What is a cream gene and how does it work? Every horse has two locations in its genetic code where a certain type of color modification gene can reside. These genes are commonly called "cream" genes. They make the horse's base color one, or two, shades lighter, depending on whether there are one, or two, of them present.
A Common Misconception: Because of thier pink skin, double dilutes sunburn easily and have increased problems with cancer. False- there is a difference between pinks. What does this mean? It means that the rules reguarding bald faced white horses (like a mostly white paint) and sunburn do not apply to double dilutes. While no research has been done on the subject to date, owners of double dilutes who also have paints or other horses with large areas of white markings report that thier double dilutes sunburn much less frequently, if at all. On the issue of cancers; there has been a lot of research done on this subject, and cancer HAS been known to be associated with certain breeds and colors. One of these breeds is NOT the "American Cream and White" (where many double dilutes of all breeds are registered.) As a matter of fact, pink or double dilute "pumpkin" skin was never mentioned in these studies as being at risk. The breeds with the most problems are appaloosas and draft breeds (associated with squamous cell carcinoma.) And the COLOR with the most cancer problems, to the point that several veterinarians have been quoted as saying "it's not if, it's WHEN they get cancer" is grey (associated with melenomas). Misconception #2: Double Dilutes are lethal whites that somehow survived, and may produce lethal whites. False- Lethal whites are a product of a terrible gene (LWO) that is associated with the frame overo "paint" pattern. LWO, unfortunately, is not prejudiced, and attacks horses of all colors equally, sometimes even horses that appear to be solid, and therefore wouldn't be thought of as an "overo." For more information on this, please click on the link above. Misconception #3: If you breed double dilutes together you are going to wind up with weak horses with tons of problems. False- Cream genes DO NOT ACCUMULATE. You cannot have more than two cream genes in any horse. For this reason, breeding dilutes, or even double dilutes together will not increase the lightening of the skin, etc.
It's essentially the same as breeding sorrels together: the resutling horse will be a sorrel, getting 2 red genes, one from each parent. Same principal when breeding creams, just different colors. ALSO- Notice exactly what the cream gene affects: the color of the horse's hair, skin, and eyes. Nothing else. It is the same horse with or without the cream genes, only the color is different: it has the same immune system, bone density, resistance to sunburn, stamina and every other strength it would have as a red, bay or black. Anything to the contrary has been disproved by experience and by experiment. If there were any doubts about this, one could just look at the many things that are done with people and thier Double Dilutes. To see these horses performing and proving this point, please visit our Performance Creams page, or visit the International Academy of Equestrian Arts which uses 20 cremello Lusitanos as their "cavalry".