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Smoky Cream Horse Color Explained

The Smoky cream color in horses produces a striking off-white colored horse, often with blue, green, or sometimes amber eyes.

Smoky cream occurs when a horse with two cream genes also carries the gene for a black base coat. True black horses are rare. Horses with a creme gene are also rare. So a Smoky cream, having inherited black and two copies of the cream gene is extremely rare.

In this article, you will learn more about this rare color, see photos, find out how it occurs, and what you need to know before owning your own smoky cream horse. But first, some facts:

  • 🏳️ Smoky cream horses are light cream in color with points that are usually a darker shade of cream. They are usually not easily confused for white.
  • 📊 Smoky cream horses are extremely rare! Less than .001% of Quarter Horses are smoky cream1 – When our team analyzed 4,345 Quarter Horse classified ads, we found only 5 smoky cream horses for sale.
  • 🧬 Smoky creams have two copies of the cream gene and at least one black gene. Very few breeding pairs have the genes to make a smoky cream foal possible.
  • 🛍️ The average cost of a smoky cream horse is $11,800 – This compares to an average list price of 9,378.00 for all colors of horses in 2023.
  • 💰 Smoky cream horses are 26% more expensive than the average horses – smoky cream horses are desirable, but supply is low. This creates a higher-than-average price.
  • 🏆 In our small research sample, 80% of smoky cream horses for sale were 3 or under. This may indicate growing popularity and less rarity in the future.
PriceAverage $11,800
RarityExtremely rare! Less than .001% of Quarter Horses
Appearancelight cream in color with darker points
Breedmost common in Quarter Horses
Desirability26% more expensive than the average horses due to demand
Trendgrowing in popularity

An Introduction to Smoky Cream:

If you want to learn more about smoky cream genetics, jump on down to our section on genetics, where we go a little more in-depth on what it actually means when a horse is smoky cream. Essentially, smoky cream occurs when two copies of the cream gene dilute a black base color. Instead of a fully cream colored horse like pure Perlino, smoky cream horses have a warm, smoky tone to the fur in their coat.

Image of a smoky cream horse.
Image used with permission from: @fantastic_pre_horsesc

While white or gray horses can sometimes have a yellowish tint to their coat, this is different from smoky cream horses, which can be recognized more by the gray-black “smoky” points on their fur.

What smoky cream looks like on a horse:

A smoky cream horse can vary somewhat in appearance, but you can fairly consistently expect the following characteristics to show up on the coat of a smoky cream horse:

  • Very, very light areas of the body with slightly darker fur with a smoky hue.
  • The cream dilution acts by lessening the intensity of color in each hair – not by mixing in white hairs as is common with blue Roan horses.2
  • Sometimes cremello and perlino horses can be distinguished from smoky cream because smoky cream horses have darker points (legs, muzzle, ears, etc) than perlinos. Cremellos are generally even lighter than perlinos.3
  • “Their skin is pink and their eyelashes are yellow or reddish2
  • If the horse carries two copies of the cream gene, the coat is diluted to a “very pale near white,” and the horse has pink skin and blue eyes.4
  • “The mane and tail can be the same color as the body, or it can be brighter or darker. Occasionally, smoky creams may have dappled coats2
  • Some describe the smoky cream as ” a light ashy tone of the body, mane and tail ”2 while others describe it as “slightly orange all over” ( Molecular and Quantitative Animal Genetics. (2015). United Kingdom: Wiley. pg 108 )) or “coffee-colored hue5
  • Smoky cream horses can have white markings like socks, blazes, or stars. Markings may be present in large blocks of color, irregular white splashes, or even a blanket of spots on the rump6

How Smoky Cream Genetics Work

The Smoky cream horse color is the result of a black basecoat modified by two cream genes. For smoky cream to occur, both the mare and stallion must pass the cream gene to their foal.

One copy of the creme gene produces colors like buckskin, palomino, and smoky black. Two copies of the cream gene produce Cremello, Pearlino, and Smoky Cream. In our research, we found that about 20% of Quarter Horse and Quarter Horse crosses carry one copy of the cream gene, but only about 1.5% carried two copies of this dilution gene.

Smoky Cream is the result of a modification of a black coat by the cream gene. If a black horse has one cream gene, it’ll be smoky black. If the black horse receives two creme genes, they’ll be smoky cream.

The cream gene is considered incomplete dominant7 because it always alters the base coat but never fully masks it, like the grey gene does as greys turn into white horses.

Horse Color Breedings that can
Create Smoky Black: 
(( The Illustrated Guide To The Morab Horse. ISBN 9780578004655 (n.d.). (n.p.): PG 55-56 ))

Smoky Black x Cremello⚫⚪ + ⚪⚪ = 🌕
Smoky Black x Pearlino⚫⚪ + ⚪⚪ = 🌑
Smoky Black x Buckskin⚫⚪ + ⚪🟤 = 🌑
Smoky Black x Palomino⚫⚪ + ⚪🟤 = 🌑

The Easily Confused Color

Smoky Cream horses can only truly be identified by a DNA test examining their genes. For around $75, horse owners can send a hair sample to UC Davis for results in about 2 weeks. Determining if a horse is smoky cream requires a full color panel, since both cream and black (agouti) genes must be present.

Genetic testing is key because each of the following colors can masquerade as smoky cream:

  1. Perlino: Perlino horses have a very pale cream or near-white coat color with pink skin and blue eyes. They can resemble smoky cream horses, but smoky creams often have darker points, such as legs, muzzle, and ears.
  2. Cremello: Cremello horses are even lighter in color than perlinos, with a nearly white coat and pink skin. They may also be mistaken for smoky cream due to their light coloration, but smoky creams typically have darker points.
  3. Palomino: Palomino horses have a coat color that appears similar to smoky cream, with a yellowish or golden body and flazen mane and tail. However, smoky creams have a unique smoky hue to their fur, which can help differentiate them from true golden palomino horses.

Some horses advertised as smoky cream actually are not. This is because smoky cream coloring can mimic the color of several other horse colors. If you want to but a smoky creame horse and the color is very important to you (such as for future breeding plans) you should request paperwork on DNA color testing or- even better- have a test done on a hair sample you collect yourself.

lh smoky cream horse 1

Horse Breeds in Which Smoky Cream Color Occurs:

Smoky cream horses can be found in all horse breeds where the cream gene is present. This gene is most often present in quarter horses and paint horses, but also appears in the breeds Lusitano, American Saddlebred, Tennessee Walker, Icelandic horse, miniature horse, Paso Fino, Peruvian Paso, Welsh Pony, Australian Pony, Shetland Pony, and Akhal-Teke.8

Here’s a little more about the prevalence of smoky cream in the most common breeds:

Smoky cream quarter horses:

By far, our team’s analysis of smoky cream horses for sale found that these horses are most likely to be members of the quarter horse breed. Most likely because of the popularity of quarter horses in the United States and decades of interest in the unique colors created when the cream gene is expressed. Many quarter horses carry Mustang lineage, and many of the unique color expressions found in 18th-century mustang are now common in the Quarter Horse breed.

Smoky cream paint horses:

The smoky cream gene sometimes shows up in horses with a Paint or Pinto pattern to their coat (learn more about the difference between a paint and a Pinto). Smoky cream is most often associated with Tobiano paint horses.

What’s Tobiano?!

The Tobiano coloring pattern is when a horse has big patches of white with clear borders. Sometimes, their head is colorful, and a defining characteristic is that the white spots cross over from one side of their back to the other. This pattern can be found in many horse breeds and is, rarely, combined with smoky cream.

Tobiano paint horses sometimes carry the cream gene, and this can make a stunning and dramatic coat pattern as the smoky cream spots are highlighted by true white between spots.


Smoky cream Appaloosa horses:

Appaloosa can carry the cream gene. Because of this, it is possible for a horse to be a smoky cream leopard Appaloosa, a smoky cream blanket Appaloosa, or for this unique color to show up on various patterns of these beautifully speckled horses. Because the contrast between white and smoky cream is only a few shades, these horses might not turn heads from a distance. However, a smoky cream appaloosa horse might literally be one of a kind!

As you might have learned in our article about piebald horses – the size of these speckles is what separates Paint and Pinto horses from Appaloosa horses.

How to get a smoky cream-colored horse:

Like all desirable horse colors, the best way to get one of these head-turning horses is to either breed or purchase a horse of the desired color. As a horse riding instructor and former horse breeder, I strongly recommend purchasing the horse you dream of rather than trying to breed it. Breeding horses is a tricky business, rarely produces the exact color we want, and is too often full of heartbreak (read my article about losing my first orphaned foal).

For these and many other reasons, it’s better to purchase your smoky cream horse instead of trying to breed one.

Buying a Smoky Cream Horse

While it’s never a good idea to buy a horse specifically because of color, it’s okay to know what you want and seek that horse out. Just don’t let color be your number one priority when buying a horse. Or, if it is, be willing to spend more, wait longer, or purchase a horse from a farther distance away to make sure that you get a horse that you can actually enjoy, bond with, and thrive as the owner of.

Be aware, with any color as rare as smoky cream, horse sellers will expect a higher price. Even if you ask all the right questions when buying a horse and execute the negotiation perfectly, you might very likely still end up paying quite a bit more to get the smoky cream color you dream of.

Breeding a smoky cream horse

To breed a smoky cream horse, you need knowledge, support, and access to great veterinary care. You’ll also need two horses with very specific genetic makeup: one parent with two copies of the cream gene and one parent with at least one copy of the cream gene and one copy of the agouti gene for black basecoat. Genetic testing is essential for both parents before breeding to confirm their genes. This provides the best chance for getting a smoky cream foal.

If both parents do not have the cream gene, it is impossible for a foal to be smoky cream. One copy of the cream gene, instead, produces other dilute colors. If it’s a bay horse with one copy of a cream gene, they appear as buckskin, a chestnut appears as a Palomino, and black horses become smoky black horses.9


☀️🧴🐴 Sunburn Warning: Horses with two copies of the cream gene are particularly vulnerable to horse sunburns2 and precautions should be taken.


Key Takeaways:

In conclusion, the smoky cream horse is not a breed, but a rare and incrediblely unique off-white color that appears in a number of breeds. These horses have captivating features, including striking blue, green, or amber eyes. These horses are a result of two cream genes and at least one black gene, making them exceptionally rare in the equine world. Here are some key points to remember:

 Identifying smoky cream horses can be tricky, as they can resemble other colors. Genetic testing is essential for confirmation. When considering a smoky cream horse, it’s wise to purchase rather than attempt breeding, given the complexities involved. 🌞🐴🔍

  1.’s research team did a detailed analysis of the horse market in Fall 2023. We used aggregated data from the 3 most popular horse classified ads sites to determine statistics about horse prices, the rarity of colors, and the popularity of certain types of horses for certain disciplines. []
  2. Kurskaya, V. (2017). Horse Color Explored: Over 150 Breeds, Types, and Variations. United States: Trafalgar Square Books. [] [] [] [] []
  3. Sponenberg, D. P., Bellone, R. (2017). Equine Color Genetics. Germany: Wiley. []
  4. Kerson, N. (2017). Quick Guide To Horse Color Identification – 2017 Update.  []
  5. []
  6. J. Warren Evans, Rhonda M. Hoffman, Jessica L. Petersen, L. Dale Van Vleck. The Horse: Third Edition. N.p., Waveland Press, 2020. []
  7. Chowdhary, B. P. (2013). Equine Genomics. Germany: Wiley. pg 144 []
  8. Kurskaya, V. (2017). Horse Color Explored: Over 150 Breeds, Types, and Variations. United States: Trafalgar Square Books. []
  9. Sponenberg, D. P., Bellone, R. (2017). Equine Color Genetics. Germany: Wiley. []

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