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Sooty (gene)

This sooty buckskin shows a dark face mask and the concentration of dark hairs along the topline

Sooty is a term used to describe certain shades of horse coat color. Horses with the sooty trait have black or darker hairs mixed into their coats, typically concentrated along the top of the horse and less prevalent on the underparts. The precise genetic mechanism, or series of mechanisms, is not well-understood but the trait is presumed to be heritable.

In most cases, sooty coats exhibit pronounced countershading; the dorsal region is darker than the ventral region. However, some forms seem to produce darker lower parts. The "false dorsal" or "countershading dorsal" can mimic the dorsal stripe associated with dun horses and is associated with the sooty trait. The most extensive expression of sooty produces a dark, often-dappled cast oriented down from the topline. Many horses with the sooty trait have a darker mask on the bony parts of the face.

It was once thought that the sooty trait was responsible for turning chestnut into liver chestnut,[1] however it is not known to evenly darken the coat.[2] The sooty trait is responsible for many dark bays and has a particularly pronounced effect on buckskins and palominos.

Although this trait has been called the "sooty gene", similar coat-darkening conditions studied in mice suggest that coat darkening is a polygenic trait.[3] Just as in horses, the degree of sootiness in mice varies widely; some individuals have darker hairs that form a dorsal line, while others have extensive sootiness throughout.[4] A statistical analysis of 1369 offspring of five Franches-Montagnes stallions indicated that darker shades of chestnut and bay might follow a recessive mode of inheritance.[5]

Horses without any sooty effect are termed "clear-coated."

See also


  1. Dan Phillip Sponenberg. "Horse Color Genetics". http://members.aol.com/mfthorses/sponenbg.htm. 
  2. "Modifiers". Equine Color. 2003. http://www.equinecolor.com/modifiers.html. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  3. Silvers, Willys K. (1979). The Coat Colors of Mice: A Model for Mammalian Gene Action and Interaction. Springer Verlag. http://www.informatics.jax.org/wksilvers/. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  4. Silvers 1979. "[Y]ellow mice are often characterized...by variable degrees of sootiness. In some animals the sootiness is confined to a mid-dorsal streak, in others this streak is wider, covering the entire back and sometimes the flanks, so that only the belly is phenotypically "yellow." This situation is due to the admixture of hairs possessing significant amounts of eumelanin to the yellow fur."
  5. Henner, J; Poncet PA, Aebi L, Hagger C, Stranzinger G, Rieder S (August 2002). "Pferdezucht: Genetische Tests für die Fellfarben Fuchs, Braun und Schwarz. Ergebnisse einer ersten Untersuchung in der Schweizer Freibergerpferderasse [Horse breeding: genetic tests for the coat colors chestnut, bay and black. Results from a preliminary study in the Swiss Freiberger horse breed"]. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd 144 (8): 405–12. PMID 12224446. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12224446. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 


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