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Perlino Horse Color and Breeds: A Guide with Pictures

Published on: February 14, 2024

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by the sight of a Perlino horse? Those cream coats and blue eyes are just stunning. But, you know, it’s pretty easy to get them mixed up with other horses if you’re not paying attention.

I’ve been lucky enough to have horses around me my whole life, owning all sorts, but a Perlino? Never had one. That got me curious. I started digging into everything about them – their genetics, their history, you name it, and I decided to share all that here. How about you join me on this learning adventure?

Picture of a perlino horse.
Perlino horse.

Perlino Horses Explained

To begin, Perlino horses are not a breed but an equine color. They have this creamy coat that ranges from almost white to a light coffee color, paired with pink skin and striking blue or glassy eyes. They’re in this interesting spot between what some might call albino and your regular cream-colored horses.

Distinctive Features:

  • Coat Color Variability: Their cream color can vary significantly, from almost white to a richer pale coffee shade.
  • Mane and Tail: Unlike their Cremello counterparts, Perlinos often boast manes and tails with a darker, coffee-colored hue, adding a striking contrast to their light coat.

Identifying Perlinos:

  • Pedigree Puzzle: Distinguishing a Perlino from a Cremello can be challenging without detailed pedigree information. The presence of buckskin parents might indicate a Perlino or Cremello lineage.
  • Parental Colors: If both parents were Cremello or Palomino, or one of each, the offspring is likely Cremello. However, the mix-up often includes Smoky Cream horses, which are double dilute creams with a black base coat, sometimes referred to as Smoky Perlinos.

A Closer Look:

  • Leg Coloring: Perlino horses may have lower legs slightly darker than their body, especially if not completely white due to socks or other markings.
  • The Smoky Cream Confusion: Smoky Cream horses, with their double dilute cream and black base coat, are often mistaken for or called Smoky Perlinos, adding to the intrigue of identifying these beautiful creatures.
Picture of a perlino horse in the water.
Perlino horse.

The Genetics Behind the Perlino Coat Color

Let’s dive into the genetics that gives Perlino horses their unique coat color, blending science with the beauty of these majestic animals. At the core of their stunning appearance is a specific genetic configuration: they are homozygous for the CCr allele at the C locus, also known as the cream dilution gene.

The Genetic Blueprint:

  • Homozygous CCr: Perlino horses carry two copies of the cream dilution gene (CCr), which acts on a bay or brown base coat to produce their distinctive creamy coat.
  • Effect on Pigment: The CCr gene is semi-dominant, lightening red pigment to yellow in a single dose and to pale cream in a double dose while having a subtler effect on black pigment.

Key Genetic Insights:

  • Base Coat Influence: Typically, Perlinos have a bay or brown base, but those with a black base are often referred to as smokey cream, showcasing a darker shade.
  • Color Variations: While traditionally called Perlino, horses with a black base and double cream dilution are more accurately termed smokey cream due to their darker appearance.

Breeding Potential:

  • Perlino horses are valuable in breeding for producing palominos, buckskins, and smokey blacks, depending on their genotypes at the extension locus (E locus).

This genetic makeup not only contributes to the Perlino horse’s breathtaking coat but also highlights their role in creating a variety of beautiful coat colors in their offspring.

Perlino Horse Breeds

Picture of a Perlino horse grazing in a pasture.
Perlino Quarter horse grazing in a pasture.

When exploring Perlino horses, it’s fascinating to see how genetics play a crucial role in determining the coat colors across various horse breeds. However, it’s equally important to recognize the genetic boundaries that exist.

Breeds That Can Produce Perlino Horses:

  • American Quarter Horse: A versatile breed that can carry the cream dilution gene, making the stunning Perlino color possible.
  • Andalusian: Known for their elegance, Andalusians can also be Perlinos, showcasing the breed’s genetic diversity.
  • Welsh Pony and Cob: These family-friendly horses can exhibit the Perlino color, highlighting the gene’s presence in both small and large equines.
  • Morgan Horse: Morgans, with their amiable nature, can produce Perlino individuals, adding to the breed’s appeal.
  • Icelandic Horse: Even in the rugged Icelandic breed, the cream gene manifests, illustrating its widespread distribution.

Genetic Limitations in Certain Breeds:

It’s crucial to note that the CCr allele responsible for the cream coloration, including Perlino, does not occur in some breeds. This includes:

  • Arabians: Known for their beauty and endurance but do not carry the cream dilution gene.
  • Haflingers: A breed admired for its chestnut color and flaxen mane and tail, lacking the CCr allele.
  • Many Draught Horses: These powerful breeds also do not possess the genes necessary for cream coat colors.

Perlino vs. Cremello and Other Similar Coat Colors

Picture of a Cremello horse.
Cremello Horse

Perlino vs. Cremello:

  • Both have two cream genes, but Perlinos have a bay or black base color, while Cremellos have a chestnut base.
  • Perlinos often have darker manes, tails, and points compared to the almost white or pale features of Cremellos.

Distinguishing Features:

Similar Coat Colors:

  • Smoky Cream: Similar to Perlinos but originates from a black base color, resulting in slightly darker points.
  • Key Difference: The subtle nuances in coat and point coloration help distinguish between these closely related colors.

A New Dawn for Perlino Horses

Picture of a mare and foal both display the perlino horse color.
Perlino mare and foal.

Perlino horses, once overlooked by breeders and official registries, are finally stepping into the spotlight.

  • Turning the Tide: In 2003, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) began allowing Cremello, Perlino, and Smoky Cream foals to be registered as purebreds. Prior to this creme dilution, horses were barred.
  • A Victory for Diversity: This rule change was a significant win, not just for Perlino horses but for all cream-colored breeds, acknowledging their rightful place within the purebred community.

The UK’s Embrace of Cream Horses:

  • The Cremello Society’s Mission: Established in 2004, The Cremello Society in the UK has been instrumental in promoting the recognition and appreciation of cream horses. It serves as a registry for all dilute colors, including cremello, perlino, smoky cream, palominos, buckskins, and smoky blacks, fostering a more inclusive environment for these horses.

Key Takeaways:

  • Advocacy and Change: The journey of Perlino horses from exclusion to acceptance underscores the power of advocacy and the importance of challenging outdated standards.
  • Global Recognition: Efforts in the US and the UK reflect a growing global appreciation for the genetic diversity and beauty of all horses, encouraging a more inclusive approach to breed registration and recognition.
Picture of a Perlino horse playing.
Perlino Akhal Teke playing in a field

FAQs about Perlino Horses

What is a Perlino horse?

A Perlino horse is a type of cream-colored horse with a specific genetic makeup. They have a base coat of bay or brown, are homozygous for the cream dilution gene (CCr), and typically exhibit pink skin, blue or glass eyes, and a coat color that ranges from off-white to pale coffee.

How can you tell a Perlino horse apart from similar coat colors?

Perlinos can be distinguished from Cremellos and Smoky Creams by their base coat and the effect of the cream gene. Perlinos have a bay or brown base coat, resulting in slightly darker manes, tails, and points compared to Cremellos. Smoky Creams, which have a black base coat, may appear darker than Perlinos.

Are Perlino horses rare?

Yes, Perlino horses are relatively rare due to their specific genetic requirements. Both parents must carry the cream gene to produce a Perlino offspring, making them less common than single dilute colors.

Can Perlino horses have health issues related to their coat color?

No, the Perlino coat color itself does not cause health issues. However, like any horse, Perlinos can be susceptible to general health concerns that all horse owners should monitor.

What breeds can produce Perlino horses?

Many horse breeds can produce Perlino offspring as long as both parents carry the cream dilution gene. This includes breeds like the American Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, Andalusian, and many others.

Conclusion: Perlino Horse Color

Throughout this article, we’ve learned about the genetic intricacies that give Perlino horses their distinctive coats, the challenges they’ve faced in gaining acceptance, and the triumphs of dedicated organizations in ensuring these horses are celebrated for their unique qualities. It’s a story of resilience, advocacy, and the enduring allure of one of nature’s most splendid creations.

As we reflect on the Perlino horse’s journey from the fringes to the forefront of equine appreciation, let it inspire us to embrace diversity and recognize the value of every unique trait. Whether you’re an aspiring owner, a breeder, or simply an admirer of these magnificent creatures, there’s so much to appreciate and explore.

Call to Action: Let’s continue to support and advocate for the recognition of all horse breeds, celebrating their diversity and the richness they bring to the equine world. Dive deeper into the Perlino horse’s story, educate others, and perhaps consider how you can contribute to the ongoing journey of acceptance and appreciation.

Additional Resources

For those eager to learn more about Perlino horses, explore the following resources:

These resources offer a wealth of information for anyone looking to deepen their understanding of Perlino horses and their place in the broader equine community.