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Genetics 000
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Sootiness Pangare Brindle


...the effort to conceal the presence of something by breaking up its lines/shape visually, or blending it into the background.


The most well-known form of camouflage in horses is dappling.  Much like the spots of a leopard, the spots formed by dappling break up the smooth, rounded appearance of a horse's body, helping it to blend into the lights and shadows that would be found in tall grass, for example, or in a wooded area.  Dapples are usually light spots, roughly 2" across, tied together with a darker "netting". While "dapple gray" is the kind with which most folks are best acquainted, many other colors will form dapples when the horse is in good health, or is sooty, or has a cream gene, or is between coats.  http://www.tamarsventures.com/silvers/Ginger1990.jpg A few color genes even tend toward "reverse dapples"... darker spots tied together with a lighter netting http://www.ichregistry.com/images/Luke_dapples.jpg .  (Photographs, including close-ups, will show these various colors/stages with their attendant dapples!)


Another well-known form of camouflage in horses is "dun", the gene or genes that dilute most of the body color, while leaving it dark in the form of stripes.  That is covered in the dun section of this web site.

Though in today's domestic horses, it may not look much like camouflage, it's believed to be related to the striping of zebras, tigers, and other such animals, in which it more drastically breaks up the visual lines of the animal's body.


Probably the second-best-known form of camouflage in horses is "countershading". 

This form of camouflage works by making an animal darker where natural lighting would highlight it, and making it lighter where it would normally have shadows.  Thus, its shape becomes harder to distinguish "in the wild".


Sootiness, or smuttiness, is what we call the dark shading over areas that would normally reflect light.


Pangare, or mealy, are terms for the lightness of hair color in areas normally in the shadows.


... the combination of the effects of shading and pangare, to most effectively disguise the shape of a horse.

Look at the American Quarter Horse in this picture.  He has dark patches on each hip bone, to minimize their appearance.  His big, round barrel (rib cage) is also counter-shaded... dark where there would naturally be highlights.  The same thing is true of his large, noble head: the top, which would normally catch the sun, is darker than his muzzle, which would normally be in its shadow.  This points out that this particular horse, which was the author's husband's mount for about 14 years, also showed pangare: his muzzle, flanks, belly, etc. were a lighter color than his body -- almost flaxen in winter!  Below, he is not quite shed out.  Look at the light edge where his belly meets his stifle, and also his "mealy" muzzle:


Then there's the mysterious brindle.  Brindle is the fine, somewhat blurred striping found in some Boxers, Great Danes, Afghan Hounds, the various Bulldogs, etc.

Brindle is believed to come in at least three forms: the chimera, brindling as an extreme form of dun, and other brindling.


A chimera is an animal that has two complete sets of chromosomes within its cells, as though it were a set of fraternal twins in one animal.

It's easy to imagine that a horse with this condition could have two different body colors vying for expression.  When neither one succeeds in completely dominating the other, one is visible in this form of striping or ticking against the background of the other.

Dun brindling

When a dun horse has an extreme amount of striping, sometimes it's carried on to the larger areas of the body in the form of brindle-like striping.

Brindle, other

There are brindled horses that do not test positive for being chimeras, and are not duns, either.

Brindling seems to be a very effective form of camouflage, breaking up the smooth, flat surfaces of the animal, and even enabling it to blend in with tall grass, weeds, or trees.

Other reference: until this section is better filled out, I'd like to recommend this web site which has held a fascination for me for many, many years: http://www.brindlehorses.com/

To follow the educational, logical progression of this web site, click "Next", below.

Sootiness Pangare Brindle

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