A Piebald horse is a horse with black patches on a white coat. It can also be a black base colored coat with white patches. The black and white color combinations can be in different patterns.
Origin Of The Word “Piebald”
The term Piebald originates from two words. The word pie emerges from the black and white bird “magpie”. Bald means white background. This term originated in Britain.
In the British language, the words Piebald and Skewbald are used to denote color coat terms. In the US horses of this color pattern are also called “Pinto” or “Pinto horse”. American Paint Horse is the broad umbrella term for the registered breed of colored horses. Piebald is one of them.
Is It A Breed?
Some people mistakenly believe that Piebald is a breed. It is not a breed. Piebald refers to a color pattern of the horse. The color coat pattern appears due to a mutation gene. The term Pieblad has nothing to with the height and other physical characteristics of the horse. These characteristics are determined by the breed of the horse.
Various horse breeds like Gypsy horse, Drum horse and the Irish Sport horse can have the Piebald color pattern. Breeds such as Welsh Cob, Marwari Horse and Eriskay Pony can also have this Piebald pattern.
Location Of Colored Patches
The location of the white area on the horse depends on the relocation of melanoblasts from the neural crest to paired bilateral areas’ in the skin of the embryo. The patterns look symmetrical when melanoblasts move to both locations of a pair and multiply uniformly in both locations. But this rarely happens and hence the patterns are asymmetrical.
There is no fixed pattern of color on the Piebald horse. Some horses may have black as the dominant color. Others may have white as the prominent color. A specific gene is responsible for spotting patterns. The patterns are asymmetrical. Depending on the patterns the Piebald horses can be classified as under:
The word Tobiano has its origins in the Spanish language. A dominant gene causes this color pattern. The color pattern can be seen at birth and remains the same throughout the horse’s lifetime. The Tobiano horse has minimum one parent with the Tobiano gene. If one of the parents passes on the gray gene to the foal then the coat will fade as the horse grows older.
This pattern can be identified by white color in all the four legs below the hocks and knees. There may be an oval or round colored marks over the head and chest. The white patches may be arranged in a vertical pattern. They are normally circular or oval.
The black patch may stretch down the neck and looks like a shield. The head is strong colored and eyes may be brown. You get an impression of a white horse sprinkled with color. Black or white may be the primary color.
Overo is the Spanish term which means “like an egg”. The Overo pattern is characterized by dark-colored legs. The tail is single-colored. Blue eyes are common in Overo color pattern. Horses with the Overo gene may be completely black in color with very little white or no white markings at all. The horses with Overo pattern usually have a dark colored head and tail.
Some shapes may be dominant, incomplete dominants or polygenics. In some horses, the white patches can be so minimal that the horse may look like a solid colored horse. At times the color pattern can look like white patches surrounded by a black frame. The Overo is divided into sub-patterns like Sabino, Frame Overo and Splashed white based on its color.
3. Frame Overo
The Frame Overois a common pattern. The horse has a black colored coat with asymmetrical white patches. These patches have a horizontal shape. The patterns are uneven. The tail is single-toned and the lower legs tend to be of black color. Usually, the head is white and the horse may have blue eyes.
4. Splashed White
This is a very uncommon pattern. The horse looks like it has been dipped in white color from the bottom. There are multiple Splashed white genes which cause this color pattern. The face, legs and lower part of the body are white. The borders between the white and black color are precise and rigid. The upper part of the horse is dark colored. The white patch is very less. It could be a star, a snip and white socks.
The Sabino pattern is formed by a gene which is recognized as SB-1. But all Sabino pattern horses are not found to carry this gene. Sabino is a common description which denotes a class of white spotting patterns which look alike. Sabino has markings on their white head which extend past the eyes.
They may also have extended white stockings with jagged edges on all their feet which stretch up their legs. The markings are asymmetrical and appear to have slipped on one or both sides. There can also be markings under the horses belly.
The Tobero (also known as Tovero) is the offspring of a registered Overo and registered Tobiano. Tovero horses with this color pattern can have different color and pattern on either side of their body. The base coat is usually white.
They have dark spots surrounding their ears. These pigments extend across their foreheads and eyes in some horses. They also have distinct “shield” black markings enveloped by white color on the face or chest. They can have one or both blue eyes. They also have dark spots near the mouth. In some cases, these spots extend all the way upto the sides of the face. There can be black spots on the chest in different sizes. They have different sized spots at the base of the tail.
It is difficult to understand the genetics behind different patterns. Some horses can have a combination of patterns which cannot be put in any one category.