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Champagne Connection
The Basic Champagne Colors ~ Part I


Introduction  ||  Champagne Colors - Part I


by Audra Pennebaker

The study of the champagne color is very brief. The first documentation was  first published in 1996 by Dr. Philip Sponenberg, Ph.D., and Dr. Ann Bowling, Ph.D. With the rarity of the color,  many people would read the description,  but not comprehend the unique differences of this dilution gene.

 Education is the key to prevent more confusion and misidentification. It's a hard color to describe and even more difficult to show in photos. Seeing a lustrous champagne in person is an exciting illustration. This article has two parts, the first is the four basic champagne colors. Part Two will be of the  composite of champagne on the other dilutes.

So what makes a champagne so exotic looking?  First off,  they are so rare that historically,  champagnes have been considered a genetic fluke or oddity.  A horseman would have been very lucky to even seen one in a lifetime. 

One of the striking characteristic is the pink skin with tiny gray specks called "pumpkin skinned."  The foals are born with clear, bright pink skin. After a month or two, they will develop the pumpkin skin. Foals are also born with bright blue glass eyes. Again, after a couple of months, the eyes gradually change to a light brown or amber. The third main characteristic is that the young foal coat is much darker than the adult. Champagne coats lighten up to the dilute shade. 

As a rule,  champagnes start out looking chestnut or bay before turning shades of yellow. The gene dilutes red into gold and black into liver. Even the hooves of champagnes will be brown not black. Eyes are bright blue at birth.

The foal at right is SW Champagne Class, a "Self Gold" Champagne  This is a shade of a Golden Champagne color,   most similar to a dark red dun,  but without any dun factor. Foals are born chestnut and turn golden.  Compare to yearling photo,  below.

All champagnes give off an iridescent metallic sheen to the coat. The Golds and Ambers will even look greenish or bronze in full sunlight. Studies have been done on the hair structure. Champagnes and the rare Russian breed, the Akel-Teke have a hollow hair shaft. Normal horses have some broken pigment in the hair shafts.

The champagne color is a dominate dilute gene that works similar to the other dilutes found in Quarter Horses. The cream gene is responsible for palominos,  buckskins and smokey black (base coats of chestnut, bay and black,  respectively.)  The dun gene is responsible for red dun, dun and grullo or grulla (base coat of chestnut, bay and black respectively.) 

Just as the other dilutes have a different name for each base color, so do  the champagnes. On a chestnut base it is called "Gold champagne." On a bay base its called "Amber champagne,"  and on black its called "Classic champagne."

Gold Champagne

SW Champagne Class,  a "Self Gold" champagne, as a yearling.  Gold champagnes are  born chestnut and turn golden.  Compare to  his foal photo,  above.

Gold champagnes (above) come in two different forms. They will either have a white or flaxen mane and tail,  or the mane and tail will be the same shade as the body.  The "Flaxen Golds"  look very similar to palominos at a distance. "Self Golds" are the most similar to a dark red dun but without any dun factor. Foals are born chestnut and turn golden. If they are a flaxen gold,   then the mane and tail will shed out flaxen or white. I have not seen proof of a gold born already with a white or flaxen mane. 


Amber Champagne

SW Take Care Too, an Amber champagne American Quarter Horse
 stallion.  One of several champagne colored horses owned by the author.

Amber champagnes look like a pumpkin skinned chocolate pointed buckskin. The shades of amber range from very light brown shading in the points to very dark,  almost black looking,  points. The gold body can be pale and light to a deep rich yellow.


Classic Champagne

The "Classic" champagne color is almost indescribable. 
It's a liver chocolate metallic shade. Ms Dowdy Doc Bars (AQHA).

Classic champagnes also vary in shades. Many horses on a brown or dark bay are listed as "Classic."  The color is almost indescribable. Its a liver 
chocolate metallic shade. The closest color to it is a brownish grulla 
without dun factor. You may or may not be able to see the leg points. Of all 
the colors of champagne, Classics tend to be an uneven color in the body,  having highlights in the flank or fine hair areas.


Audra Pennebaker
Snakewater Farms
Champagne Horses for sale occasionally
Westphalia, KS
e-mail Audra: snakewaterfarms@aol.com
e-mail HorsesOnly Webmaster


Introduction  ||  Champagne Colors - Part I

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