Q: I just bought a Paso Fino that I was told was a cremello. He is almost yellow all over with blue eyes and pink skin. My friend said he might be a perlino. What is the difference between cremello, perlino and a light palomino?  Dorrie Miller; Hastings, Florida

A: “Blue-eyed creams” are the result of a horse having two copies of the gene that in a single dose makes a “yellow” horse. The resulting coat color depends on the background color of the horse: With one dose, a black becomes smoky (barely changed at all), a bay becomes buckskin and a chestnut becomes palomino. With two copies of the mutant allele (gene), the three colors become somewhat similar blue-eyed creams, but there are subtle differences. Black becomes smoky cream (which retains some color, especially in the mane and tail), bay becomes perlino, with some color in mane and tail, and chestnuts become cremello, which is very light indeed. These are all “off-white” and close to albino, but not quite.

In some breeds the pearl gene, which is rare, can throw a wrench into the simplicity implied above, because it combines with the gene for palomino/buckskin to produce very light colors with light eyes. These are usually darker than the blue-eyed creams, though.

Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD
Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
Blacksburg, Virginia