve seen belly spots the size of a fist)..

Foal color: You can see right from the start whether the foal is splash white or not, the white spots can be seen already on the newborn foal.

Pictures with examples of horses that are splash white, but with different expressions of the color, and with different base colors:

A bay splash white horse here below, showing all the typical signs for a homozygous splash white horse (a “true” splash white) very well.  The horse has a wide blaze that is a “helmet”, covering the chins and one of the eyes.  The horse has white socks on all legs, and a white belly spot (this belly spot is though so big that it goes all the way up to the back).  Both eyes are blue.  Click on the photos to see them bigger.

© Lukka.

© Lukka.

© Lukka.

© Lukka.

© Lukka.

© Lukka.

A blach splash white horse here below, showing all the typical signs for a homozygous splash white horse (a “true” splash white) very well.  The horse has a wide blaze that is a “helmet”, covering the chins and both eyes.  The horse has white socks on all legs, and a white distinctive belly spot.  Both eyes are blue.

© Lukka.

© Lukka.

© Lukka.

© Lukka.

A chestnut splash white horse here below, showing all the typical signs for a homozygous splash white horse (a “true” splash white) very well.  The horse has a wide blaze that is a “helmet”, covering the chins and one of the eyes.  The horse has white socks on all legs, and a white belly spot (that goes up to the flanks).  Both eyes are blue.  The father of this horse is chestnut, the mother is palomino/grey with a regular blaze, so both parents were hiding the fact that they carried splash white completely.

© Lukka.

© Lukka.

© Guðrún Guðmundsdóttir.

A black splash white horse here below, showing all the typical signs for a homozygous splash white horse (a “true” splash white) very well.  The horse has a wide blaze that is a “helmet”, covering the chins and  the eyes.  The horse has white socks on all legs, and a very tiny white belly spot (it can not be seen on this picture).  Both eyes are blue.

© Lukka.

A maximal chestnut splash white horse here below, showing all the typical signs for a homozygous splash white horse (a “true” splash white) very well (the “helmet”, blue eyes, socks), but the white spreads over almost all the body.  Both eyes are blue.  You can know for sure it is a homozygous splash white (and not tobiano carrying) horse by looking at her parents, her mother is bay with blaze and some white in one of her eyes, her father is black with blaze, one blue eye, and one sock.  So, the horse on the picture is not a tobiano, and both her parents were showing some signs of being heterozygous splash carriers,neither of them were tobiano.

© Lukka.

A heterozygous (carries 1 gene) black splash white carrier horse here below, showing typical signs for a heterozygous splash white horse very well.  The horse has a blaze even though the base color is black, and one of the eyes is blue (all the rest of the body is black).

 © Lukka.

Sometimes additional genes can complicate the expression of the color.  This foal has a tobiano pinto father and a splash white (heterozygous) carrying mother (that shows no signs of having splash white).  The foal is propably both tobiano pinto and heterozygous splash white, so both genes are making many areas of the body white, and the splash white creates the white helmet and the blue eyes.  There is thus not much colored area left on the body of the foal.  Sometimes tobiano causes horses to have blue eyes, so one can not be sure that this horse has splash, only based on this picture.

Again, a propably tobiano and heterozygous splash white foal.  This foal has a tobiano pinto mother and a splash white (heterozygous) carrying father.  The foal is both tobiano pinto and heterozygous splash white, so both genes are propbly making many areas of the body white, and the splash white propably creates the unregular blaze and the blue eyes.  There are thus not much colored areas left on the body of the foal.  The foal is 0ur Óskadís from Langhúsum.  Her mother is a regular chestnut tobiano, her father is a chestnut that conceals the fact that he carries splash, exept that he has one sock (and that is not a proof of having splash white), but he has had many offspring that show clear signs of carrying splash.

 © Lukka.

 © Lukka.

Óskadís, a few years later:

 © Lukka.

 © Lukka.

A silver dapple tobiano heterozygous splash white:

 © Lukka.

A silver dapple splash white, possibly tobiano also, I would have no idea exept by looking at the pedigree and it’s possible offspring:

  © Lukka.

Some heterozygous splash white carriers, with broad irregular blazes, blue eyes, and splash in their pedigree:

 © Chantal Jounkergouw.

 © Chantal Jounkergouw.

 © Chantal Jounkergouw.

Some “pure” splash whites, homozygous splash white (they carry two splash white genes):

 © Chantal Jounkergouw.

 © Chantal Jounkergouw.

These mother and baby might be tobiano and carrying splash, or they might be simple tobianos.  The irregular face markings give the hint that they might carry splash white, but the eyes are not blue, and we can not know for sure exept if they throw babies that are clearly splash white carriers (or by making a DNA test).

 © Lukka.

This horse has an all white body exept the forelock and ears, and the colored lip.  It has a splash white carrying parent and a tobiano parent, and is showing what can happen with a tobiano splash white, each color whitens out it’s areas of the body, untill almost no color is left, just the colored forelock and ears (click on the pictures to see details):

 © Lukka.

 © Lukka.


Silver horses

There is the same gene lying behind both the silver dapple and silver bay horses, there is just a different base color.

The silver colour in the mane can be seen in all horses that have black hairs in the mane and tail (black base color).  So, you can have silver dapple black, silver bay,silver bay dun, silver buckskin, silver dapple pinto etc. The silver colour can thus appear in all colours exept chestnut, yellow dun, and palomino.

Silver dapple black:

Icelandic: Móvindóttur.
Description: The horse has a chocolate-brown or silvery grey body colour and whitish mane, and usually dapples on the body.

A silver dapple yearling with top pedigree, Prýði from Langhúsum.

©-LUKKA. 

Prýði from Langhúsum when she was half year old, with her silver dapple black mother, Svala from Hvanneyri.  The mother has a very sharp silver dapple contrast, as sharp as you can get.

©-LUKKA. 

Contrasts in the silver dapple mare, and the landscape.  Sól from Skarði.
©-LUKKA. 

A very clear example of silver dapple in summer coat. Vindur from Enni. 
©-LUKKA. 

Vindur from Enni again. 
©-LUKKA 

This mare is very dark silver dapple, it is even hard to know for sure if she is silver dapple black, or smoky black.  Skíma from Skíðbakka and her rider Orri Sigurbjörn Þorláksson, in 2012. 
©-LUKKA 

Here’s a 6 year old mare in heavy winter coat, but the dapples peek through as lighter spots. 
©-LUKKA 

On the other hand, here we have a very unsharp contrast. Sometimes the mane can be even blacker than here. This is not the most popular version of the silver dapple, but genetically it’s a silver dapple, and can produce a light silver dapple foal. Snekkja from Höfnum.

Not all silver dapples show the dapples very clearly, but by far most do.  The dapples can’t though always be seen in very young horses, not untill they’re 2 years old.

©-LUKKA 

A newborn silver dapple black, showing the very typical newborn color of  a silver dapple black:

Foal color:
It is always easy to differ between a silver dapple and other colors on the very first day. After that it becomes difficult, untill the foal has shed it’s foal coat. If the inner edge of the eyelids on the newborn foal is pink it is a chestnut or other red based color (and the foal is not silver dapple). Reminds of a red haired human. If the inner edge of the eyelids on the newborn foal is black (that is, the foal is all ready wearing make up) it is a black base coat, so the foal is a silver dapple!

So: look at the newborn foal:
1) light grey beige with same or lighter mane/tail and make up on = black silver dapple
2) reddish color with lighter mane darker tips of ears greyish legs and make up on = bay silver dapple
3) reddish color with same or lighter mane and in need of make up (pink skin closest to the eye) = chestnut

Silver dapple foals also have striped hooves but that is not a sign to guarantee on since since markings can interfere.

This picture is taken of a few months old foal. It shows on the upper body of the foal how the foal hairs look on a newborn silver dapple foal. A newborn silver dapple is very light, often in a very unidentifiable mud-color, with little contrast between mane and body. Later when the foal drops it’s foal hairs, the real body color emerges, as is happening on this foal’s feet and muzzle. 
©-Sigrid Younger 

A foal that has fully shed the foal coat. Gæla from Hofsstöðum 
©-Catharina Hedsäter

Some genetics:
The silver colour is on the Z-locus. You need one dominant gene Z which changes a black body colour into a chocolate-brown, and black mane and tail into a flaxen mane and tail, or silver-grey mane and tail. So, one of the parents need to be silver dapple for the foal to become silver dapple. There is though one fact that makes this a bit complicated, the fact that the silver dapple gene lightens a black mane and tail. Horses that don’t have a black mane and tail to begin with can thus carry the silver dapple gene without you seeing it. If a palomino, yellow dun, grey or chestnut horse is carrying the silver dapple gene you can’t see it, and if a silver dapple parent has a foal in these colors, you can’t see whether the foal carries the gene or not. It is thus adivicable, if you want to breed a silver dapple horse, to get a foal in this color, to breed the horse to a horse that has a black mane and tail, to increase the likelyhood of getting a silver dapple foal. For example, if you have a silver dapple mare, breed her to a black stallion, not a chestnut or palomino stallion

The color in different languages:
USA: Silver, silverdapple
Dutch: Zilverappelzwart
Swedish: Silversvart
In Europe they are usually called by the Icelandic name Vindótt.

Silver bay:

Icelandic: Jarpvindóttur (sometimes called rauðvindóttur, which is the same color, just a wrong definition, as the base color can not be chestnut (rauð)).

Description: The horse has a bay body colour and flaxen mane.

The most beutiful version of silver bay.

A beutiful silver bay competing in dressage

©-Britt Ingrid H. Grimnes 

The reason why Icelandic people call this caller mistakenly rauðvindótt, and why it seems that silver bay is so much more uncommon than silver dapple. A silver bay often looks like this horse, and is difficult to distinguish from a chesnut with a flaxen mane. The difference is the black feet, they are black because the base color is bay. In very rare cases it happens that a mare in this color is taken to a black stallion, and to everyone’s surprice, a silver dapple foal is born.

©-LUKKA 

The darkest version of silver bay looks like liver chestnut.  This mare has a light forelock, dapples, grey hairs sprinkled in her mane and tail, and a silver dapple parent.  Modifying genes that come on top of silver dapple and other color genes often control how light or dark the color becomes.  This mare could have a light silver bay foal.

©-LUKKA 

Foal color:

It is always easy to differ between a silver dapple and other colors on the very first day. After that it becomes difficult, untill the foal has shed it’s foal coat. If the inner edge of the eyelids on the newborn foal is pink it is a chestnut or other red based color (and the foal is not silver dapple). Reminds of a red haired human. If the inner edge of the eyelids on the newborn foal is black (that is, the foal is all ready wearing make up) it is a black base coat, so the foal is a silver dapple!

So: look at the newborn foal:

1) light grey beige with same or lighter mane/tail and make up on = black silver dapple

2) reddish color with lighter mane darker tips of ears greyish legs and make up on = bay silver dapple

3) reddish color with same or lighter mane and in need of make up (pink skin closest to the eye) = chestnut

Silver dapple foals also often have striped hooves (like the adult silver dapples) but that is not a sign to guarantee on since since markings can interfere.

Some genetics:

The silver colour is on the Z-locus. You need one dominant gene Z which changes a black body colour into a chocolate-brown, and black mane and tail into a flaxen mane and tail, or silver-grey mane and tail.

The color in different languages:

USA: Silverbay

Dutch: Zilverappelbruin

Swedish: Silverbrun

In Europe they are usually called by the Icelandic name Vindótt.

Other silver colors:

Silver buckskin:

This is Thyrnirós from Tunguhlíð, an old (and out of shape now) broodmare. She is obviously buckskin, but bucksking often have light, sunfaded manes. Her grandchildren revealed her silver dapple base color, because her son had silver dapple offspring with non-silver dapple carrying mares.

©-LUKKA 

Above – Gnúpur, a stallion that is buckskin silver dapple.
©-Dawn Shaw

Horses like this one have given people the ideas that the champagne color might exist in Icelandics. It gave rise to a lot of debate for a while. But, one characteristics of the champagne color is that they are born with blue eyes that later turn brown, and they have a pink mottled skin. This does not happen in any Icelandics.

The horse on this picture looks champagne with non-mottled skin. When he had had a lot of offspring, one could see the genetical composition, he is buckskin silver dapple.

The brown eyes come because of the Ccr gene. The golden color in the mane comes because of the Ccr gene. The silver color in the mane comes from the silver dapple gene. The total effect is certainly striking.

A close up of his brown eye.
©-Dawn Shaw 

This mare foal was in fact a real riddle. She’s all in a very light color, but the feet are dark and the face is very smutty, the mane has a silvery shine. She’s silver buckskin. That is, the base color is bay, the creme gene changes the base color into buckskin, and the silver dapple gene changes the black mane and tail into light/silvery.

©-Michael G. Jensen 

Silver dapple pinto:

Silver dapple pinto, Illugi from Miðsitju.  ©-LUKKA 

Bay dun silver dapple:

The horse here above is bay dun silver dapple.  ©-LUKKA 

Bay dun silver dapple, possibly splash carrier:

Smutty face, yellowish body, light mane with both a hint of black color and a hint of silver color in it.

©-LUKKA 

 

Same mare as above.

©-LUKKA Darker legs but light fetlocks, eel stripe.

This mare has a bay dun father, and a silver dapple mother. The calculation is thus simple, even though the outcome is spectacular and strange to see. This is a silver bay dun. The base color is thus bay, the dun gene changes the horse into a bay dun, and the silver dapple gene changes the black mane and tail into a light mane and tail. As the father of this mare is known to throw splash whites, and as this mare has a black/bay base color and a blaze, it is a possibility that she carries a splash white gene too, but it is impossible to know untill she’s had some offspring.

©-LUKKA 

Silver dapple smoky:

This horse (Stormur) has a palomino father that is known to sire silver dapples. Stormur’s mother is black. He looks like a strange smoky or a strange silver dapple, and in fact he’s both, he get’s the black color from his mother, the silver color from his father, and the creme (smoky black) color from his father. The outcome is a silver dapple smoky. His half-brother which is silver dapple is on the right side on the picture, see how very different the body color is.

©-LUKKA 

Silver dapple buckskin tobiano splash?:

©-Ómar Runólfsson

©-Ómar Runólfsson

To begin with, this horse is obviously tobiano/pinto. Then if we look at the color of the spots, it it creme colored and must be palomino or buckskin. But as the mane is silver dapple the base color must be black, so the horse is buckskin (palomino has a chestnut base color). A blue eye and white “helmet” in the face indicates splash white too. So this is propably silver dapple buckskin tobiano splash.

English: Skewbald, tobiano, piebald, pinto.

German:  Schecke.

Swedish: Skäck.

Danish:  Broget.

Icelandic:  Skjóttur.

DescriptionThe horse has a bodycolor with big white spots, always with socks. The back can have white spots, usually there is a white spot going over the withers.  The base color can be any of the occurring horse colors, the tobiano gene controls the white spots.  The white area can be so widespread that just the head and the tail are colored, or the white area can be so small that the horse only shows white socks and a few white hairs on the withers, and everything in between.

Some genetics: The tobiano gene is dominant, so 50 % of the offspring of a tobiano horse should on average become tobiano.  The gene has the letters To.

Foal color: You can see right from the start whether the foal is pinto or not, the white spots can be seen already on the newborn foal.

A rather newborn bay pinto foal, Tildra from Langhúsum.

© Lukka.

Pictures with examples of horses that are pinto, with different base colors:

Click on the pictures to see them bigger.

Black and white pinto (brúnskjóttur):

Some typical black pintos:

© Lukka.
© Lukka.
© Lukka.
Black pinto with a “washed out” spot, this sometimes happen because of some genetical coincidences.
© Lukka.
This mare has very pretty face markings.  Such rough edges between the white and black patches (in body or in face) are not common. Blazes are rare on black horses, which is why you seldom see a blaze on a black and white tobiano. Irregular white spots on the face like on this mare are a rare treat. 
©Lukka.
©Lukka.
Another sweet treat:
© Lukka.
Chestnut pinto (rauðskjóttur):
Some typical medium chestnut pintos:
© Lukka.
© Lukka.
A light chestnut pinto:
©Tim Kvick
© Tim Kvick.
A minimal chestnut pinto. The foal looks like a chestnut, exept for the tiny spot on the withers, and four socks:
© Dawn Shaw.
A chestnut pinto splash white, a typical chestnut pinto, and a chestnut pinto roan together:
© Lukka.
Bay pinto (jarpskjóttur):
Medium bay pinto (blod bay pinto):
© Lukka.
Extremely dark bay pinto mare:
© Catharina Hedsäter.
Medium bay pinto (Kátína from Langhúsum):
© Lukka.

A light blue dun pinto (mósaskjóttur), showing the two-colored mane and stripe on the back of the blue dun gene, and the socks and spots of the tobiano gene.:

A ligth blue dun pinto (mósaskjóttur), showing the two-colored mane and stripe on the back of the blue dun gene, and the socks and spots of the tobiano gene.:

©Lukka.

A red dun pinto (bleikskjóttur):

©Lukka.

A bay dun pinto:

© Lukka.

Black roan pinto in summer coat (brúnlitföróttskjóttur) – Hersing from Langhúsum:
© Lukka.
Same black roan pinto mare in winter coat (the spots come and go depending on the time of the year):
© Lukka.
A bay roan pinto:
© Lukka.
Palomino pinto (ljósaskjóttur):
© Lukka.
© Lukka.
The palomino spots often get lighter in the winter coat, almost vanishing, and then returning with the golden shine in the summer time:
© Lukka.
Grey pinto (gráskjóttur):
A grey pinto is born in some regular pinto color, and then the spots become lighter as the horse grows older.  This horse became white later, as all grey pintos do:
© Lukka.
Another grey pinto:
Smoky black pinto (móbrúnskjóttur):
This mare is smoky black pinto.
© Linda Bergström.
Silver dapple pinto (vindskjóttur, vindóttskjóttur, móvindóttskjóttur):
© Lukka.
© Lukka.
© Lukka.
© Lukka.
A silver dapple, heterozygous splash, pinto:
© Lukka.
Minimal and maximal tobiano:
A horse can be what is called minimal tobiano. An icelandic does hardly ever have 4 socks without having the tobiano gene… and an icelandic hardly ever has the tobiano gene without having 4 socks. Sometimes horses have socks and hardly a spot on the body above the feet. If such a horse is bred, it can be a surprice to the owner when the foal is a loud pinto. In those rare cases where a horse is with 4 socks and not tobiano, it is usually a splash white, or a splash white carrier.
A rather minimal pinto, with socks and a small spot on the withers:
© Lukka.
An extremely minimal pinto, with white socks, and 5 white hairs on the withers (too small to be seen on the photo) – Æska from Langhúsum:
© Lukka.
On the other extreme end of the scale is a pattern like this, which is a very maximal tobiano, only leaving some color on the loin and head.  In rare incidents the horse is totally which with just color on the ears and forelock, that is though a combination of splash white and tobiano. – Óskadís from Langhúsum:
© Lukka.
A maximal chestnut pinto foal, with his grey pinto mother (old enough on the picture to be totally white):
© Lukka.
 
Ink spots (hrafnaspark):
Small spots on the big white areas, looking like some small animal with dirty feet has walked on the white spots, these spots are called ink spots.  These markings are an indication, it’s higly likely this horse is homozygous for pinto (so all it’s offspring will become pinto).   But, horses can have some markings similar to ink spots without having two pinto parents (then the horse can’t be homozygous), and horses can be homozygous pinto without having any ink spots.  
© Lukka.
© Susanne K. Möller.
Very loud ink spots:
© Lukka.
Mosaic pattern.
  • A unique horse, Miljón from Grund. Her color is chestnut and black, forming a pinto pattern. The color of Milljon is a coincidental genetic pattern not reproducable (has been observed in other icelandic horses), her babies have not had this color. It is called mosaic pattern.  The reason is that when her mother was pregnant, she has been carrying twins, that merged together into one foetus (foal).  So, the originally two foals (one chestnut and one black) melted into creating this chestnut and black mare.  Nature can be amazing at times.