Color in donkeys - Specifics on Spotted Donkeys:

ADMS has published material on the spotting inheritance in donkeys, and also worked with Dr. Phil Sponenberg on his chapter in the 2nd Edition of Horse Color Genetics.

A packet explaining the spotting genetics of donkeys is available from ADMS.

We understand that there is still a large amount of debate and discussion ongoing about the workings of spotting in donkeys.  ADMS has done its own research with no outside records or help other than that our consultants (some breeders, vets and Dr Sponenberg, but no Institutions or other companies) and is not working with nor have we reviewed any other research material other than that publically available or in the ADMS archives.

We see over 100 donkey registrations every week, and our research is based on the production of registered donkeys and their offspring.

TO DATE (Originally posted November 11, 2003 and updated again July 5th 2006 and still confirmed as of Sept 2008 ) we have not been presented with one single DNA verified case of a spotted donkey produced from two non-spotted parents.  In ADMS nomenclature, this means that a donkey showing even the minimum spotting characteristic of a blaze face (NOT just a forehead star)  has not been verified to have been born from two parents who have no visual spotting (ie no blaze face, no white other than the "white points".  We welcome the animal that can be genetically proven to be a spotted from two non=spotted parents.  We will be happy to work with the owner and research the parents in order to revise our genetics study on spotted donkeys.

A blaze face (so far, all donkeys we have seen registered with blaze faces have distinct white sclera, as those in an appaloosa horse) is the minimum expression of the spotted pattern.  It is sometimes, but not always, coupled with striped hooves, or white on one foot.  We do know of one case in which the blaze on the animal's face seem partially obscured by a large dark spot, making it look as if it were not a true blaze.  However, the location of the blaze, the shape, and other factors make it obvious the animal is genetically spotted.

Animals that are genetically spotted, regardless of the amount of white on the body (ie masked spotting, with no white spots on the body, or 99% white with only dark spots on the rump or eartips) all reproduce as if they are heterozygous (having one copy of the spotting gene).  We have not found a documented case where a jack has sired ALL spotted offspring when bred to solid colored jennets.  (Please note very carefully:  we were approached by a breeder who said their spotted jack had produced nothing but spotted foals from solid-colored jennets.  However, at least one foal from Spotted jennets was solid colored.  This proves that not only was the Jack heterozygous S/s for spotting, but the jennet was also).    Again, we welcome more information from the breeder who can help us by a production record of 100% spots (includes masked spotted) from solid colored mates.

Is masked spotting like restricted sabino or frame?  Yes.  We see there is some visual evidence in the spotting patterns that look as if a "frame overo" and "sabino" pattern (as well as a combination of the two) can be distinguished in the donkey.  We can find no visual evidence of a tobiano type pattern. The "tyger spot" pattern in donkeys is also a pinto-type pattern, and appears to be a separate pattern.  However, it also works as a heterozygous (S/s) gene in donkeys.

The question has been presented in the past and remains open:  Is there a lethal white in donkeys as there is in Frame Overo Paint horses?  Our research shows the numbers are conclusive with their being a lethal with spot x spot matings.  HOWEVER - NO ONE has presented us with the results of a necropsy for a lethal white stillborn foal or one that has died at age 1-4 days.  ADMS will be happy to work with the owners of such an animal for partial payment of a Necropsy in order to determine if the foal died of the same or similar conditions as Lethal White in Paint horses. 

Are jennets aborting or re-absorbing lethal foals?  Probably?  How will you know?  The only 100% sure way anyone will know is very careful breeding records, ultrasound to be 100% certain that there is a fetus, later ultrasound to be 100% certain she has lost a fetus.  Even so, without being able to sample fetal cells, there is no way to tell if that fetus was a lethal white or just another terminated equine pregnancy.  So how CAN you tell?   Necropsy on a lost white foal is the best step towards determining if there is lethal.   Is there a genetic test?  UC Davis offers the Frame Overo test for horses.  The last time we heard, it was horse specific, and did not apply to donkeys.  We will be contacting UC Davis for more information to see what they offer on donkeys. 

We have heard there is some classification of a "roan-spot" in donkeys.  From what we understand, this is referring to the pattern ADMS has recognized for several years, Frosted Spotted White.  These donkeys appear to be "roaned" or "white" but with dark eyes, and dark or parti-colored skin.  The is an apparent link of the Frosted (roan or "Graying" gene) with that of spotted.  Some FSW donkeys appear to keep a dark roaned area over their back all their life (and most, when clipped, appear to be spotted-mostly-dark), others have more pink skin, and a few are beginning to show blue eyes.  These animal are (again, when clipped) spotted-mostly-white.  When bred to solid colored (non-spotted, non roaned) mates, the offspring of a FSW parent can be FSW, Spotted, roaned (frosty or frosted) and solid.  

Will ADMS be changing their classification of donkey colors and patterns?  Only if and when we can verify and study these changes (if any are presented to us) , present them to our consultants and Board, and make a decision at a later time.  Our research has over eight years, with decades of records to back it, and thus far we see nothing that warrants change.

Will we use the terms Frame and Sabino instead of just Spotted?  Probably not, unless exacting research can be shown that separates those patterns.  Even so, the pattern is a horse-term, and there are subtle differences between the horse-pattern and the donkey-pattern.  There are too many conflicting horse terms, and we do not wish to compound by duplicating terms with different meanings. 

If you have questions or would like our color packet, please contact us directly.

We know that there are breeders who have large herds and extensive records, and we are happy to include their input, but please refer directly to ADMS if you have a question with the classification of your animal. 

Thank you,
Leah Patton, Registrar, ADMS

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