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Genetics 000
Dark Colors

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Identifying the
Champagne Colored

the adult has pink skin with abundant dark freckles

Champagne is a color-modifying gene, like cream or dun,  and not a term for shiny, light or strangely-colored horses.

For links to all known DNA color testing labs, click here.

Below is a chart comparing the characteristics of
Champagne vs. non-Champagne horses

However, memorizing this one sentence will save a lot of time:

The adult champagne horse will have pink skin with abundant dark freckles
everywhere except under pure white markings.  For FOAL champagne skin color click here.





Please click these pictures to see them full sized
Sweet Champagne - eye.jpg (41610 bytes)  

The skin on the udders of champagne mares is pink everywhere.
Goldie Lasan -bc.jpg (171943 bytes)
(all above are champagne horses)

The pink skin of a Champagne horse is "pigmented pink" -- not the pigment-free, paler pink color found under all white markings of all horses.  It will often tan.

The pink skin has MANY, DARK freckles.  (We don't call them mottles, splotches, specks or blotches, to avoid confusion with other kinds of equine skin pigmentation.) 

Champagne skin is this color EVERYWHERE there is colored hair on the horse.  There are usually fewer freckles under the main body hair.

It's easier to identify -- and the most freckles appear -- in these places:

around the eyes,
on the muzzle,  &
around the private parts.

Left: champagne skin; facial and private parts

Right, top: Palomino skin - around eye, 
udder, chest, and under tail.  

Right: a perlino dun Morgan Horse stallion.

Right: Appaloosa skin

Right, bottom: cremello skin

Please click these pictures to see them full sized
   doc's left eye.jpg (259103 bytes)  
The skin on the muzzle and around the eye of a Palomino will be dark gray or black except where white markings are present.
T udder.jpg (32313 bytes)
Note that the teats on the udder of a
Palomino mare are dark.
Tari skin 2.jpg (24757 bytes)     
(4 pics above are all palomino) 
wpe1.jpg (8007 bytes)
perlino dun
Click to see full size fewspotmuzzle.jpg (12593 bytes)
appaloosa skin






Amber Champagne

The body, leg, mane and tail hair of a champagne horse will ALL be "diluted" colors.  Dilution is what milk does to the color of coffee -- it lightens it. 

Champagne horses often have darker coats in winter than in summer, unless they also have a cream gene. For foal coat colors, see the foal section at the bottom of this page.

Left: an amber champagne, the result of Champagne on a bay base.  If you click on it to see it full size, you can easily see that the points are brown, not black.

Right: a buckskin, the result of CREAM on a bay base.  In the same way, you can see that her points are black.

Also notice the skin colors of these two horses.

13-hellenagraze.JPG (73664 bytes)

Gold Champagne

Shine is not taken into account, because many non-champagne horses' coats are extremely shiny or iridescent, and many champagne horses' coats do not show any unusual shine. 

Of course, champagne is not just a descriptive name for light colors, either.

Left: Champagne Cadillac; gold champagne, the result of  the gene acting on a red (chestnut) base.  

Upper right: Lewisfield Sun God, a very shiny chestnut Arabian. 

Center right: a very light-colored, shiny palomino.

Lower right: a very shiny dark cremello.

bright chestnut

light  palomino

dark, shiny cremello
Luke dapples.jpg (65905 bytes)
Gold Champagne
Sweet Apples-r.jpg (75603 bytes)
Classic Champagne

Reverse dappling is often found in Champagne colored horses, depending on the time of year, etc.  (Reverse dappling is the effect of dark spots with light surrounding "lacing".)

However, it also may be found in dun, and other colors.

Left: champagne colors with reverse dappling.

Right: dun with reverse dappling.

Amber Champagne

When coat colors are mysterious, one must look further to determine the genetics of the horse.  For example, compare these two horses:

Left: an amber champagne mare

Right:  a mystery color. This Palomino turned this color
in his later years. 
He has dark skin, and
DNA tests prove he is a palomino.

Commando Fritz - l.jpg (28622 bytes)
"sooty" palomino
Cajuns Cayenne Kid-run.jpg (46838 bytes)
Dark Gold

Left: this was once a mystery color. There are some Gold
champagnes with the unusual
"Dark gold" coloration.

Right: red duns may look 
a little similar, but duns have 
dark skin, and stripes.

Buddy 2 years old great picture.jpg (57713 bytes)
red dun





Sweet Champagne - eye.jpg (41610 bytes)

Annie12.jpg (34330 bytes)

The skin touching, and near, the eye of a champagne horse will be pigmented-pink with numerous dark freckles.  Though a few other genetic combinations can produce pink, freckled skin, they're usually different in quality or quantity (see below.) 

MOST horses have very dark (black or charcoal gray) skin around their eyes, except for under white pinto/paint/Appaloosa markings.

Left: typical champagne eye; amber champagne.

Right: dark eye skin typical of most non-champagnes

doc's left eye.jpg (259103 bytes)

gray depigmentation/vitiligo
a dash of champagne eye 3-31-03.jpg (38445 bytes)

wpe1.jpg (20496 bytes)

The skin around the eyes of a double cream dilute, like cremello or perlino, will be a slightly different shade of pink, and have just a few black "specks" rather then typical champagne "freckling".  Compare these pics to get a very good idea of the difference.

Left: champagne plus cream

Right: double cream dilutes.

1yrvanityeye.JPG (55414 bytes)
17-reye.JPG (20103 bytes)
both cremellos
Champagne Showcase - eye.jpg (54117 bytes)

Auge2.jpg (32454 bytes)

Often, horses with one cream gene will be born with pink skin.  It usually darkens to black within weeks.

Left: Champagne eyes, older and younger

Right: a smoky black
mare's eye with pinkish
skin and some "speckles"

stc5.jpg (111682 bytes)
chaser eye sm.jpg (43005 bytes)

Gray/grey on a champagne horse often produces darker colors in both coat and skin.  Gray/grey on a non-champagne is sometimes accompanied by depigmentation, or loss of pigment/color in skin on the face.

Left: gray on champagne

Right: non-champagne
gray depigmentation

gray depigmentation/vitiligo
appypagne-e.jpg (48746 bytes)

Appaloosa skin, as we have seen above, has various degrees of depigmentation.  The pigmented part of a champagne + Appaloosa horse's skin will be pink with freckles, in addition to the non-pigmented pink areas common to Appaloosas.

Left: Appaloosa PLUS champagne

Right: non-champagne
Appaloosa eye skin

eye.jpg (13356 bytes)
white sclera
Sorry, not clickable

Pearl is a newly-identified dilution gene, believed to be an allele of cream, which, in its homozygous form or combined with cream, produces dilute colors with pink skin and pale, muted freckles.

palomino + pearl





champagne_muzzle.jpg (35508 bytes)

As described above, champagne skin is pink with abundant, dark freckles.

Left: typical champagne muzzle skin

Right, above: "pink-skinned Palomino" muzzle

Right, below: normal palomino muzzle

(in most other pictures this horse's muzzle skin appears black.  Perhaps he was very young here. He is incorrectly advertised as a gold champagne.)
Asti4ichr3.jpg (96104 bytes)

Left: Amber champagne

Right: buckskin

angel2-muzzle2.JPG (47832 bytes)

The pink skin of a "double cream" (cremello, perlino, etc.) is a slightly different shade than champagne skin, and it has sparse black "flecks".

Left, top: gold cream muzzle at 4 months. Look closely under the hair for the freckles.

Left, below: older gold cream filly

Right: adult cremello muzzle

20-lmuz.JPG (47023 bytes)

Left: Amber champagne

Right: Appaloosa, gray

Appaloosa                       Gray                  
Thanks to Supanee Chaiwiroj of Thailand for the pictures of gray pigment loss.
Champagne Showcase - muz.jpg (34928 bytes)

 Freckled skin is much harder to see through heavier winter coats.

Left: classic champagne
muzzle in WINTER.

Right: muzzle of a smoky
black (one cream on black)

stc2.jpg (84929 bytes)

Here is an example of why it's so important  to use pedigree as well as appearance (and DNA testing where possible) to determine a horse's true genetic color identity.

Left: champagne muzzle

Right: Pearl dilute

MUZ-2-J.jpg (18173 bytes)





 Boo Boo - ppp.jpg (53020 bytes)
 Annie13.jpg (7390 bytes)
Sweet Champagne - b.jpg (96544 bytes)

Left: under-tail shots of typical champagne skin, mares

Right above: under-tail shot
of typical double-cream skin, mare

Right middle: under-tail of
palomino mare

Right, below: under-tail of
palomino gelding

1yrvanppp.jpg (30988 bytes)


appypagne.jpg (17701 bytes)

Left: under tail of
       champagne Appaloosa

Right: private parts of Appaloosa

App - b.JPG (51440 bytes) App - s.JPG (79919 bytes)

Right: private parts of a palomino stallion

Madame Ginger of HUKFarms-u.jpg (170741 bytes)

When it comes to UDDERS, some cream dilutes have pink, freckled, skin there, but the nipple color is dark on a cream dilute (palomino, etc.), and light on a champagne

Left: the skin on the udder of a champagne mare (very large photo)

Right: skin on the udder of 
a smoky black mare
(one cream gene on black) and a palomino mare

stc4.jpg (63272 bytes)



The first foal coat of a champagne is sometimes darker than the adult coat.  Some are born the color they will remain; still others vary from year to year.  The following pictures show the colors during age progression of a few horses of different champagne base colors.  You can see the various ways they can change from birth through adulthood.

They are shown in chronological order, with the youngest to the left.

Gold (champagne on chestnut/sorrel): Zillertal Atom

Amber (champagne on bay): Pocos Blue Champagne

Another Amber: Champagne Ambassador, aka "Ricky"


Sable (champagne on seal brown): California Champagne, aka "Fred"

Classic (champagne on black) pinto: Champagne Leap of Faith


Classic Silver (champagne and silver on black) foal coat color: Platinum Stables Classic Thunder



All champagne foals are born with bright pink skin and blue eyes.  As they mature, the skin stays a shade of pink and develops freckles; the eyes turn "amber" (yellow-green to medium brown) over months to years.

Some foals of other colors also start out with pink skin and blue eyes;
so one must know what else to look for.




Chestnuts can be born with pink skin and blue eyes, which turn dark in a few days to weeks. 

Left: champagne foal

Right: chestnut foal

Would one of the people who supplied us with pictures of pink-skinned, blue-eyed chestnut foals, please resend them, with the note "for the 'identification' web page".  Thank you!

RTTL-foal1.jpg (64866 bytes)
amber champagne dun foal
SSP-3days2.jpg (171618 bytes)
3 day old champagne foal

Single cream dilutes - Palominos, buckskins, brown buckskins, and smoky blacks, and the various kinds of duns are frequently born with pink skin and blue eyes, which turn dark in a few days to weeks.  Champagne skin and eyes do not.

wpe43.jpg (47646 bytes)click to enlarge
palomino foals

buckskin foal

palomino foal

Here is the skin color progression typical of many Palomino foals:

Day 1: Day 3:     Day 15:

This is a PALOMINO filly named Armisticia, owned by Heather Batkin of New Zealand


Horses can now be tested for most color genes to find out their true genetic color identities.  This is very useful for those who wish to breed for certain colors (or to avoid certain colors.)  Several labs currently offer tests for black (black or bay) or red (chestnut) pigment, agouti (bay, brown or solid black), silver, pearl, and cream, in addition to the three paint gene tests available (tobiano, sabino-1 and frame/LWO).  And a champagne test is now available!

Color Test Links


During the course of examining horses to be registered with the ICHR, some horses were discovered whose colors could not be explained by any then-known genetic color combination!  They looked somewhat like champagne colors, but several important characteristics were wrong.

When these unexplained colors were thoroughly researched, 
they were discovered to have distinct genetic signatures, 
different from any currently catalogued! 
There is now a test for the PEARL gene.

You can read more about Pearl HERE.

The founders and friends of the ICHR continue to research unusual and undocumented colors in horses.  We suggest you join the ICHR list as a launching point to learn more.  (See Yahoogroups button below to join.)

If you still find it difficult to determine what is a champagne color, and what is not, after studying this page, just remember: it takes years of study and experience, including some scientific training (usually), to become a horse color "expert".  Don't give up;  join the Yahoogroups ICHR discussion list (see button at bottom of each page at http://www.ICHRegistry.com ) and learn from the experts!

* If the horse has also been proven to have two cream genes, or cream + dun on chestnut, plus champagne, it may not have many visible freckles.  Any it does have may be rather pale.  Also, homozygous champagnes tend to have fewer freckles.



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

Champagne or Appaloosa?

Back Purest Champagne Champagne Plus Identification Champagne Chart

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