Birdcatcher Spots Explained

Birdcatcher Spots Explained

Last Updated on February 23, 2022 by Allison Price

A geneticist for horses explains the unusual white markings on horses’ coats.

Q: My 12-year-old chestnut Arabian mare (almost straight Egyptian) is darkening in the fall and winter, almost to the point of being a liver chestnut. Two weeks ago, I noticed that her legs, back, and body had developed white spots. They ranged from the size of a quarter to the size and shape of a dime. It is amazing that she does not roan like Egyptians. This is not an indication of injury and I have never seen another horse experience anything similar. These spots where they came from?BIrdcatcher spots are not associated with skin or hair damage.

Birdcatcher Spots Explained

A: Your mare has “birdcatcher spots” and is a classic example of this condition. These tiny, random, white spots are not more than an inch in size, appear on horses of any color, and often show up later in life. Sometimes, the markings appear to be able to move around and disappear or reappearing on other parts of the body. They can also fade over time. These marks are not related to skin injury or damage, as opposed to other white hairs, which can be caused by rubbing on the legs or ill-fitting tacks.

These spots were named after the Irish-bred Thoroughbred stallion Birdcatcher (1833), which had similar white flecks along his flank and above him tail. Although they have not been studied in detail to determine if this coat is genetically linked to any particular breed, they are known to be a part of a large family.

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