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Pearl Colors
Paint & QH

Pearl is a "New" Dilution

Do not confuse pearl with any other dilution gene. 
It is not a form of champagne, cream, silver or dun. 
As far as modern equine color genetics is concerned,
it was COMPLETELY UNKNOWN until this decade...even though it may have existed in some breed(s) for hundreds of years.

Please do not use champagne or cream terms to describe pearl,
unless those genes are also present.

The Pearl gene is an incompletely recessive,
cream-activated, dilution gene.

It is believed to be an allele of cream;
perhaps a mutation of it.

  •   Incompletely recessive means that one copy of the gene in a horse has minimal expression (is almost invisible), and two copies (homozygosity) results in full expression (dilutes the base color once).

  •   Cream-activated means that it also reacts with cream: it shows up, adding another instance of dilution, if there is also a cream gene present. In this case it manifests as a "double dilution": pearl AND cream.

To see examples of the various pearl and
cream pearl combinations, click here

It has been identified so far in American Paint and Quarter Horses, Andalusians, Lusitanos, Pasos and Gypsy Horses.

Congratulations to all of the equine color researchers and breeders who helped identify, name & rename this amazing, elusive, "incompletely recessive" and "cream-activated" gene.

The Road to Pearl

Do you have anything to add to the history
of the discovery of the Pearl gene ?

It appears that Barlnk Peachs N Cream was discovered to be a "new dilution" in October 2001, and Majodero R was discovered to be a "new dilution" in November of 2001.  Others quickly followed in the Paint, Iberian and Paso breeds...

Discovery of the gene in the Barlink Ranch's Paint Horses

The gene was first discovered by Carolyn Shepard, President of the International Champagne Horse Registry, in the American Paint bred horses (click here to see a copy of her article from the Champagne Horse Journal).  She originally referred to it as "the Barlink dilution gene", since she discovered it in those American Paint Horse bloodlines.  It looked so much like Champagne that the ICHR still has the first one she found, Barlnk Peachs N Cream, registered as their only non-champagne! See "Peaches" here:  She is #0044.

The Discovery of the Iberian "Pearl" gene

The gene also showed up as what most believed was a "different", cream-activated, recessive, dilution gene.  Barbara Kostelnik, co-founder of the International Champagne Horse Registry, was looking for Champagne in the Iberian breeds.  Concentrating on the lightest colored Iberians, she found that the stallion "Q" had a foal, "Majodero", that looked very much like Champagne.  The ICHR  president, Carolyn Shepard, insisted on DNA color tests, the breeder obliged, and it was found that he was something "new".

Soon, Celeste Plitz, Deb Morgan, and others were reporting more cases of "champagne looking" Iberian horses: Andalusian, Lusitano, and Peruvian Pasos.

Barbara gathered everyone connected to these horses (who was interested) into an internet list named "newdilutions" and created THIS WEB SITE.  She gathered all of the then-current names for the colors, and suggested that the actual owners pick one. They decided they liked "pearl", so that is what the list, and this web site, called it from then on.

Carolyn Shepard came to the conclusion that it must be located at the same locus as cream, because of the way it inherited.

Then, the first week of October, 2006, shortly after Carolyn suggested they look at the cream locus, the physical "Barlink" gene was located and called "apricot" by the equine color genetics laboratory at U C Davis, which then shortly developed a test for it.

The following week, after Carolyn Shepard sent hairs from Suzan Sommer's "Pearl cream" Andalusian filly, Guindaleza, to UCDavis, it was found that the gene we had named "Pearl" was the same gene.

For more exact dates in this timeline, see THIS PAGE.

Shortly after that, the dilution in the Peruvian Pasos was also identified as that same gene; and now, U.C. Davis is also calling the gene "pearl".

It was later also documented in the Gypsy Horse and the American Quarter Horse.


If you think you have found a horse is a completely NEW dilution, please first try to eliminate, by DNA testing and consultation with online horse color sites/experts, all of the currently KNOWN and IDENTIFIABLE dilutions.

People who understand horse color genetics can identify most dilutions even without the DNA tests; that's how it's been done for years, and how these new colors were first discovered.

If you wish to have complete documentation/proof of your horse's color (breeding potential), you should have your horse tested for red/black, agouti, cream, silver (formerly known as "silver dapple", in some breeds as "chocolate", and in some countries as "taffy"), champagne, and pearl; also the pinto or leopard/Appaloosa genes, if there is reason to believe any of those may be influencing your horse's appearance.  Also, remember that horses' colors USUALLY LOOK COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WHEN NEWBORN THAN WHEN ADULT.

Click here for a list of available color tests
and links to the labs that do them.

Simply click on your particular area of interest, below or left,
to access the photos and information about it on this site.

Pearl Colors Iberian Paint & QH Paso Gypsy Chronology 


Home Pearl Colors Iberian Paint & QH Paso Gypsy Chronology
Pearl Other Dun HanoverianCream Light Black Other Mushroom DNA Tests "Barlink"?

This web site created, maintained, and copyright through 2020 by Barbara A. Kostelnik,,  for educational and research purposes. 
To contact webmaster: click here
Note from webmaster: I have NOTdisabled right-click on any of my web sites. 
I consider that very rude.
If you wish to use something from this site, please just ask,
and I'll usually reply "Of course, just please note where you got it."

I, myself, try to give the appropriate credit for everything I use.
If you find something that you feel should have credit assigned differently,
or an error, please let me know.  Please include the URL of the page,
so that I may find and correct the problem. Thank you!

The newdilutions Yahoogroup/list was originally created for recognized color researchers and owners/breeders of horses of new dilutions only.  However, it is now open to anyone with a serious interest in horse colors.  The archives alone are nearly priceless... feel free to join us to have access to the list's history, and photo albums =>

Join the newdilutions "list":

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