Breeding for Color, a Very Bad Thing?

You need only search the internet for articles about breeding for color and you will see a common theme – breeding livestock only for color without regard for other traits is a very bad idea!  We’ve all heard the expression “A good horse is never a bad color” … Well in this case with Andalusians, a bad horse may be a good color

If you’ve read my other article on a history of black Andalusians in the U.S., you learned that the number of black Andalusians available to draw the gene pool from is very small. This is one reason they are considered “rare”. And since most rare things demand a higher price than common things, black Andalusians tend to be priced higher. However, you are not paying for quality in most cases; you are only paying for a black coat. 

To understand the concept of quality when it comes to blacks, you also need to understand the genetics of producing a black. This will be covered in detail in another article. For now you need to know that black is the result of a horse having two copies of a recessive allele – that allele is represented as little “a” or non-agouti. A horse with even one copy of the dominant allele, big “A” or agouti, cannot be black. To be black, a horse also has to have at least one copy of big “E” or the black pigment. And it cannot have ANY copies of the grey modifying gene that causes the horse to turn grey over its lifetime “G”.  

Two horses tested for black, a mare and a stallion, will always have black offspring, and sometimes chestnut. If the horses are homozygous black (EEaa), they will ALWAYS have black offspring. When breeding bay to black horses, you have a good chance of getting either black or bay. But throw grey in the mix and your chances decline automatically. That is why most people breeding blacks prefer to breed black to black to guarantee they’ll get a black foal. However, this may not be best for the breed since the quality of the two black parents may be lacking. As I mentioned in my other article, winning the lotto is when you get a black from parents who are NOT black. The odds are small, but it does happen, and when it does it means you were able to get black without having to compromise and use two black parents that carry unwanted traits. 

Just WHAT is wrong with black Andalusians you may ask?

Well, to put it frankly, everything, in my opinion. I’ve seen so many blacks that have serious conformation problems. They may have backs that are too long, poorly conformed necks that are ewed or are inserted too low into the chest, and they lack substance. To top that off, very few move with the elegance, elevation, and extension one would prefer.  In addition, some have small eyes and strange ears. Or they may just be very small and wing, or have choppy body parts but together. Or too large with a fallen crest. You name it, blacks have it. 

It may seem that it would be easier to find a good quality black in Spain. Yes, there are more to choose from. But beware the relatives. There may be uglies in the family tree. Blacks just haven’t been established long enough to produce guaranteed results in my opinion.

Blacks are just rare. Good quality blacks even more rare. And especially good blacks are extremely rare. 

For one thing, Spain for many years culled the blacks because they represented “death”. Black horses had been used to pull the funeral hearses. Eventually black became more popular, but because it is based on a recessive gene and most Andalusians carry the dominant grey gene, it is hard to get good black bloodlines established. 

Case in point, Ms. Maria Mandina did a thesis titled “Are Negative Breeding Traits in Andalusian Horses Correlated with Coat Color and Carthusian Ancestry?” 

In this thesis, she studied horses from a horse show in Florida as well as horses from an online Spanish studbook and noted how many conformation faults the horses had. She then compared the color of horses with the number of faults and concluded that “the color of the Andalusian horse is connected to the quality of the breed”.  White (or grey) Andalusians had the fewest number of faults, bays had more faults than grey, and black horses had the largest number of faults per horse. In other words, “White Andalusian horses, paying no attention to lineages, had fewer negative characteristics and faults as did horses of any other color” and she also found that “most of Spain’s major champions have been white, and most from Carthusian backgrounds.” 

Ms. Mandina’s research confirms my long standing knowledge that black horses in general are inferior to greys. It also bears that buckskin and palomino, recent colors appearing in the breed, are probably the worst horses of the breed, even worse than black. 

Ms. Mandina summarizes that “In an effort to improve the Andalusian horse, breeders should set out not with obtaining color as a goal, but to obtain quality. If color comes from that goal then they have reached the best of both worlds.” 

So do not despair. Search for black and if you find quality, you have found a rare gem indeed! 

Skyhorse Ranch - Andalusian horse breeder in Texas with Andalusian horses for sale. Breeders of PRE Pura Raza Espanola horses with cartas from Spain. Selling black, grey, and bay Andalusians. Recommend Andalusian stallions at stud. Pictures, history, facts, and info. Spanish Andalusian horse farm. Bloodlines from Spain in the USA.

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