Coat Color Studies Aid Health Research, Breeding Choices

The topic of coat color and coat patterns is of great interest to horse breeders. Color can substantially increase a horse’s marketability. All else being equal, a buyer is often willing to pay more for a horse with an attractive color pattern.
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The topic of coat color and coat patterns is of great interest to horse breeders. Color can substantially increase a horse's marketability. All else being equal, a buyer is often willing to pay more for a horse with an attractive color pattern. This has led to a wide variety of colors and patterns in many breeds and an increase in the number of breeders interested in including coat color in their breeding programs.

However, color should not be the sole objective of a breeding program. The desire to add a particular color gene to a herd may lead to selection of breeding stock for their color first, rather than for good conformation or a proven performance record. Over time, breeding programs that focus too intently on color might compromise quality if care is not taken to select for other important traits at the same time.

Additionally, certain colors or patterns are associated with health or medical problems, which can then be disseminated within the population.

The incredible advancements in the field of genetics, and equine genetics in particular, over the last 15 years have allowed researchers to identify many genes and mutations responsible for coat colors and patterns in the horse. These discoveries led to the development of DNA tests for color genes which breeders can use to make informed decisions about their breeding stock and to increase the chances of producing foals with desirable colors and patterns. The diagnostic genetic tests have the added benefit of allowing breeders to identify color traits in their breeding stock that could have detrimental effects

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