The Cream Gene is a modifier, or a gene that acts on one of three base colours in horses. The three base colour are chestnut, bay, and black. Some people classify brown as separate colour but for the purposes of this discussion, we will group brown with black since the inheritance is the same.
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The Cream Dilution can either be expressed as a single dilution, or a double dilution. Every chromosome has two alleles that represent the way in which each chromosome is inherited and you receive one allele from each parent. Simply put, the chromosomes (usually represented by letters) appear in pairs. To review high school biology, these pairs are generally dominant or recessive. Dominant genes are represented by two capital letters or one capital and one lower-case. The animal appears the same (phenotype) whether they are EE or Ee. The recessive form is represented by two lower-case letters ee.
The cream gene in the single form acts upon chestnut, bay and black by diluting the red colour to cream. The Cream Colour may be light enough to appear almost white to a dark chocolate tan colour. The black is generally unaffected so bay horses horses retain the black points, and mane/tail. Black horses appear somewhat diluted- a mousey chocolate. Horses with a single Cream dilution generally have dark eyes (unless blue from paint patterns) and black skin except where there are white markings (paint markings, facial markings, and leg markings).
The double dilution, or two Cream Genes acts upon both the red and black colours. The red become light cream/off white, and the black lightens to cream. In a bay horse with two cream genes, the body colour is light cream and the points appear as a darker shade of cream. Smokey Black Creams have a slightly over all darker shade but without genetic testing, it is impossible to determine what the base colour is in these horses. All double dilute Cream horses all have pink skin and blue or light green/hazel eyes.
The double dilute horses (Cremello, Perlino & Smokey Cream) are difficult to distinguish by appearance or phenotype alone. It is possible the double dilutes are all cremellos, or perlinos- or they are dirty. Google Perlino, Cremello, or Smokey Cream to see how they truly look- they are stunning colours.
The “Sooty” modifier is a additional genetic trait in which the horse’s coat looks like someone airbrushed darker colouration over the coat. In some extreme cases, the sooty modifier can turn a palomino so dark it appears ‘chocolate’ coloured- as in the case of Cloud’s son Bolder (photos below). Sooty can occur in any color and is believed to help break-up the outline/contour of a horse (countershading) and making it harder for predators to estimate the distances of the their prey.
Cream dilutions can also appear with other dilutes such as Dun. The resulting horses are called Dunalinos (dun + palomino) and Dunskins (dun + buckskin). It can be a challenge to tell pale palominos from cremellos/perlinos horses, but look at the muzzle and other mucous membranes (grey in Palomino, pink in creams). Watch for facial markings which also appear pale-pink even on palominos. The eyes are usually dark in Palominos, and pale green or blue in Creams.
ONE CREAM GENE
TWO CREAM GENES
Genotype at the agouti locus
Red chestnut, with AAAA being the reddest
Bibliography Gower, J. (1999). Horse color explained: A breeder’s perspective. North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square.
Kathman, L. (2014). The equine tapestry: An introduction to horse colors and patterns. Charlotte, NC.: Blackberry Lane Press.
Sponenberg, D. P. (1996). Equine color genetics. Ames: Iowa State University Press.
Water arrives, driving on some bumpy roads, and wild horses
Water has become scarce in Sand Wash Basin. There are currently four natural and one man-made water sources. The Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin were able to get permissions to provide supplemental water. They decided to augment three existing waterholes that are spread out to reduce impact on the environment. This is the waterhole on 126E.
The final light of day isn’t good for photography- even with a tripod, the images aren’t very clear. We have fun with our iPhone which work surprisingly well…
A Walkabout tradition: S’Mores. Mmmmmm
Our light is flashlights or luminAID. It is a solar powered inflatable lamp-we have only charged it once. It will also charge a USB device if needed. It’s soft light is perfect as we unwind from a long day of photography.
Tomorrow is our final day in the Basin. We thankfully were able to stay in Colorado the entire time and really immerse ourselves in the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horse experience. We’ve taken nearly 25K photos, and there is still tomorrow. It has been an amazing experience. We are already planning next year’s Walkabout 2021.
It was a busy one today- tons of horses, time with Cindy, new secret watering places, and some nice waterhole action. Also some art, cupcakes, and harp!
Karen is a phenomenal artist. She paints en plein air- which means she paints live – paints wild horses… live and in the field. She paints phenomenally fast and accurately. it’s amazing to watch her set up her palette, and set up her field easel. Her paintings are internationally award winning.
Today was one of the best days so far in the Basin. We saw an astounding number of horses, and even watched a band change stallions. Eclipse’s band is now under the auspices of Bobbie -although Bobbie has his hands full with such a large band.
We started with a few horses right outside our camper
We headed over to the other side of the Basin and found horses bear Lake Draw. We also ran into a car full of people from New York- naturally I was excited to see fellow NYC-ers.
The afternoon was spent at the Oasis waterhole. We saw a stallion named Bobbie take over another stallion’s band. Eclipse lost his band today, it it is a big band and there were many horses watching the two stallions interact.
It will be interesting to see how this turns out tomorrow. We’d love for horses to stay together as family bands forever, but Mother Nature decides in the end who it fittest to lead a band. Often it isn’t the strongest, sometimes it is the fastest, or the most clever. With such a large band, Bobbie has his work cut out this evening. Eclipse and other bachelors would love to run off with a mare from the large band.
Grouse, coyotes, a fire, and of course, WILD HORSES
An interesting day- because it is so dry and there is limited water in the Basin, we travel a lot to find horses. There are only a few waterholes with water (Oasis, Avocet, 126E, and Lake Draw- a little remains at Outhouse). We travel from waterhole to waterhole and sometimes we get lucky… and sometimes we sit and wait and no horses show up.
We got lucky at Avocet this morning
After lunch we started out and noticed smoke on the hills at the southwestern border of Sand Wash after a thunderstorm. We called Cindy from Wild Horse Warriors and she called 911. They take fires in this dry climate very seriously. It was mostly contained by night and likely form lightning during summer storms.
We also saw a coyote and some Greater Sage Grouse today as well.
Today was our annual Mustang Walkabout Meet & Shoot. This is a totally free workshop where we take people around the Basin and photograph horses. This year we had some old friends for the Workshop. Carin and Rachel came for their fourth year, Michael, Debra, and Dawn also attended. We were blessed to have Cindy & Aletha from the Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin along as well. The Wild Horse Warriors and Sand Wash Advocate Team (SWAT) are the caretakers of the horses and the land they live upon. They monitor the herds, work on improving water sources, administer PZP (contraception), and work with the Bureau of Land Management – and a whole lot more. Please visit their respective Facebook pages to follow their wonderful work.
Additionally, Cindy runs tours of Sand Wash Basin, so if you’re looking to find horses at Sand Wash Basin for the first time, she is an amazing resource. The tours fall within the Wild Horse Warriors not-for-profit, so the tour fees go back to helping the horses. Cindy is the only tour guide permitted to run tours at Sand Wash Basin. Please check out her webpage.
Cindy not only runs amazing tours, she is very knowledgeable about geology and Sand Wash Basin. She found a partially knapped Native American Ute arrowhead, which we respectfully placed back where we found it. The stone is chert, other stones used for arrowheads are flint and obsidian.
An equine traffic jam on the way back to camp.
Karen and I always wanted to know what horses do at night. so we got a toy- night vision binoculars that allow photos to be taken. May I say how COOL they are??? Here are some photos -some taken near dusk and the others at night. We found out horses do exactly the same thing at night, as they do during the day. Eat. Sleep. Drink water. Though less movement. The clock in the night-vision photos is earlier by one hour.
Life is ironic. In the last post I mentioned that stallions don’t often make contact during their sparring. Yesterday, Karen and I came across a band (Eclipse) and there were two stallions actively engaging. A grey named Diablo, and a grullo named Kekoa. Diablo spent most of yesterday chasing Kekoa -we saw them in the morning back on 48. In the late afternoon, we returned to the Oasis waterhole where we saw Kekoa, Diablo, & Eclipse’s band. Kekoa was covered in blood, but appeared to be sound.
Kekoa did not appear lame, and the wounds seem to be primarily superficial. There’s a lot of sharp rocks, which could cause small lacerations. Additionally, teeth and hooves can be quite lethal. After they left the waterhole, we found blood spatters and some hair.
The band returned and we watched Diablo chase Kekoa. Kekoa may have lost a mare to Eclipse/Diablo, or there was a mare coming into season, or reasons we will never understand. He was tenacious in following the band (the expression persistently following is called ‘dogging’).
They nearly ran me over, I took some hasty photos as Kekoa passed right in front of the truck.
We also saw a brand new foal in Rocket’s band. Rosie delivered a lovely chestnut foal; we gave naming rights to my son Ben and his girlfriend Priscilla. Meet ‘Tequila’.
A perfectly normal Sand Wash Day. A bit windy, but we saw a lot of horses and one snake (non-venomous Carin & Mike). The weather was lovely, albeit windy. L
Most often stallions simply posture and there is no fight. They sniff, they squeal, they strike, and sometimes rear. Rarely does it end in actual contact We saw two stallions have a minor disagreement.
From an evolutionary standpoint, if every fight was potentially lethal, stallions wouldn’t be around to pass their genes on to the next generation. How aggressive stallions behave is dependent upon whether any mares in the vicinity are in estrus. A mare who has recently delivered a foal will typically go into a ‘foal-heat’ 2-3 weeks following the delivery. This is a treacherous time for the mare and her very young foal. Stallions are not particularly gentle during copulation, and foals have been severely injured, sometimes mortally (though this is rare).
Koko declared a moderately windy day with a ‘single ear warning’ in effect most of the day.
We ended the evening at Oasis- one of the more plentiful waterholes. It was lovely to shoot in the soft warm light.
The weather tends to be dry and hot most of the time during the summer in Sand Wash. The winds can be incredibly forceful, but most of the time it is hot and dry. We watch the skies carefully. The weather changes rapidly, and without warning; we check the radar frequently.
Today dawned clear and bright blue. As the day progressed, it became more and more clouded. First happy little cumulus clouds formed ,which progressed to taller, darker, and angrier looking cumulonimbus clouds. Soon we began to see rain falling over distant areas. Looking East, the sky is blue and fair weather cloud float by. Look west, and it looks like meteorological Armageddon is forming.
At one point we saw clouds rotating in the distance and a small funnel appeared to form beneath the spinning clouds. I’ve been through one tornado, it’s an experience I prefer never to repeat. Thankfully, nothing else happened (aside from ferocious winds, lightning, pelting rain, and thunder).
We stayed in after a brief trip this morning to the solar pump (provides water for the horses) to assist Cindy from the Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin. She kindly asked us transfer the pump from generator to solar- in spite of the storms, there was a lot of strong sunshine. After that we came back to camp. I spent some much needed time on patient charts and Karen did chores around camp. We did manage to make some yummy Red Lobster biscuits in the GoSun Solar Cooker before the rain clouds rolled in.
We park the truck perpendicular to the wind which acts as a wind break. We are camped in a small valley which can either block the wind, or funnel it into a powerful force as it did today.
Koko, the blind pug makes for an excellent weather vane. One ear is moderate winds, double-ears are gale force winds. Today, we had gale force winds as evidenced by Koko’s double-ear alert…
Life is incredibly rugged in the Basin. You can never let your guard down, and never lose respect for the forces of Nature. It’s challenging enough to find horses, sometime hiking miles in extreme heat. Mother Nature provides even more challenges, but we have learned over the past decade to respect the forces and never, ever take anything for granted. The raw beauty, juxtaposed with the inherent dangers make the photographs we take in the Basin, all the more precious.