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Genetics 000
Dark Colors

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What is a "Cream gene"
and how does it work?

The Cream gene is a dilution gene. 
It creates the colors palomino, buckskin, brown buckskin,  smoky black, cremello, perlino, brown cream, and smoky cream, depending on the horse's base color,  and whether there are one or two cream genes present.

This perlino colt and his sire and dam illustrate the action of the cream gene (explanation below.)

Click on these links to see examples of the various effects that Cream gene can have:

Palomino Buckskin Brown Buckskin Smoky Black Cremello Perlino Brown Cream Smoky Cream Cream Charts

The mare in the photo at the top of this page is the AQHA buckskin, Me Smart 'n' Classy.  She was bred to another AQHA buckskin, Poco Merlin. The foal got one cream gene from each parent, so he is a "double cream dilution."  And, in addition, he seems to have gotten a dun gene from one of his parents.

If you breed buckskins and palominos to each other, you may get these striking double-cream-dilutes.  Sometimes even a seemingly black or dark brown horse (smoky black) may be carrying one of these genes, which can be determined only by a DNA test, or sometimes by looking at the horse's ancestors or offspring.

Important Cream Gene Facts:

It is very important to note that the cream gene makes the horse's color LIGHTER, but does not remove it, even when there are two present.  They cannot make a horse an actual albino (they leave some pigment in the skin, hair and eyes) and are not linked to any known defects or weaknesses.

The only truly unpigmented pink skin on a horse will be under its WHITE MARKINGS, if any.

THERE ARE NO TRUE ALBINO HORSES.  Genes that cause albinism in other mammals are "recessive" genes.  Cream genes are "incomplete dominant" genes, not recessive, meaning they cannot be "hidden".  There are no known albinos, or albino genes, in the horse world.

Also, cream genes DO NOT ACCUMULATE. You cannot have more than two cream genes in any horse.  This may seem like a nonsensical concept to today's students of horse colors, but there was a time when these beliefs caused discrimination against horses with diluted color.


  • Cream Roaning

    • It would appear that some horses with the cream gene have a mixture of white-appearing hairs with the usual dilute-color hairs.


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

Palomino Buckskin Brown Buckskin Smoky Black Cremello Perlino Brown Cream Smoky Cream Cream Charts

Back Cream Dun Champagne Pearl Silver Flaxen Light Black Mushroom Dilution Chart

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by Barbara A. Kostelnik /