Sunday, 31 August 2008

Champagne Horses

The Champagne Horse is a colour breed and are born with bright blue eyes. The adult eye colour can range from green to amber. They are stunning animals and some even have a metallic sheen to their coats which is highly reflective in the sun - reminiscent of champagne itself. Champagnes and the rare Russian breed, the Akel-Teke have a hollow hair shaft. Normal horses have some broken pigment in the hair shafts.

They are so rare that historically, Champagnes have been considered a genetic fluke or oddity. A horseman would have been very lucky to even seen one in a lifetime. The colour can be traced back to the 1800's, and appears to have originated in gaited saddle stock. The champagne gene is a dominant dilution gene, first documented in 1996 by Philip Sponenberg of Virginia Tech and Ann Bowling of UC Davis. Prior to this the champagne gene was often misidentified. Many Champagnes were mistakenly called "pumpkin-skinned palominos" due to their mottled skin and golden colouration. However, the champagne gene is distinctly separate from the cream gene (which causes Palomino and Buckskin). Champagnes were mistakenly called "albinos" because of their bright blue eyes and pink skin at birth. A test is being developed so that the Champagne Horses can be spotted and registered.

They get their colour from the dominant champagne gene (like Creams and Duns) which means that when a horse inherits it, the gene affects or dilutes the base coat colour. For example when the cream gene is applied to Chestnut, a Palomino results. When champagne is applied to Chestnut, a Gold Champagne is produced. Gold Champagnes have yellow or orange gold body colour, a blond or white mane and tail, light coloured eyes, and purplish pink skin.

Other variants are Amber Champagne where horses result from the champagne gene applied to Bay, Classic Champagne where champagne is applied to Black (which gives a lilac dun coat with the typical metallic sheen), Grey Champagne, Ivory or Cream Champagne and Sable Champagne.
Breeds that have champagne coloured horses are the Quarter Horse, Paint, Appaloosa, Saddle bred, Tennessee Walker, Missouri Fox Trotter, American Cream Draft, Miniature Horse, and some mixed breeds.

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