Grey Dapple Horse
Gray Dapple Horse
Silver Dapple is thought to be rare in the Missouri Foxtrotter, but it is documented to exist. We can theorize that the gene is probably not often present in any of the popular and prevalent MFT bloodlines, but has been introduced through less common bloodlines. It is the sought after color in some of the other gaited breeds (Chocolate Silver in the Rocky Mountain Horses in particular) and the gene is very common in most pony and miniature breeds. Silver dapple by itself is not a color; but a dilution gene that modifies the horse's base color (known dilution genes include cream (palomino & buckskin), dun, champagne and silver dapple).
The silver dapple name is confusing at best – horses that are silver dapples may or may not have dapples. Many horses have dapples and they appear on all colors – but the dapples are most visually apparent on the diluted colors (palominos, champagnes, silver dapples, etc.). All silver dapples have a light mane and tail. The "light colored" mane and tail color may look silver – but it is just as likely to appear white, flaxen and it is very common to have the light hairs mixed with black hairs.
In conjunction with the "common" colors, silver dapples are often called "chocolate silver" (black base), "bay silver or red silver" (bay base) or "buckskin silver or yellow silver" (bay base plus cream). It should also be visually apparent on the less common colors that include black bodies and/or points, such as smoky black, classic champagne, amber champagne and some ivory champagne horses - documentation on what color these horses would appear is sparse.
The silver dapple gene is a unique gene that dilutes only the black on a horse. It will typically dilute a black mane and tail to flaxen and a black body to a shade of brown or chocolate, red based horses (chestnut, palomino, cremello) may carry the gene but will not show it. Another typical trait of a silver dapple horse is that the black points (legs and ear tips) tend to be incompletely diluted. Therefore, you can visually see the black points on the legs (as you would see on a bay horse but less clearly defined). If the black continues up the leg, past the points onto the flanks and/or shoulders, the coloration may be caused by the grey or smutty genes and not the silver dapple gene.
A chocolate silver dapple horse will typically have a body that is anywhere from the color of light milk chocolate (hence the name) to almost black. Some of the very light ones resemble an odd shade of dark smutty palomino. The mane and tail will be light. On the lighter shades, you can see where the points (legs, ears) are darker than the body. A dark chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail may look like a chocolate silver dapple, but the chocolate silvers will not have the red body tint that a dark chestnut would typically have.
A bay silver will typically look like a flaxen sorrel or chestnut with some black on the legs and possibly black hairs in the mane and tail (a flaxen sorrel will be more likely to have red mixed in). A smutty/sooty flaxen chestnut can look a lot like a bay silver. A buckskin silver will look almost like a palomino, except for the tale-tale scattered black on the legs below the knees where the dilution is incomplete, the typical dark ear tips and instead of a pure flaxen mane and tail, there may be dark hairs mixed in.
Silver Dapple is a dominant gene. Two characteristics of a dominant gene are if the horse carries the gene he or she will display the color, and to produce a foals of that color one parent must display the gene. But since the silver dapple ONLY dilutes the black on a horse, a horse that does not have black (sorrel, palomino, etc) will not visually display the gene, but can pass it to his/her offspring. A very normal appearing sorrel or palomino may carry the silver dapple gene and it would not be apparent until he/she had offspring that displayed the silver dapple characteristics. This could only happen if the sorrel horse was bred to a horse that carried a black gene (bay, black, etc). A silver dapple must have one parent that is either a silver dapple or a silver dapple carrier.
Since it is a dominant gene a silver dapple will pass the gene on to its offspring 50% of the time but one never knows when that 50% will kick in. Horses with black will display it, horses without black (sorrel based) can carry it and might pass it on to their offspring. There is no way reliable way to determine if a sorrel based foal out of a silver dapple is a silver dapple carrier – unless they produce a silver dapple foal.
Another characteristic of silver dapple is that as the horses mature and age they commonly get more and more dark hair in their manes and tales. At 2 a silver dapple may have a completely flaxen mane and tail and at 15 or 20 the same horse may have an almost completely black mane and tail. The smutty/sooty gene can also cause this phenomena, but typically a sooty horse will also get darker on its flanks and body.
Determining if your horse is a silver dapple can be a challenge. The smutty/sooty gene is very common in some lines of Missouri Foxtrotters and can look like the silver dapple coloring, to the point that even horse color experts are not able to distinguish between the two. In some cases DNA testing is the only conclusive way to determine the horses true color. Quite often the smutty gene is shown to be progressive over the years – and as the horse gets older it displays more and more black hairs – to the point that a palomino can look almost like a buckskin.
Another color that shows some of the same characteristics of silver dapple is grey. This is especially true of dilute grey horses (palomino plus grey) versus buckskin silvers (buckskin plus silver dapple). The grey gene can darken the foals or young horses coat to resemble the darker legs and points of a silver dapple. One typical difference is that grey palominos are born with sooty or chocolate points, buckskin silver foals are born looking like typical palominos, with the darker points showing up at foal shed. Grey horses will continue to add white hairs through out their life until they essentially become white over the years. Silver dapples will typically add darker hairs over the years. Even though a grey horse may appear dappled, a grey horse is NOT a silver dapple. It is possible for a grey horse to carry silver dapple but one could not define it visually.
As foals most silver dapples are difficult to identify. Since most foals are born with light legs you cannot identify the color from the incomplete dilution on the legs. Bay silvers would look like a flaxen sorrel and the buckskin silvers would look like palominos - until the foal coat sheds. Even silver dapple breeders that have had silver dapples for years will hesitate to call a sorrel or palomino foal a silver dapple until the foal coat sheds and they see if the legs are the color of the body or not.
You can confirm a dark horse with a flaxen, white or silver mane and tail as a silver dapple by breeding or by doing the "red factor" DNA test. The only way to confirm that a sorrel based horse is a silver dapple carrier is by breeding. As was discussed in an earlier article, sorrel (red) is recessive and if you breed red to red, you will always get red. If you breed a suspected silver dapple (horse with flaxen mane and tail) to a sorrel based horse and get a horse with black (bay or black base) – the horse with the flaxen mane and tail is most likely a silver dapple.
The "red factor" DNA test that can help you determine if a horse is a silver dapple, a flaxen chestnut or sooty palomino. The "red factor" DNA test determines if a horse carries black or red genes.
How does a "red factor' test help in determining that a horse is a silver dapple? It is accepted that only red based horses (sorrel, chestnut, palomino, gold champagne, etc) can have flaxen manes and tails caused by the flaxen gene - these horses would test negative for black gene, positive for red gene. The ONLY color of horse that would test positive for black AND have a flaxen mane/tail is a silver dapple - so if you have a horse that has a flaxen mane/tail and tests positive for black, by current genetic theory the only color it can be is silver dapple. The red factor test can not tell you if the horse is a silver dapple carrier.
A note about breeding silver dapples - if you have multiple silver dapples that you want to breed together please be aware that there is a genetic eye defect called ASD that appears to be related to the silver dapple gene in the Rocky Mountain Horse, evidently from breeding multiple generations of silver dapple to silver dapple. Before breeding 2 silver dapples you may want to check out the latest developments and information.