“Tiger eye” in Paso Fino horses explored

A Paso Fino horse with "tiger eye".
A Paso Fino horse with “tiger eye”. © Arsdelicatas

A researcher in the US has received a grant to study the genetics of “tiger eye” in Paso Fino horses.

Rebecca Bellone, associate professor of biology at the University of Tampa, has received a $3200 ResearchReward from TriLink BioTechnologies to facilitate research on the Puerto Rican breed.

Most horses have brown eyes, but in “tiger eye” the horse’s iris color is characterised by shades of orange, yellow, and amber. It is unique to the Paso Fino breed and is a favorable trait.

Bellone hopes to identify a causative mutation or associated marker that could be used as a DNA test for horse breeders to predict the trait. The grant will fund primers that will be used in DNA sequencing reactions to find the mutation.

Under the supervision of Bellone, the research is being conducted by a UT undergraduate student, Elizabeth Kowalski. Kowalski, a senior biochemistry student and recipient of two University of Tampa Department of Biology summer research fellowships, has presented some of her findings already at two international conferences, and has one published abstract. The results of her work funded by this grant will also be presented at conferences and submitted for publication.

Dr Rebecca Bellone (center) with students Elizabeth Kowalski, left, and Taryn Cranford. © University of Tampa
Dr Rebecca Bellone (center) with students Elizabeth Kowalski, left, and Taryn Cranford. © University of Tampa

In the earlier findings which were presented at the Plant and Animal Genomes XIX Conference in January 2011, Bellone and Kowalski said that pedigree analysis implicated a recessive mode of inheritance for “tiger eye”.

Bellone, who specializes in molecular biology related to animal genetics, previously received grants from TriLink in 2003 and 2005. She is deeply involved in research into spotted horse genetics, including exploring the link between coat colour and night blindness, and she was recently recognised internationally for research of 25,000-year-old cave paintings of spotted horses on the walls of caves in Pech Merle, France.



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3 thoughts on ““Tiger eye” in Paso Fino horses explored

  • August 11, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Excellent article! I was hunger to read more. One of my Pure Paso Fino’s has tiger eyes and I love it! Is a distinctive eye color and my favorite in horses. Congratulations to Rebecca Bellone and her team! I would like to point out that every single tiger eye horse that I’ve ever seen is a bay coat color. Keep up the good work! Many Blessings!

    • July 9, 2014 at 5:34 am

      I know a chestnut PPR with tiger eyes, so that’s a possibility too.

  • March 7, 2014 at 8:04 am

    This also occurs in American Saddlebreds. A horse for sale in California named Tiz Straight Bourbon displays this interesting phenomenon! Saddlebreds carry a large amount of old Spanish blood.


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