Icelandic horse displays unique colouration
An Icelandic horse called Ellert has developed a unique coat. The reason was initially a mystery as Icelandic horses have been purebred for over 1,000 years. Breeder Baldur Eiðsson has said that Ellert should have been bay dun or blue dun like his parents but the young horse was born with a speckled coat which was a one-of-a-kind.
Unusual coat caused by gene mutation
Ellert has a bay dun coat speckled white, a black mane, a grey tail and a white face. His eyes are blue. This colouring did not exist in any other horse in the world. Ellert came from two of the best blood lines in Iceland. This caused Eiðsson to wonder if there had been a mistake and that the mother had gone to the wrong stallion. But DNA testing confirmed that no such error had occurred. Further testing revealed that the horse has developed a gene mutation which created the unique pattern on his body.
Unfortunately, Eiðsson has named the pattern ýruskjóttur, which is rather difficult to pronounce! The name translates as "speckle" which is a little easier to get your tongue around!
Scientific research confirms Ellert is one-of-a-kind
In 2015, the University of Bern identified the mutated gene and declared that Ellert was the first horse to exhibit the newly named coat colour. Scientists have cautioned that Ellert should not be bred with any horse found to possess the gene mutation as this would increase the likelihood of deafness and other health issues in his offspring.
Now aged five, Ellert has produced four healthy offspring which share his colouring. The horses are heavily protected to ensure that the new colouring isn’t wiped out. There is a danger that fallout from a volcanic eruption could lead to respiratory infections.
The breeder is focussing on finding single colour mares to partner with Ellert in order to produce more offspring. His aim is to spread the new colour around Iceland. Owners are excited to breed their horses with Ellert and so there should be no shortage of partners for him in the coming years.
1,000 years of breeding
The Icelandic horse breed was developed after Norse settlers brought horses to colonize the country in the 9th and 10th centuries. Instantly recognisable with their distinctive thick and plentiful mane and tail, these horses boast a finer coat in the summer and thicker coat in the winter. A ban was placed on importing stock in the 10th century to prevent crossbreeding and that ban is still in place.
As a result, the Icelandic horse has been a pure breed for over 1,000 years. Any Icelandic horse which is exported cannot return to the country as an imported disease could kill off the breed.
The horses with five gaits
Icelandic horses are known for their ability to display two different gaits in addition to their typical walk, trot and canter. They can tolt, a four-beat gait and also perform a flying pace which is a swift two-beat lateral gait. They are beautiful animals which possess an aura of courage and strength.
Their calm and friendly natures only add to their appeal.
Treasured by the Icelandic people, these horses are special indeed!