APHA Approves New White Marking Variant W35 ‘Holiday’ in Horses

The genetic variant, associated with desirable white markings in various horse breeds, was discovered by Etalon Equine Genetics.

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Etalon Equine Genetics, a leading provider of DNA testing services, has made another novel discovery in the field of equine genetics. The company has identified a new white marking variant now designated as W35. First discovered in a Quarter Horse, this variant is associated with desirable white markings in various horse breeds. Genetic discovery is critical for improved animal breeding, health, performance, and suitability. Utilization of this powerful science is making a significant impact on the animal genetics, medical, and production industries, paving the way for a brighter, sustainable future.

The discovery of W35 “Holiday” was made possible via the collaboration of Team Etalon and Branson Buckalew, owner of the sorrel Quarter Horse stallion, “A Sudden Holiday.” A client of Etalon, Buckalew noted this particular stallion displayed white markings that were not identified genetically in the initial horse DNA testing reports. Following an investigation led by Team Etalon member Aiden McFadden, which revealed the novel variant, it was discovered that several of A Sudden Holiday’s offspring also inherited the mutation and telltale markings.

After an extended examination it was determined that Paints, Quarter Horses, Arabians, Lusitanos, and Warmbloods, at a minimum, possessed the W35 “Holiday” variant. Efforts will be ongoing in the longer term to trace the possible mutation origins. This variant is currently thought not to be harmful or homozygous embryonic lethal and is expected to be well-received by the equine industry.

Etalon has proposed naming this new variant “Holiday” in honor of A Sudden Holiday. The scientific designation, “W35,” will be used for the allele nomenclature, in keeping with the class of KIT white spotting variants that are known as Dominant Whites (W).

The American Paint Horse Association (APHA) executive director, Billy Smith, expressed his excitement about this discovery, stating that the APHA is committed to enhancing and diversifying the Paint Horse. “Discoveries such as the new white marker, W35, are valuable to our owners and breeders. Expanding the gene pool and registration eligibility and diversifying the population is the healthy path forward for our horses,” Smith said. As of May 25, the W35 has been accepted by the APHA for registration.

“Equine coat color genetics are such a wonderful way to demonstrate how genes function against a gorgeous ‘horsey’ canvas!” said Christa Lafayette, founder and CEO of Etalon. “While these variants typically apply to cosmetic or ‘phenotypic’ preferences for animal owners, the process used to find them is critically important and can apply to athletic performance, height, health, and more. Animal owners have incredible insight and hidden knowledge about their pets to share—they are worth listening to. In collaborating, the pet owners together with the scientists create an accelerated discovery platform unlike any other, and for the benefit of all mammals.”

The Etalon team is hopeful discoveries such as these will assist registries like the APHA in improving the breeds through diversity using quality breeding stock genetics with desirable markings. Having genetic evidence for heritable and marketable traits, such as color, speed or gait also increases the breeding and monetary value of these animals. The test for the W35 Holiday variant is now available at EtalonDX.com.

This research was made possible by a collaborative process, initiated by Buckalew’s curiosity, unique observational knowledge of his animals, and his willingness to partner with the Etalon team. Etalon Equine Genetics is committed to advancing animal genetic research and providing innovative DNA testing services to the industry.


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