Champagne is ONE of the FOUR known dilution genes in horses! The
others are Creme (that makes Palomino, Buckskin, etc.); Dun; and Silver Dapple.
Champagne as a color gene has been around for a long time - but it's
only recently (the past decade or so) been named and understood to be a separate
gene. The American Cream Draft Horse breed seems to have begun in 1911 with a
light Gold or Ivory Champagne mare. In the 1940’s, there was printed speculation
that the “pink skinned palominos” might have different genetics than regular
Palominos. Champagne is currently found primarily in Tennessee Walking Horses,
Missouri Foxtrotters, American Saddlebreds and Quarter Horses - also in crosses
and related breeds (Appaloosa, Paint, Part-Arabians, etc.).
Champagne is a simple dominant dilution GENE... dominant
means that if a horse carries one copy of the gene, it will show the
characteristics. If your horse carries the Champagne gene, it will BE Champagne.
Other dominant genes include Grey, Tobiano, Creme (Palomino/Buckskin), Dun,
etc. The Champagne gene seems to function in many ways aside from simply
diluting a horse's coat color (as the Creme gene does) because it also affects
skin and eye color. Because the Champagne gene is a simple dominant, your horse
MUST have at least one Champagne parent in order to be a Champagne!
Until there is a DNA test for Champagne, the most accurate way to
identify a Champagne horse is to have known it from birth. A Champagne horse
must have at least one Champagne parent. Their foal coats are usually darker in
color than their adult coats - the opposite of most other colors. Champagnes
are born with bright pink skin and bright blue eyes that take a long time to
change, but usually become hazel or amber by adulthood.*
*This can sometimes confuse people, as palominos and chestnuts are
also born with pink skin, but their skin begins to change to dark within a few
days, while a Champagne will stay pink-skinned to some degree throughout it's
life. Some dilutes are also born with bluish eyes, but, again, these begin to
change rapidly instead of the slow change that Champagnes do. Appaloosas also
have mottled skin, but it's unrelated to the Champagne gene (unless you have a
Most Champagnes have a metallic "glow" about them in their summer
coats, but this "glow" is also found in non-Champagne colors. Champagnes also
often have "reverse dappling" - but so do other colors. It's just that the
"glow" and the reverse dappling often go hand-in-hand with the Champagne gene.
There is some evidence that a homozygous Champagne will look the same
as a heterozygous Champagne, but when bred the homozygote will produce 100%
Champagnes as opposed to the statistical 50% of the heterozygote.
What Champagne is not!
Champagne is not a recessive gene - you can not have a horse that
"carries" a hidden Champagne gene. If your horse has the gene, it will BE
Champagne is not a SHADE of another color. A light-colored
Palomino, Buckskin or Dun is not a Champagne even if it has a light
"champagne-colored" coat. Champagne is a genetic color, not a "descriptive"
Champagne is not JUST a metallic "glow" - this same metallic
"glow" can happen in just about any breed or color of horse. Ditto with the
reverse dappling color - while common in Champagnes, it can and does happen in
Champagne is notJUST a foal born with pink skin and blue eyes,
either! All chestnut-based foals (non-grey) will be born with pink skin, and
many foals who carry dilution genes of any kind are born with blue eyes! So a
palomino foal born with blue eyes and pink skin is not automatically a
Champagne... the skin color on such a foal will darken rather than mottle, and
the eyes will change faster than a Champagne’s will.
As you can see, it takes some detective work and some experience to be
sure that what you’re seeing is really the Champagne gene at work, or a
variation of a different color!
All horses carry two color genes. A basic dilute horse is
Palomino, Buckskin, or Smokey Black. A Palomino carries one red gene and one
dilute gene, a buckskin carries one bay gene and one dilute gene, and a Smokey
Black carries one Black gene and one Dilute gene.
Now if you have a sorrel it carries two red genes, therefore
it can only pass on a red gene copy to its foals. If you breed it to a Palomino
you will only have a 50% chance of getting another palomino, since a palomino
carries a red gene and a dilute gene.
Some bays can carry a red gene and a bay gene but in this
case we will say it is a bay with two bay genes, therefore it can only pass on a
bay gene (eg. black legs, mane, tail, tip of ears). So breeding it to a palomino
or a buckskin will give you a 50% chance of a buckskin.
In order to guarantee a dilute foal you will have to breed to
a Cremello or a Perlino, these are double dilutes meaning they carry two dilute
genes and can only pass on a dilute gene to their foals.
A Cremello is a double dilute sorrel. These horses have blue
eyes and pink skin, they are NOT albinos. They can only pass on a dilute color
to all their foals resulting in 100% color offspring.
A Perlino is a double dilute bay. These horses have a darker
mane and tail than the cremello. They have blue eyes and pink skin they are NOT
albinos. They carry two copies of the dilute gene, but they also carry the
agouti gene, this gene is the black points. So they can sire a buckskin foal
from a sorrel mare.
LFG means Live Foal Guaranteed - this is usually described
by a foal that stands and nurses.
LCFG means Live Color Foal Guaranteed - this is a
guarantee on a live color foal, and is usually offered by horses that are
homozygous dilute (cremello, or perlino), homozygous black, or homozygous
A natural breeding season for the equine starts when the
days lengthen, usually around March to August. This allows for foals to be born
in the warm part of the year. However some people wish to have early foals for
the purpose of registration associations rules. To bring a mare into early
estrus you would need to trick her body into thinking it is summer by placing
her under lights and blanketing her. However if you do not have a safe warm
place for her to foal in the winter time, it is best not to do this. So for the
average person the best time to breed a mare is during the summer months between
March to August a horses natural breeding season.
You will not be able to register a grade mares foal with
the AQHA or APHA. However if you have a color foal such as a Champagne,
Buckskin, or Palomino you could register these with the corresponding color
registries. Please visit their websites to learn more about this.