Historical References to Brindle in Horses

Early References to the Brindle Pattern - up to 1980
More Recent References to the Brindle Pattern - after 1980
General Information

Early References to the Brindle Pattern

Picture of a Criollo and a Brindle Horse

Emilio Solanet published an article in 1930 in the Journal of Heredity 21:451 about "the Criollo horse of South America". He also lectured and wrote books and articles in the 1940's, and published a book called Pelajes Criollos in 1955, about colors of Criollo horses in Argentina. Above on the left is a picture from page 51, of the "gateado barcino" color. The book is written in Spanish. Mrs Pilar Massaguer of Spain contacted me in 1994 regarding an article she was doing. She asked for a picture of my mare Brenda Batty Atty (picture below), as an example of the "gateado barcino" color for her article. In September 1977 she most kindly furnished me with a complete translation of Pelajes Criollos. Following are portions of her translation. On page 49 Solanet says, "Finally, I have seen in Argentina, two duns ("gateados") with their body completely covered by zebra stripes, so to say, besides the normal "dun factor" characteristics, they have vertical stripes all over their body. Our cowboys call them "gateado barcino" (striped dun) and correspond to the term "barcino" noted by M.V. Pereyra (Buenos Aires 1877, "dark yellow coat with dorsal stripe, with body full of vertical stripes. Very rare"). In my opinion, they constitute duns with maximum dun factor since they have zebra stripes all over their bodies like the common red cat of our country." Furthermore, on page 53 he says, "We will finally mention the striped dun or tigered buckskin (gateado barcino or bayo atigrado) of some Spanish authors ... it is characterized by having stripes all over the body, from top to bottom over neck and body, and transversal on the legs. It constitutes the dun (gateado) with maximum dun factor (acebrado). It is absolutely very rare, I have seen it only in two specimens." On page 115, he discusses "atrigrado" or "barcino" as "It is the horse with stripes like tiger skin ..... Horse coat characterized by having elongated and dark stripes over the whole body of the animal, similar to the leopard's or panthera's." On page 116, he makes a brief mention of "chorreado" as looking "like if a liquid had been poured over him. It can happen in a part or the whole body. It is not the same as the "atigrado" since the latter has the stripes similar to the tiger's." Solanet seems to make a clear distinction between the two different types of striping ("chorreado" and "barcino"), but he has no illustration in his book of what he is calling "chorreado", only of the "gateado barcino" on page 51. His description of "chorreado" is similar to the way I have often heard people describe brindles they have seen.

J.A. Lusis wrote an article called "Striping Patterns in Domestic Horses" that was published in Genetica vol.23, 1942. He details a Russian cab horse from around the 1800's, that was preserved and put in the Zoological Museum in Leningrad (picture above on the right), by saying "there occurs in very rare cases, striping of a brindling pattern..." In this article, he gives a detailed description of the Russian horse, including "The coat, however, is not solid brown (mahogany brown), but is made up of alternate stripes of brown and yellowish dun... Particularly characteristic is the absence of a spinal stripe and of horizontal stripes on the legs..." He says "The striping of the horse exhibited in the Zoological Museum of the Academy of Sciences very closely resembles the striping found in many breeds of cattle and in dogs and known as the "brindling pattern"... Of examples of striped horses described in the literature the closest to our third type of striping (brindle) is the case of a striped colt of Darwin's own breeding (see Darwin, loc.cit.,p.72). From Darwin's description, however, it seems that the pattern displayed by this colt had a number of striking similarities with zebroid striping (stripes on the face and legs). Hence, it should rather be classed as an atavistic form of striping of the type of European horses (dun factor type of striping), although the coloring of its body closely resembles the striped pattern of the horse in the Zoological Museum. A similar case of marked juvenile striping has been described by Ewart." (More simply put, it appears that Darwin's colt had what we now call dun factor markings, plus a brindle looking pattern on the body. However, Lusis says he would classify him with the dun factor type, probably making him the equivalent of what Solanet would call a "gateado barcino").

Odriozola (author of A Los Colores Del Caballo in 1951) said about the "dun" color, that "In Argentina, this color group is called "gateado", reserving the word "gateado barcino" for the horses very highly dun factor marked. Solanet says to have seen - only in two cases - slightly sinuous and interrupted markings all over the body of the horse." He also reported "Marrero (1945) said that circa 1860 it was not difficult to see with relative frequency not only the "gateado" color (ordinary dun factor) but its variety "bragada" - (more highly marked than the ordinary duns), only inferior to the "gateado barcino." Odriozola also said in his book on page 38, "If dun factor markings represent markings constituted by hairs darker than the color of the background, then the opposite happens in the little markings of "safran" color, so to say "lighter markings", that Lady Wentworth (1945) said to have seen in a bay mare, that she said would correspond to the color called "amik" by the Arabs. Perhaps this strange/rare coloration is related to the bay brindle of dark red and yellowish tones, that is preserved and stuffed in the Science Academy Museum of Leningrad ..." Included in his book between pages 338 and 339 is a photo of the same stuffed museum-horse (above right), but with the following caption in Spanish: "Ejemplar ruso conservado en el Museo Zoologico de la Academia de Ciencias, Pelajo chorreado". He also makes reference to "chorreado" as the type of coat seen in dogs and cattle. Thus, "chorreado" is equivalent to what Lusis was calling "brindle".

J.K. Wiersema in his 1977 Dutch book on horse color Het Paard in Zijn Kleurenrijkdom, on page 156-157 reportedly says "An even further developed pattern of striping can be found among the South American breed of Criollo-horses of the so called "gateado" type of colour. Of these "gateado" type horses some, most clearly of the so called "gateado barcino" sub-type, show the full pattern of stripes as found on zebras but with a wild colour (dun) as groundcolour; which means both body and legs are extensively striped in zebra-fashion; maybe a bit less complete as a real zebra, but more like "streaming" or the "brindling" colour found in some cats, dogs, and also crossbred British cattle.... In the Spanish book "A Los Colores del Caballo" of the researcher-writer M. Odriozola can be found a photograph between page 338 and page 339 of a like "brindled" coloured horse from Russia." Since Wiersema refers to it as a like "brindled" coloured horse, and describes "gateado barcino" as "more like the streaming or brindling color..." he must have thought "gateado barcino" resembled "brindle", and indeed, in the illustration shown at the top of the page for the "gateado barcino", the sinuous striping on the barrel is very reminescent ot the striping seen on the Russian horse (although not as heavy, since it has probably been partially restricted by the dilution gene.

Picture of Pocos Scooter Bar and Brenda Batty Atty

The International Buckskin Horse Association information booklet (copyright 1977), probably picked up the link Wiersema saw between "gateado barcino" (striped dun with maximum dun factor) and "brindle" and came up with the classification it called "brindle dun" to describe horses with striping all over the body. The booklet says "BRINDLE DUN: A different and unique body coloration with stripes appearing over the barrel of the body and most, if not all, the dun factor characteristics. Brindle duns show up in the Netherlands and is referred to as an ancient dun color. The peculiar body markings can appear in the form of tear drops or zebra stripes". Examples of horses registered as "brindle dun" with the IBHA are Pocos Scooter Bar (above left) and Brenda BattyAtty (above right). Pocos Scooter Bar has both dun factor markings and body striping, and is an example of what Lusis was probably describing in the case of Darwin's colt, and what Wiersema and possibly also Solanet, would probably have called "gateado barcino". Brenda Batty Atty only has body striping, and is an example of what Lusis would have called "brindle", and what Solanet and Odriozola probably would have called "chorreado". However, with IBHA, both types of striping have now been given one term - brindle dun, which has now existed since 1971, as the description of a horse with striping all over the body. However, by going back and looking at the earliest reports of what is currently called the "brindle dun" color by the IBHA, one can see that while "brindle" has often been associated with "dun" since the first reports of this rare and unusual color, it may turn out there are actually two separate components.

Pictures of heavily marked duns and brindle duns

Personal Commentary: By going back and looking at the earliest reports of the "brindle dun" color, one can see how "brindle duns" could have resulted from several causes. As noted previously, there is a wide variation in expression of dun factor markings, and some horses considered to be "brindle duns" could be the (1) maximum expression of dun factor markings, as Solanet felt was happening in the case of "gateado barcino" horses. The "very highly marked" dun factor horses could also have resulted from a combination of (2)"brindle" and "dun factor," such as seen in the photos above, and of which Pocos Scooter Bar is an example. Finally, some of the "brindle duns" are like the Russian horse and Brenda Batty Atty, which are examples of the (3)"brindle" pattern without any accompanying dun factor markings whatsoever. Thus, it now appears, that "brindle dun" is actually composed of two components - "brindle" and "dun", and the combination of both factors is what produces the classic "brindle dun" horse. However, because a "heavily marked dun factor" horse would phenotypically resemble a "brindle + dun" horse, it will probably always be difficult to distinguish between the two.

More Recent References to the Brindle Pattern

In the book Horse Color, 1983, by D. Phillip Sponenberg and Bonnie V. Beaver, on page 29 under Primitive Marks, there is only a brief reference; "Very rarely a horse will be extensively striped, almost to the extent of resembling a zebra. Such horses are known to occur in Siberia, Scandinavia, and Argentina". However, in D. Phillip Sponenberg's book from 1996, Equine Color Genetics (Iowa State University Press), on page 45, he has a more extensive mention of Brindle. He describes brindle as "vertical black (or its derivatives) stripes on any background color... Brindle seems to require sooty black countershading for its expression, and reorganizes sootiness into vertical stripes instead of a more uniform sprinkling of hairs... Brindle has been seen as a rare variant in a variety of countries and horse breeds, but is so rare that generalities about its breed occurrence or genetic control are impossible to state. It is dominant in both dogs and cattle, which are other mammels in which brindling occurs." In the color plate on page 107, Fig.8.47, the horse Brenda Batty Atty is used as an example of the brindle pattern. Also of interest is Fig.8.65 and 8.66 on page 113, which show two Bavarian Warmbloods which have roan and white striping. He says "Most horses with odd white striping...are the result of chance errors that occur in the development of the pigment system of the embryo. These horses will not reproduce these stripes... White or roan striping is probably biologically different than brindling, which is black striping, even though the patterns appear superficially similar." Below are different pictures, but of the same two Bavarian Warmbloods.

Pictures of the two Bavarian Warmbloods

In Sponenberg's 2003 second edition of the book Equine Color Genetics (Iowa State Press), on page 55 he added "The relationship of brindle to other striped patterns, usually white, is uncertain ... However, Sharon Batteate, ... has noticed that brindle horses can sometimes also produce white striping (or uneven roan) patterns. This intriguing result suggests that brindle in horses may be more related to a general striping phenomenon than it is in other species." On page 137, figures 9.52 and 9.53 are used to illustrate the brindle pattern.

In 1988, Mary Jagow of Silver Cliff, Colorado, began organizing the International Striped Horse Association in order to collect information of various striping patterns. She had noticed four basic types of striping: Dun Factor Striping, Bay Striping (renamed countershading striping), Roan Striping, and Brindle. Yearly articles were published in the Western Horseman Breed Issue, each year featuring one of the different forms of striping she was working on. In the Spring 1993 issue of 4-Beat Magazine, vol.3-no.1,pp 30-35, the original article "Striping and Camouflage in Horses" by J. Sharon Batteate was published, detailing some background information on protective coloration before proceeding into the various forms of striping the ISHA was working on. The article was revised in February 1997, and posted: Website article.

Pictures of Striped Horses

Another interesting reference which may prove related to the brindle pattern, is in the 1971 book Genetics of the Horse by William E. Jones and Ralph Bogart. On pages 302,304,309,334 are references to the Blo locus. On page 334 they say, "Blo Locus - An allelle causing a hair abnormality resulting in many dark pigmented spots over the body". On page 308 they reference "Searle (1969) cites evidence that among some spotted animals, such as the tabby cat, darker spots appear because of a difference in local hair type." On page 309 - "An entirely different type of spotting is also found in some Appaloosas which is similar to the blotch gene of the mouse. Actually, the gene affects the development of the hairs in many localized spots over the body. The abnormal hair seems to produce a different chemical environment for the melanocytes associated with it so that somehow the color phenotype of the hair is changed. Often in Appaloosas, blotch is associated with an allele of the SI locus, which produces small white flecks or spots." I feel the difference in hair type and coat texturing found in brindle horses may turn out to be related to this Blo pattern documented in Appaloosas. Either Brindle influenced by one of the Appaloosa spotting genes, could be broken up into smaller spots producing the described pattern, or the gene causing the brindle pattern and the gene causing the Blo pattern are closely related.

According to The Coat Colors of Mice, 1979, by Willys K. Silvers, in mice there are at least 6 different locus which produce striping patterns (usually called mottling in mice). At the "A" (Agouti) locus, striping has appeared in viable yellow, mottled agouti, and agouti suppressor mice. At the "C" locus, striping has appeared in chinchilla mottled mice. At the "P" locus, striping has appeared in pink eyed mottled and p unstable mice. Striping has also appeared in mice at the "Silver" locus, and "Pearl" locus. Striping also appears at the "Mo" locus (responsible for Mottled, Blotchy, Dappled, Brindle, and Tortoiseshell patterns), and the nearby "Ta"(Tabby) locus. Whether any of these genes may be similar and account for striping patterns in horses remains to be determined.

In 1994 Mrs Pilar Massaguer of Spain contacted me regarding an article she was doing for El Caballo, Nov 1994, no.137, pg.55-58. She asked for a picture of the mare Brenda Batty Atty, as an example of the "gateado barcino" color for her article on "El Bayo - mucho mas que una simple raza de color", about buckskin, dun, and grulla colors.

In January 1997, a website was established for Brindle Horses by J. Sharon Batteate, to provide information on the rare equine coat color, to try and locate other brindle horses and assemble information and breeding records on them, and to collect and preserve information on the pattern. The address of the website is http://www.brindlehorses.com

In the Jan/Feb 1998 issue of The Brayer an article on Stripes Aren't Just For Zebras! featured a picture of a brindle mule. This article has been edited for the Yipes! Stripes! website and does not include all the original photos in the article. We recommend you email adms@juno.com or contact (940) 382-6845 The Brayer, 2901 N. Elm St, Denton, TX 76201 - for a reprint of this article. This article was originally published in The Brayer (vol.31 no.1, Jan/Feb '98, pp 97-99). The website for the American Donkey and Mule Society is http://www.fuzzywunkle.net/adms.

The October 1998 issue of Western Horseman included a debut for Anita Garza's new registry, the Brindle and Striped Equine International, 11819 Puska, Needville, TX 77461. The registry accepts horses, ponies, donkeys, zebras, and their hybrids. In addition to the brindle pattern, the registry also accepts heavy and/or unique dun factor markings, and animals with the "netting" pattern. You can contact her at (409) 793-4207 for more information.

In 1999 Jeanette Gower wrote a book Horse Colour Explained (Kangaroo Press, Australia) in which Brindle is included in the section on Modifying Patterns on pages 109-112.

In 2006 Fran Lynghaug wrote a book Horses of Distinction (Hallelujah Publications, Wisconsin) in which Brindles are featured on Pages 32-34. Her latest edition of the book in 2009 is also featuring brindles.

Starting in 2006, there have been a number of magazine articles based on the work of Dr. Cecilia Penedo from UC Davis documentating Chimerism as a source of some brindle patterns. Two that I know of are:

The Feb 2006 issue of the American Quarter Horse Journal pages 52-55. The article is by Christine Hamilton and is titled "One in a Million".

The Nov 2006 issue of Equus 350:pages 21-24. The article is by Tom Moates and is titled "Horses of a Different Stripe".

I am interested in locating other references to the "brindle" or "brindle dun" pattern. If you know of any, please contact me.

General Information

The first record of the Brindle Pattern in Horses seems to be by J.A. Lusis, in the publication Genetica vol.23, 1942. In the article on "Striping Patterns in Domestic Horses", he details a Russian cab horse from around the 1800's, that was preserved and put in the Zoological Museum of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., in Leningrad. I believe the horse is now in the Natural History Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. If anyone has connections to do research in Russia, we could use more detailed information on this horse, if it is available in their archives. The most recent book mentioning the Brindle Pattern, is Phil Sponenberg's new book on Equine Color Genetics, 1996, Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, 50014. Another good book on genetics, is Ann Bowling's new book Horse Genetics, 1996, CAB International, available thru Oxford University Press, 2001 Evans Rd, Cary, North Carolina, 27513.

Brindle has occurred in such diverse breeds as Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Mustangs, Quarter Horses, Bavarian Warmbloods, Russian Horses, Spanish Horses, and supposedly also in the Netherlands. Sometimes the pattern seems to be composed of dark hair (black or brown), sometimes of white hair (roan). Since so little information is available on the Brindle pattern in horses, we are not sure if they are from the same gene or not. There could be several genes involved, producing similar patterns (much as pinto/paint spotting can result from several different genes). Many people confuse Dun Factor markings (stripe down the back, barring on the legs) with brindle. Indeed, there have been many examples of horses that were probably carrying both genes. However, the Russian cab horse, and the Brindle mare on the far right in the photo you can click the highlighted type to see, do not have any Dun Factor markings whatsoever. Click highlighted type to compare Dun Factor and Brindle. Brindle horses also have texturing in their coat, similar to that seen in some Appaloosa horses. The pattern seems to be inheritable, especially in terms of coat texturing, but the expression of the darker or more intense pigment to make the pattern visible is highly variable, and even varies with individual horses seasonally / yearly. However, before we start drawing too many conclusions about the pattern, we need to locate more examples for a study.


We define "brindle" as a striping pattern seen in horses, donkeys, and mules which resembles the pattern seen in dogs and cattle that is also referred to as "brindle". As there are other types of striping in equids, you might want to check the section on Brindle Characteristics or the slideshow to familiarize yourself with the pattern we are referring to. Very little is known about the genetics of the brindle pattern in equids at this time. Previously, it was thought to be a random mutation or coat developmental abnormality that was probably not inheritable. However, we have found examples of brindles dating back over 100 years, and we know of brindles that have reproduced the pattern, especially in terms of coat texturing, but the expression of the darker or more intense pigment to make the pattern visible is highly variable, and even varies with individual animals seasonally / yearly. While dogs are known to have partial brindle patterns, we do not know if the partial striping patterns we are seeing in some equids are the result of partial brindling (as with dogs), or are just coat developmental abnormalities, and are thus not inheritable.

We define "relatives to known brindles" as being the immediate close relatives, such as the sire, dam, full or 1/2 blood siblings (other offspring of the same sire or dam, jack or jennet).

We define "from known brindles" as the offspring of brindle horses and donkeys in our files (most of which can be seen in the Slideshow), or of equids that we have determined to be probable brindle carriers.

We define "indeterminate patterns" as horses, donkeys, or mules with some sort of streaking or texturing which resembles and could be the result of brindling, but could also be the result of some other phenotypical pattern. For example, we don't know if some streaking we see on the ribs of a dun horse is actually a result of brindle + dun, or is just the result of extensive dun factor markings. For example, some streaking on a brown horse could be the result of brindling, but could also have resulted from dappling breaking up countershading. For example, an animal supposedly has brindling, but the photos do not show it clearly, or were taken at a time of year (usually spring) when even normal colored animals will show variations in haircoat as they shed their winter coats. Animals with indeterminate patterns will be re-categorized when better photos or more information becomes available on them. For example, if the dun horse mentioned above only produced ordinary dun factor horses, and never a horse with brindle characteristics, then he would be re-categorized from indeterminate to non-brindle.

Note: We categorize animals based on photos and the latest information provided by the owners or other sources. As visual inspection of equids for brindle characteristics is not possible in most cases, and as so little is known genetically about the brindle pattern at this time, the category we place an animal in is subject to revision at any time. We may need to re-categorize animals as more information becomes available on either the animal, or on the genetics of the brindle pattern. We can make no warranties or endorsements as to an animal's actual color, breeding, etc.

Pictures and information are provided for informational purposes only, in order to educate people on the Brindle pattern in horses. Pictures and information are copyrighted, and cannot be reproduced without permission. For more information, you can contact:

(209) 477-1536
J. Sharon Batteate
PO Box 8535
Stockton, CA 95208

Unless otherwise noted, the articles on this site are by Sharon Batteate jsbatteate@aol.com The pictures and information on this site are for informational purposes, in order to educate people on the Brindle pattern. The pictures and information on this site are copyrighted. All rights reserved. No part may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright holders.
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