Cremello or Albino
Is it a Cremello, or is it an Albino?
by Lana Sibley
I told my friend that there are no albinos in horses and he looked at me like I was nuts. “I have seen them!” he said. I tried to explain that what he saw was probably a “cremello” and not an “albino”. He just shrugged. His basic stand was this: I was calling it one thing and he was calling it another, but it was still the same horse, and in his book... an albino.
So my point here is to explain why albino and cremello are not the same thing. I’ll make this brief without any genetic letter combinations to confuse and confound. I just want to explain what an albino actually is, and how it comes to exist. And then I’ll point out the differences between it and a cremello horse.
There are several different genes that cause albinism in the species in which it exists. We say it does not exist in horses because have never found a horse that meets the criteria to be considered an albino, not because it is impossible in one species while possible in another. In my understanding, even the experts don’t know why it doesn’t exist in horses. Its existence has just never been proven.
Albinism is created when an offspring receives two recessive genes from its parents... one from each parent. The parents do not exhibit any signs of albinism... a recessive gene is completely masked or “overpowered” by the dominant gene in the pair. So the parent carries the gene without being albino. The different types of albinism all affect pigmentation, and also carry with them some other genetic problems including eye problems, blood clotting problems, and hearing problems.
When the horse receives a copy of the creme gene from each parent, you have a cremello (on a chestnut basecoat) perlino (on a bay basecoat) or smoky creme (on a black basecoat). But, just as it is not a recessive gene like the albino gene, it also does not carry the associated genetic defects. There is no indication that cremellos, perlinos or smoky blacks have the eye problems, blood clotting problems, or hearing problems that come with an albino gene. This is because the creme gene is a totally different type of gene.
Albino is one thing, caused by one genetic factor. Cremello is another, caused by a completely different genetic factor. So you see that it’s not just an argument over what we call them!
This page is not intended to give the visitor a complete education in the science of equine genetics, but merely to explain the creme gene in layman's terms, and thus help dispel some of the myths associated with it. If you have questions about these horses and their coloration, Please visit the Creme Gene Facts page.