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Pearl Colors
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The Pearl color varieties
and their genetics

It is believed that pearl and cream are alleles at the same locus.
Thus, this site will use these three abbreviations for the three possible alleles at the cream locus:

prl (pearl gene), Cr (cream gene)* and cr (neither)

Pearl and "neither" are represented lower-case
because they are recessive to cream*.

Cream* is represented with the upper case "Cr"
because it is a(n incompletely) dominant gene.

(The lighter gray-colored notations in parentheses with "N" in them are used by some laboratory reports, and are only included here to help readers interpret those reports.)

  •   cr cr = no pearl and no cream gene present (N/N)

    • This horse will have no change in its coat or skin color due to either the pearl or cream genes.  It may be a solid dark color,
      or it may have variations caused by OTHER color modifying genes.

    • If bred, it will pass NEITHER a cream* nor a pearl gene to its foal.
      If a foal from this horse has a cream* or a pearl gene, it has to
      have come from the other parent.

  •   prl cr = one pearl gene, no cream gene (Prl/N)

    • This horse will look almost identical the one above,
      except the coat color may be the slightest bit lighter,
      almost like a lighter shade of the dark color,
      and the dark skin may have pink dots in places.

    • If bred, this horse has a 50% chance of passing along the pearl gene to each foal.

  •   Cr prl = one cream and one pearl gene [(Cr/N) and (Prl/N)]

    • This horse will look similar to a double-cream or champagne color when it's born.
      This means blue eyes, pink skin, and a distinctly diluted coat color.  As it matures,
      the coat will lighten more, to almost a completely double-cream diluted color.
      The skin will develop freckles similar to champagne, but muted in contrast.

    • If bred, this horse will always pass along one or the other gene to its foals. 
      Each foal has a 50% chance of inheriting the cream gene, and a 50% chance
      of inheriting the pearl gene, but NEVER BOTH, and ALWAYS ONE OR THE OTHER.

    • The foal's appearance will depend upon which gene the cream pearl has passed on to it,
      and what other genes the other parent has passed on to it. 
      Depending upon what genes it gets from its other parent,
      it could be a double-cream, a homozygous pearl,
      a single cream or a single pearl.

  •   prl prl = two pearl genes; homozygous for pearl (Prl/Prl)

    • This horse will be born with blue eyes and purplish pink skin,
      and a moderately diluted coat color.  As the foal matures, the skin may darken to a deeper purplish pink, and will develop freckles much like champagne freckles.  The coat (hair) color may lighten a bit with maturity, but will not become as light as a double-cream* or a pearl cream dilute.

    • If bred, this horse will always pass along one pearl gene.  However, as always with pearl, its presence will scarcely be noticeable unless the foal also inherits a pearl gene or a cream gene from its other parent.

    • If two horses with prl,prl (two pearl genes each, or each homozygous for pearl) are bred together, the foals will ALWAYS have two pearl genes (prl, prl).

* The cream-only dilutes are not dealt with on this site, and can be learned about here:


cr cr - no cream, no pearl.

These horses will not have diluted coat color, unless they have other dilution genes such as champagne or dun causing it.

prl cr - one pearl only, no cream

Also called single pearl, pearl, or pearl carrier.  Some of the APHA (Barlink, etc.) horses of this type have the pink dots on their skin, and some of the Iberians of this type have slightly lighter coat and eye color than normal.  I will endeavor to add pictures of both, and also pictures of single-pearls with no discernible dilution, like RD Chica.

This is RD Chica, the first Iberian pearl-carrier ever identified.  This mare was DNA tested to rule out her being a smoky black, as she appears, and was found to be "just a chestnut".  Obviously, the slight dilution caused by a single pearl gene was not enough to overcome her extremely dark "liver chestnut" base color.  Perhaps she would have been even a little darker without the pearl gene.

The Peruvian Paso mare in this photo has only one pearl gene.  See also the dam of Heather Batkin's cream pearl filly, farther down on this page.

Bravio, the second horse determined to carry a "hidden" pearl gene.

Cr prl - "cream pearl" - one pearl and one cream gene

Depending upon the "base" color of the horse (red or black-based), this combination produces particular, predictable effect.  The skin and eye color is usually the same (described above) regardless of the base color.

  •   On chestnut (red based): the horse will end up looking like a pale Palomino.

  •   On bay, brown or black (black-based): the horse will end up looking like a pale buckskin with tan or brown points instead of black.

 Andalusian Colts

The first Pearl dilute that was ever discovered by this webmaster was Majodero R, a SMOKY BLACK PEARL (solid black plus one cream gene plus one pearl gene.)  He was exported from the USA to Australia, where we believe he still lives.  E_aaCrcr (DNA) IALHA #5987SP, foaled May 30, 2001 out of RD Chica, a liver chestnut pearl carrier;  sired by  Q, a perlino.


This Peruvian Paso filly is also a SMOKY BLACK PEARL.  This color is the result of one pearl and one cream gene on a solid black base.  She is believed to be the only horse of her color in New Zealand.  She is the second example we've seen of how much darker these colors are in newborns.

Heather Batkin, her breeder, writes that this filly is:  "...out of my Black/Pearl mare. Born 10th Dec 2009 8pm. She's a smoky black pearl..."  Also note the dark pearl-carrying mare shown here.

guindaleza.jpg (9273 bytes)

Guindaleza R is a PALOMINO PEARL, which is one pearl and one cream gene on a chestnut base.  She's the daughter of Chica (see above) by Saphiro, a cremello. Owned by Sommer Ranch.


prl prl - double, or homozygous pearl

<= on black:  E_ aa prlprl:  Avispado, in Spain, is the first horse of this color ever discovered by this webmaster. He was first presented to her as a possible champagne, which, sadly, his owner calls him today.  He is, however, something even rarer.  Having DNA tested E, aa, prlprl ... he's a solid black based homozygous (double) pearl.

<= on bay, with gray added: Ee Aa prlprl Gg : Zorita Surprise, breed unknown so far, imported to Norway from the Netherlands in utero (unbeknownst to the mare's new owner!).  The dam's color was brown.  Sire is unknown to date.  Zorita has had one foal by a homozygous gray stallion.  The foal looks bay with dorsal and leg striping.   Zorita's owner at first assumed she was some kind of champagne, until she was DNA tested (She was nearly even registered by the ICHR!)  DNA testing yielded the results above. (More photos coming)

We have received beautiful photos of a stallion in Russia believed to be homozygous pearl on bay, but until this is verified by parentage, progeny, or DNA testing, we can't include him on this page.  See him here.

Home Up
Pearl Colors Iberian Paint & QH Paso Gypsy Chronology

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