Did You Know...?
All of our inheritable traits are stored in these nifty things called genes. You get half of a gene, called an allele, from each of your parents, and it is the way your two alleles interact that determines what kind of a trait you will get from that gene!
Alleles tend to be either "dominant" or "recessive." This means that usually one allele in a pair is bossier than the other and will override it altogether. Therefore, when we show a dominant allele in writing it will have a capital letter. A recessive allele gets a timid lower case one.
On a grander scale, genes can fight with one another in the same way that alleles do. One gene can tell another to change how it behaves! Sometimes a bossy gene will hide the effects of other genes. So to tell what the meek genes are doing, you may need to keep a particularly bossy gene out of the picture.
On the other hand, if a gene only likes to boss around certain other genes, you'll never know what it's doing unless those other genes are active! For example, if I like to force all red hair genes into making blonde hair instead, but there are no red hair genes around, then I'm not going to be doing much of anything, am I?
Now then, are you ready to start exploring the way genes change a horse's color?
Outlining the Basics
Like to see it in writing? Here's a quick outline of a horse's basic color genetics. Each section is explained in depth in the step-by-step guide, but you can skip ahead to any particular section by clicking on it below.
All colorations start here.
These genes modify an existing body color, sometimes subtly and sometimes in quite an extreme manner. They can affect the mane and tail differently from the body, and can also influence different base colors differently.
Dilution genes do just what their name would suggest: they lighten existing coat colors. Each type of gene does this differently, however, and some genes may only affect one color or another.
White patterns will simply be laid over top of the horse's other colors. They are split into spotting patterns, with solid white patches over the other colors, and roaning patterns, where individual white hairs get mixed into the normal coat.