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The True Black

The true black Arabian horse should not have any brown in the ears, muzzle or flanks. Until more recently the black colour was very rare, but with the influence of Egyptian and Polish bloodlines, the black colour is being produced more often in the Arabian breed today.

Black can vary from Jet-black, Raven black, Blue black and Summer black. The primary colours in horses are black, or brown, and chestnut and the coat colour is the result of 11 independent processes with the interaction of the 11 processes causing the end shades and types.

Basic coat colour is due to the presence of two types of pigment in the hair, “eumelanin”, causing the black or dark brown colour, and “phenomelanin”, which causes red, tan or yellow. The phenotype is the external colour of the horse and the genotype refers to what is hidden. 

The genetic control of the hard colours lies at two loci, the “Agouti” and the “Extension”, the locus being at the point at which the colour starts. The “Agouti” determines the colour of horses with black points and blacks, and the “Extension”, the basis for chestnut. The dominant or homozygous black horse will receive a black gene from the sire and dam and will be uniformly black, or in some cases brown.

To prove a black horse is homozygous, it has to be bred to a chestnut horse and if there are no chestnuts born in at least 20 black to chestnut breedings, and that horse’s sire and dam also had no chestnuts, the horse can be considered to be homozygous black. The homozygous black will often produce a bay, but it will be a very dark bay, or nearly black, without the red tint often associated with bays and, despite its bay appearance, can also be a carrier of the black gene. The heterozygous black horse will also be black, but will carry the recessive chestnut gene that will be masked by the black gene.

The heterozygous horse can produce a chestnut at any time, even if mated to another heterozygous black horse. If a horse is homozygous, then the dominant “allele” will be present at the extension locus. This “allelle”, known as ED, will attempt to turn the horse black, irrespective of the base colour occurring at this locus.

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