FF Alicia and VdS Fernando, both registered as bay.

As a breeder of Peruvian Pasos in Southern California, I have been blessed with some of the most unique and rare coat colors available in the breed. However, with this blessing has come the need to research all the latest genetic information out there in an effort to both understand and reproduce a desired color. Keep in mind that I truly see coat color as “icing on the cake.”  That is, it should never come before conformation, gait, or disposition, or we will destroy one of the most unique and rare breeds out there. Understanding that, let’s take a look at what I’ve learned about how specific coat colors are produced and/or changed.

FF Arizona, registered buckskin out of a palomino and a bay.

 To begin, the three base colors are Black, Bay, and Chestnut. My mission has been to educate myself on how less common colors exist and how to reproduce a desired color. I don’t claim to be a geneticist, but I feel it’s important to be knowledgeable as a responsible breeder and to provide learning opportunities for those individuals interested.  So with that said, let’s  take a closer look at what I’ve learned about the less common coat colors in the Peruvian Paso breed.

Starting with the knowledge that genes always come in pairs and that each parent will pass on one gene for a particular color,  I feel it is important to understand the difference between  heterozygous and homozygous. If the genes that are passed on by each parent are different for a particular color, the foal will be heterozygous for that color trait (example Ee). If the genes passed on by each parent are the same for a particular color, the foal will be homozygous for that color trait (example EE or ee).  Another important factor is whether or not a particular gene is dominant, recessive, or incomplete/semi dominant.  Dominant genes are those that require only one copy for the color to appear.  Recessive genes are those that require two copies for the color to appear.  Incomplete/semi dominant genes cause one effect/color if one gene is present, but may be intensified with a second copy of the gene.  Capital letters refer to dominant genes, and lower case letters refer to recessive.

FF Divina is a registered palomino, out of a bay and a palomino.

So what makes the Palomino, Buckskin, Cremello, Perlino, etc?  The Cream (Cr) gene is the gene responsible for changing a horse’s base color of chestnut, bay, or black to one of the more unique colors stated. How does this happen?  We must take a closer look at how the Cream gene “creams” when one copy is present, and further “creams” when two copies are present. Let’s begin by looking at one base color at a time.

The Buckskin is a Bay horse with the Cream (Cr) gene added. I think of it like a cup of coffee both before and after I add my cream. If I then take this buckskin and breed it to a horse without a Cream (Cr) gene, there is about a 50% chance that it will pass its Cream (Cr) gene on to an offspring to produce color.  A Perlino on the other hand, is a bay horse with two Cream (Cr) genes.  Going back to my cup of coffee, it’s like continuing to add more cream.  The great thing about the perlino is that it has no choice but to pass on a Cream (Cr) gene to its offspring because it is homozygous. Therefore, a colored foal is the result simply because the foal receives at minimum, one Cream (Cr) gene from that perlino. (Several web links have been provided for further understanding the perlino and possible coat colors when breeding).

VdS Azulina, registered cremello out of two buckskins.

The Palomino is a Chestnut horse with the Cream (Cr) gene added.  I guess this would be more like a rich cup of cocoa with cream added.  Again, if I take this palomino and breed it to a horse without the Cream (Cr) gene, there is about a 50% chance that it will pass the Cream (Cr) gene on to its offspring to produce color.  The Cremello is a chestnut horse with two Cream (Cr) genes which looks similar to the perlino in terms of outward appearance.  Again, the cremello has no choice but to pass on one of its two Cream (Cr) genes to every offspring because it is homozygous. As mentioned above, a colored foal is the result of breeding, simply because this cremello must pass on at least one of its two Cream (Cr) genes!  (Several web links have been provided for further understanding the cremello and possible coat colors when breeding).

So what happens if a Black horse receives the Cream (Cr) gene?  That would be referred to as a Smoky Black.  Most look just like a black horse, but some may be brown or even very dark bay.  To further confuse the matter, a black horse could receive two Cream (Cr) genes from the parents, thus producing what is called a Smoky Cream. This horse may appear similar  to the Cremello or Perlino, but genetically, it is a black horse with two Cream (Cr) genes.

VdS Rayo de Sol is a registered perlino out of a palomino and a perlino. His coat will continue to lighten.

There is yet another gene that has been discovered to exist in the Peruvian Paso breed.  This gene is referred to as the Pearl gene.  It creates an outward appearance similar to the Cremello or Perlino, or even something similar to a light Champagne.  This recessive Pearl gene is a cream-activated dilution gene that may have no outward appearance if only one copy is passed on to a bay, chestnut, or black horse.  However, if two copies are passed on to a bay, chestnut, or black horse (through the parents), it will dilute the base color once.  Furthermore, because it is a cream-activiated gene, it will react with the Cream (Cr) gene by adding a second dilution which further enhances the horses coat color.  This is why, for example, that a Pearl Palomino may be confused with a cremello or perlino.  This horse has a Cream (Cr) gene, plus the Pearl gene which adds the second dilution. These horses receiving a second dilution tend to have some dark (freckled) pigment in their skin, and hazel or amber colored eyes. What’s even more interesting is that not all of these attributes may be present at birth.  Try explaining that to someone at a dinner party!

FF Amberina (out of a black Pearl and a buckskin)  is a palomino with the Pearl gene that has resulted in freckled skin and green eyes.  Her colt, VdS Sombra Lunar (out of a Pearl palomino and a buckskin),  is a buckskin.  He does not carry the Pearl gene.

FF Amberina (out of a black Pearl and a buckskin) is a palomino with the Pearl gene that has resulted in freckled skin and amber eyes. Her colt, VdS Sombra Lunar (out of a Pearl palomino and a buckskin), is a buckskin. He does not carry the Pearl gene.

There are other color possibilities that I will wait to discuss until I further complete my research, but I wanted to provide some insight into the variety of colors possible in the Peruvian Paso breed and how they are produced.  I will continue to change and or update this information as I learn more.  Please leave me a comment if you have something you feel should be added or changed to provide the best and most accurate information available to those individuals interested in learning about color genetics in the Peruvian Paso breed.

3 Responses to “Colors”

  1. Wendy Dorsey Says:

    Have you got any Bucksins for sale, foals or whatever? Could you send any new pics of the ones you have for sale? really enjoy your colors!!! Thanks, Wendy

    1. valledelsolperuvians Says:

      Hello Wendy,

      I have a buckskin foal due in late February…. and Ohhh what a beauty this one should be!..The sire is FF Cherokee on the “Coming” page of my site. The dam is FF Alicia on my “Mares” page. She is also the dark bay I am riding in many of the trail pictures on my “Trail” page. The color combination (Perlino and Bay) leans toward buckskin as a foal color. I will email your personally to fill you in on the details. Thanks for the comment!


  2. Hi Debby,
    I got sent your link by Terri Brady and am very excited to see you have a lot of the FF horses.
    I thought you would like to know that I have Amberina’s mum FF Ayacuchana and also her half brother FF Regalo de Oro. I am delighted to see all the color information on your site. There are a great bunch of pages on all colors done by a lady called Barb Kostelnik starting with this page http://www.horsecolors.us I have found these are the best pages to explain everything from basic color down to pearl and a few other newly discoverred colors. Chana’s last foal – SR Saliente – is smoky black pearl. If you wish you can use some of her pics for your color explained page. As you can see by pics of Chana she does show some expression of ‘dilute’ like cream inside the ears so they are now thinking that Pearl is perhaps an incomplete dominant. It’s always good to meet more breeders with my horses relatives 🙂 and I consider myself very blessed to have found Debbie Dutton and got my horses from her. As there are only 2 breeders in NZ it was vital to have got good foundation blood for the future of the breed down here and in Australia – which is where all the fillies i’ve bred have gone. Feel free to link me on your site and i will add you to mine. I am also on facebook where there are a lot more current pics.

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