Population Analysis Identifies 15 Multi-Variant Dominant White Haplotypes in Horses

Animals (Basel). 2024 Feb 5;14(3):517. doi: 10.3390/ani14030517.


The influence of a horse's appearance on health, sentimental and monetary value has driven the desire to understand the etiology of coat color. White markings on the coat define inclusion for multiple horse breeds, but they may disqualify a horse from registration in other breeds. In domesticated horses (Equus caballus), 35 KIT alleles are associated with or cause depigmentation and white spotting. It is a common misconception among the general public that a horse can possess only two KIT variants. To correct this misconception, we used BEAGLE 5.4-phased NGS data to identify 15 haplotypes possessing two or more KIT variants previously associated with depigmentation phenotypes. We sourced photos for 161 horses comprising 12 compound genotypes with three or more KIT variants and employed a standardized method to grade depigmentation, yielding average white scores for each unique compound genotype. We found that 7 of the 12 multi-variant haplotypes resulted in significantly more depigmentation relative to the single-variant haplotypes (ANOVA). It is clear horses can possess more than two KIT variants, and future work aims to document phenotypic variations for each compound genotype.

Keywords: Dominant White; KIT; depigmentation; horse; white spotting.

Grants and funding

This study received no external funding.