A Perlino horse is a double diluted cream gene that has a bay base color. They do have cream coats with pink skin and blue or glass eyes, but instead of a white mane and tail, theirs is a bit darker than their coat color, giving a shade of red/coffee-colored or as having a yellow or tan cast.

Perlino horses are sometimes called pseudo-albino or cream horses. The cream color can vary from a pale off-white to a pale coffee color. If they are not white (due to socks or other white markings), the lower legs may be shaded a little darker than the body. People often refer to Perlino horses as being white, although this is not the case.

Cream Dilution

The cream dilution gene is responsible for diluting both the red and black pigment of the carrying horse to a lighter coat shade and color. It is often thought of as a highly desirable trait in many horse breeds.

Double Dilutes

Horses that incorporate two copies of the cream gene are denoted as double dilutes. They are homozygous for the cream dilution gene. A bay horse with two copies of the cream gene is identified as a Perlino. A black horse with two copies of the cream gene is referred to as a Smokey cream, and a chestnut or sorrel horse that carries two copies of the cream gene is known as a Cremello.

Double dilute horses will keep passing on a copy of the cream gene to their foals all the time.

Breeding a Perlino Horse

Instead of breeding Palamino horses, Buckskin horses are used to breed a Perlino horse, leading to a double dilute color of a bay horse.

Perlino horses can be used to produce Palominos, Buckskins, and Smokey blacks (Black Buckskins), varying on their genotypes at the extension locus.

Perlino horses have conventionally been balked at by some breeders and breed authorities, but now they are achieving increased acceptance, thanks a lot to the struggles of the Cremello & Perlino Educational Association (CPEA).

Their research and campaigns facilitated to finally get the American Quarter Horse Association’s (AQHA) rule opposing the registration of cream horses pulled out in 2003. Under this rule, Perlino, Cremello, and Smoky cream foals could not be registered as pure-bred American Quarter horses even if the sire and dam were AQHA registered pure-bred champions with other AQHA registered foals.

The Cremello Society in the UK, set up to endorse the recognition and admiration of cream horses, was officially registered in 2004. The Society offers a registry for all dilute colors, including Perlino, Cremello, Palomino, Buckskins, Smokey cream, and Smokey blacks.

Cremello Horse vs. Perlino Horse

Perlino and Cremello horses are often mistaken by people for being Albino or white horses. This just isn’t the case however!

Both of these horses have a cream gene. To be precise, both of them have the cream gene that makes them double diluted.

It gets a bit challenging to tell whether a cream horse is a Perlino or Cremello without having the information about its pedigree, and even then, it can be hard. If one or both parents were Buckskins, then it is quite likely that the horse is either Cremello or Perlino. If both the parents were Cremello or Palomino or one of each, then the horse must be Cremello.

Also, Smokey cream horses are now and then mixed up with Perlino horses, or called Smokey Perlinos. They are, in fact, double dilute creams with a black base coat color, they may be quite a bit darker than other cream horses. Very good looking, though!

Perlinos have a bay or brown coat color and are homozygous for the CCR allele at the C locus (the cream dilution gene). However, the CCR allele is not found in some breeds, such as the Arabs, Haflingers, and many of the draught horses.

Therefore, there are no cream horses in these breeds, and also no Palomino, Buckskin, or Smokey black horses either.


As discussed before, both Cremello horses and Perlino horses have two copies of the cream gene. Both of them have pink skin and blue eyes. Their hair (male and tail) is actually off-white, creamy color. It can be a bit hard to tell until you put one of them next to a pure white horse.

Difference Between Cremello and Perlino Horses

Even though Cremello and Perlino are both double diluted, they have different base colors. Their base color gives them a slightly different tint. A Cremello has a chestnut base color with two cream genes. If it had only one cream gene, then it would have been a Palomino.

A Perlino, on the other hand, has a bay base with two cream genes. If it had only one cream gene, it would fall in the category of Buckskins. The only accurate way to confirm the differences between the two colors is through a DNA test. Both these gorgeous coat colors are stunning to look at.

Not all breeds come in Cremello or Perlino, but quite a few do. These colors can be spotted in Quarter horses, Miniature horses, Andalusians, various ponies, and sport horses, to name a few.

Perlino horses are stunning and striking horses and are very exceptional. Indeed one of the most beautiful horses you’ll lay your eyes on. You should consider yourself a lucky person if you have one! You might have to pay a good penny for a horse with this rare color, but it is worth every penny.

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