Identification of W13 in the American miniature horse and shetland pony populations

Elizabeth Esdaile, Angelica Kallenberg, Felipe Avila, Rebecca R. Bellone


Coat color is a trait of economic significance in horses. Variants in seven genes have been documented to cause white patterning in horses. Of the 34 variants that have been identified in KIT proto-oncogene, receptor tyrosine kinase (KIT), 27 have only been reported in a single individual or family and thus not all are routinely offered for genetic testing. Therefore, to enable proper use of marker-assisted selection, determining breed specificity for these alleles is warranted. Screening 19 unregistered all-white Shetland ponies for 16 white patterning markers identified 14 individuals whose phenotype could not be explained by testing results. In evaluating other known dominant white variants, 14 horses were heterozygous for W13. W13 was previously only reported in two quarter horses and a family of Australian miniature horses. Genotyping known white spotting variants in 30 owner-reported white animals (25 Miniature Horses and five Shetland ponies) identified two additional W13/N American Miniature Horses. The estimated allele frequency of W13 in the American Miniature Horse was 0.0063 (79 N/N, 1 W13/N) and the allele was not detected in a random sample (n = 59) of Shetland ponies. No homozygous W13 individuals were identified and W13/N ponies had a similar all-white coat with pink skin phenotype, regardless of the other white spotting variants present, demonstrating that W13 results in a Mendelian inherited dominant white phenotype and homozygosity is likely lethal. These findings document the presence of W13 in the American Miniature Horse and Shetland pony populations at a low frequency and illustrate the importance of testing for this variant in additional breeds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1985
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Coat color
  • Dominant white
  • Horse
  • KIT
  • Pigmentation
  • White spotting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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