Characteristics of Cremello Horses
Cremello, in some instances called perlino, is considered to be a colouring, rather than a breed. All Cremello Horses are the outcome of the effect of a dilution gene on either a red, a bay or a black base coat. In order to produce a true Cremello Horse, with pale coat colour, light (usually blue) eyes, and pink skin, there have to be two copies of a Cremello allele present, hence the term “double-dilute”. When only one is present, there is an effect on the coat colour, but it is not always obvious. Selecting parents that pass on Cremello dilution genes will always affect the coat colouring of the offspring; the degree simply depends on the number of genes passed on.
Cremello Horses: The Best Breeds for this Colour
Many famous American breeds include individuals who are carriers of the Cremello dilution gene. Morgans, Saddlebreds, Quarter Horses and Tennessee Walking Horses are all breeds that have had superlative performance horses with spectacular Cremello looks. Cremello and Perlino are also seen in the Missouri Fox Trotter. It can be a somewhat controversial topic, as some breed descriptions do not include Cremello in their list of accepted coat colours and others exclude it completely. There are Cremello individuals in some Iberian breeds. Unsurprisingly, beautiful Cremello examples are found among the gleaming coat colours of the Akhal-Teke. Many pony and small horse breeds, including miniature horses, have individuals with this colouring too. Some Kinsky Horses, a warmblood breed from Czechoslovakia, also produce Cremello offspring that are highly successful sports horses. There are even a few Thoroughbreds with this colouring.
Famous Cremello Horses
One of the most famous horses in literature to have Cremello colouring is in Mary O’Hara’s popular book “Thunderhead”. In this story, the wild and ghostly stallion, son of Flicka, is tamed and ridden in a race by Ken McLaughlin. Now that breeders understand something of how genes work, they can selectively breed for unusual colours. People realised that the genes producing these unusual colours were not those involved in another serious condition, “fatal white”, and that Cremello horses have no particular genetic disorder associated with them. This means that there’s growing interest in this horse colour, and it has no detrimental affect on the horse’s performance. Cremello horses are distinctively different in appearance from other grey or “white” horses. Most white horses start out as grey, or even black, and lighten as they age. They have dark eyes and dark skin. Cremellos do not. On a chestnut (red) base coat, two copies of the gene produce a homozygous cream chestnut, the true Cremello. On a bay, the effect of the gene can produce a slightly redder tinge to the tail and mane, making the horse a homozygous cream bay, or Perlino. They often have striking greenish-coloured eyes. In the case of black horses, it can be hard to tell that an individual is a carrier of the Cremello dilution gene since they maintain the black colouring, but are strictly speaking “smoky black” horses rather than “true black”. However, two copies of the gene will produce a homozygous cream black that can appear identical to either a Cremello or Perlino. 2008 was a landmark year internationally for Cremello Horses, with the first Thoroughbred with this colouring to ever be accepted by the famous Weatherbys International Thoroughbred Stud Book Committee. Electrum, a yearling colt, was imported from the USA as a Palomino, and subsequently tested as a Cremello.