Pigment is the
substance that gives COLOR
to hair and skin.
Only two kinds of
pigment are ever present in horse hair:
and -- Red (e)
These two substances, black
and red pigment,
form all horse colors!
Black / red is the "first",
or most basic,
horse color gene
Which kind of pigment is
determined by only one pair of genes, and is only
the very first step in determining the final COLOR of the horse.
Look, again, at our imaginary string of genes from one chromosome, from
one cell, from one horse.
One set, or PAIR, of genes is
imagining that these
two circled genes are the PIGMENT genes, which are the genes that tell the cells
whether to make RED pigment only, or to
ALSO MAKE BLACK pigment*.
EACH of these two genes, that make up the
pigment pair of genes, contains directions to produce either black pigment or red pigment.
The pair can both be
red, both be black,
or they can be
one of each.
*A general note about pigment in
All horses produce red pigment in all of their hairs
or gray hairs,
which are as clear and colorless as glass.)
They would also produce black pigment in all of their hairs,
unless that black pigment were blocked.
Keep reading to learn that two red genes (ee) block black
e are the
codes/abbreviations for black or red PIGMENT
The E, or black, gene is the
DOMINANT gene of this pair; so, if it is present, its "directions" are
always followed - the hair cells of that horse will make black pigment. When the black pigment is present, it "covers up" (or extends over) the red pigment, so the horse looks
black (unless color modifying genes change it).
Another way to think of this is that
the E gene ALLOWS black pigment to EXTEND into the hairs.
The e, or red, gene
contains the direction to
block ALL black pigment, leaving only
red pigment. But, it is the RECESSIVE gene
of this pair, so its "directions" are only followed if it is the
ONLY gene in the pair -- ee (if there is no E gene present).
A horse with only red
pigment is chestnut, or red,
(allowing only unrelated genes to modify the red.)
Possible pairs at E/e
would block black pigment, causing the horse's only pigment to be red (chestnut/sorrel).
If a horse with ee were
to become the parent of a foal, it could only contribute an
e to its foal, since that's all it
would allow/cause the horse to have black pigment.
Black pigment covers the entire horse if no other color
modifiers affect it.
If a horse with EE
were the parent of a
foal, it could only
E, since that's all it
would also allow/cause the horse to have black pigment, (the same as
because E is dominant
would not be written eE.)
A horse with Ee could give
to its foal.
There is a
DNA test which can tell you exactly which "E/e" genes
your horse is carrying, even if you can't tell "by looking".
Some laboratories, authors,
etc., call this test, or the genes themselves, "red factor".
By the way...
When the second gene
in a pair "doesn't matter" in a discussion, because the
other gene would be either the same or recessive to it, its place
will often be marked by an underlined blank space.
If you see E_ or A_
, for example:
E_ could stand for EE
or Ee, and
A_ could stand for AA,
AAt or Aa . (A, At and a are the topic of the next section.)
DNA testing labs
often use their own abbreviations. For example, some testing
labs use N for the "negative", or absence, of any gene. Example:
Z/N = Zz (only one silver gene)
with the simplest explanations, click
Agouti, now. But for ...)
Other genetic terminology: you don't need to learn these terms in
order to understand horse colors as presented on this web site. However,
you may run across them being used by others. In case you want to learn
them now, or look them up later, they are listed here.
Melanin: all pigment
Eumelanin: black pigment (E)
Phaeomelanin: red pigment (e)
Allele: one of a pair of genes
(e is an allele of E)
DNA: the protein of which genes are made
Nuclear DNA: the genes in the nucleus, which we are
Mitochondrial DNA: the genes in the mitochondria,
another structure inside the cell. Only comes from the
mother. Not important for this study.
Locus: the position where a pair of genes (two alleles) is
located. The plural of locus is loci.
Extension gene: the gene that allows black pigment to
"extend" over the horse. (This is where the letter "E" comes from.)
To continue with the logical "flow" of the
site, click Agouti next.