Silvers and Golds of the Sand Wash Basin " Cowgirl "Challenge Painting #64
5" by 7" watercolor
Cowgirl is a mare of distinct color and exhibits the silver factor in her coloring. She is a yellow or red dun in color, however the silver markings come out in her mane and tail. Here is what the reference website suggested by our guest blogger, Debra More McGuire, states about both silver and dun coloring on horses.
Dun is a simple dominant mutation that affects both red and black pigment. Dun appears to lighten the base coat, but usually leaves the color of the mane, tail, and legs alone. Dun horses also show primitive markings, such as striping down the back and legs, and other parts of the body. This association is so strong and consistent, a horse is not believed to be dun unless they exhibit at least a dorsal stripe. But not all horses with primitive markings are dun. Primitive markings which occur on non-dun horses are considered a form of countershading. Foals frequently exhibit these markings, and they usually disappear when the foal coat is shed. But in some cases, the markings persist into adulthood. Horses with the sooty factor often have false primitive markings, and gray horses often show them during the graying process. In many breeds, dun is also the traditional term for any yellow horse with dark points. It is quite common, for instance, for buckskin horses to simply be called dun.
One or both parents must also be dun.
Dun is believed to be the oldest form of equine coloration, and the original wild color of the domestic horse. It is found in cave paintings, and in other equine species, such as the donkey and the wild ass. Przewalski's Horse, the last living wild horse population, is exclusively bay dun in color.
Types of dun are:
Bay Dun (Dun, Zebra Dun)
This is the most common type of dun. They usually have a tan body with black points, and often appear identical to buckskin horses, but with stronger primitive markings. Dun and cream can occur together, and when this happens, the horse may be called a dunskin."
Cowgirl not only exhibits the dorsal stripe and the zebra markings on her legs but she also has a withers mark on her shoulder of a darker color than her coat.
Silver is believed to affect black pigment only. The body and legs usually become a chocolate color, while the mane and tail appear silvery/flaxen. Dappling may or may not appear. The roots of the mane and tail often stay dark. Sometimes only the tips show dilution, or there are only a few lighter hairs mixed in with the base color. Silver is known to produce extreme changes in shade. This can occur between seasonal coat sheds, or from the foal shed to the adult coat. Foals commonly have a wheat colored coat, white eyelashes and striped hooves, but these characteristics fade over time. Silver horses with the graying gene have been observed to gray faster than a horse without the silver gene. "
I have only shared the parts of the color information that seem to fit Cowgirl. There is however, much more information on the subject of silvers and duns if you would like to read more on the site. Cowgirl is not the only high profile horse on in the Sand Wash Basin that shows the silver trait. Another is the Stallion Cimmaron. He has a bay base coat and a distinct silver mane and tail.
The interesting thing about wild horses is that some of these color genetic events, say the mixing of dun and palomino or dun and silver are usually completely random events. I would probably be remiss in ignoring the fact that our horses are actually managed on most of the HMAs so sometimes one preferred color will be left after a roundup in hopes that when the horses do breed that the horses in surplus will be more easily adopted because of their color or markings. Were it not so, the majority of the SWB horses would probably be some form or other of gray and not the wide variety of colors and patterns that are being documented now.
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