Enlighten me. Counter shading. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 01-09-2012, 12:55 PM Thread Starter
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Enlighten me. Counter shading.

Meet my half @ssed duns (joke, I know that they aren't dun)

Bay Thoroughbred mare:

She even gets dark shading on her face for a couple summer months.

Her half sister, a black bay sabino:

And their half brother, a buckskin (I am surprised but I do not have any good photos of his counter shading. He is just as prominent as his sisters.)

What causes counter shading? Is there a genetic reason for it?
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post #2 of 5 Old 01-09-2012, 03:13 PM
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Counter shading is what is left of nature's basic color scheme - dark on top, light on bottom, that is vestigial at this point, so is disappearing in many animals.

If you have no background in biology or evolution, this may sound a bit strange, but trust me - it is correct. Most animals are dark on top and light on bottom - the reason is their dark top blends in with the dark ground or sea bottom when seen from above by a predator, and their light belly or bottom blends in with the bright sky when seen from below by a predator. Although there are obviously applications on land, the phenomenon is primarily a carryover from when there were no land animals and all creatures were sea dwellers, so the basic color scheme was they were camouflaged from both above and below...
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post #3 of 5 Old 01-09-2012, 04:55 PM
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Wow thats pretty cool Faceman! Way more intelectual than I was thinking I was thinking it might be as simple as the black points on the bays aren't just limited to the legs, mane and tail. Like some horses have black tips on their ears, just rearer! It looks like a family trait so a spunky gene??

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post #4 of 5 Old 01-09-2012, 06:00 PM
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Well counter shading, as with true dorsals, is genetically linked...it just doesn't appear out of the blue. I am just providing the underlying reason for them all...
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post #5 of 5 Old 01-09-2012, 07:26 PM
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Face is correct. The top dark/bottom light is indeed camo for ponies. The other time you will see it, aside from counter shading, is in foals. A bay foal, for example, is born with a brownish body, and creamy buff legs. The black takes quite a while to grow in. Most colours have some variation like this when the horse is a foal - unless the grey gene is present. It's almost like nature was trying to weed out something that makes the horse bright white, hardly a camo colour

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