Photo courtesy of Vera Grishutina
This first time that I seen photos of the Akhal Teke mare Chakman, I almost fell out of my chair. I think that I screamed "AHAAAAA!" and threw a book across the room. Dare I say, is she....? A DUN!? Hot damned. I felt like I hit the lottery. What a stunning creature, and the closest example of a dun colored purebred Akhal Teke that I've ever seen. A "seemingly" dun colored horse isn't too big of a deal for most people in the world, but for a real weirdo like me - it's a total goldmine. It's been 2 years since I stumbled onto her beautiful photos, and I'm still madly in love with her goofy yellow hide.
The dun topic in Tekes has been hashed, re-hashed, quibbled, debated, poked and prodded, for what seems like forever on the group lists. It just came up (yet again), a little while ago and I e-mailed the pictures of Chakman to an inquiring mind who wanted to know. For the past 10 years (yikes, it's been that long...) I've been digging and searching for "good" solid/true example of dun factor in the Akhal Teke breed - and believe me, they're harder than hens teeth to find. The topic of dun in Tekes generally comes up every few years, and the questions and answers are always the same. Does dun exist in the breed? Nobody can answer for sure - yet. Since there are not any truly great examples of similarly colored Akhal Tekes in the U.S. like this mare is, it still remains a question that gets kicked around now and again. Being both an artist and Akhal Teke afficianado, it has always been an interesting search for me. I seriously wished that Chakman had been imported into the U.S. when she was for sale - (she was advertised as being a kid broke horse, which is enough of a selling point in itself....) And if she would've came here, with the new genetic testing for dun factor horses at the universities - the mare would've been a definite shoe-in candidate for the Akhal Teke breed.
But alas, Chakman is in Moscow - so like a never-ending novel, the dun mystery continues....
Most breeders and owners of Akhal Tekes in the U.S. have horses with dorsal stripes on just about every body color, (bay, chestnut, palomino, buckskin, black). Most of my horses have it, and there's not a single dun gene in their entire family histories. Dorsals are a pretty common trait in Tekes, but it does not make them a dun. A very good example of an arabian with a dorsal stripe and "sooty" leg marks can be found on this site:
So it stands to reason that just because you have an Akhal Teke with a dorsal stripe and some faint leg barring, it's most likely just a case of sootiness at work....
But Chakman, oh.... that lovely beauty. She has more than half of the characteristics that would classify her as being a dun. (See this site for more details: http://www.grullablue.com/colors/dun_factor_markings.htm) If she was a quarter horse, there would be no question about it - she would be a dun. She has a nice big fat black dorsal stripe, good pronounced leg barring, dark shaded points on her muzzle, legs, ears, and shoulders, and a faint hint of light guard hairs in her mane - and an abundance of light guard hairs in her tail. She's close, ohhhhhhhh so close..... I could almost say it....
But then again, it could be argued that she's just a buckskin with some weird stripes due to sooty characteristics and the cream gene. Maybe her light mane hairs are the effects of cream genetics somewhere in her background, as some buckskins exhibit light "silver" types of streaks in their mane and tail. Her pedigree was up on the sale site once, but it didn't have her parents colors printed. It would've been interesting to see what genes and colors are present in her family tree. Also, most duns have a darker head with dark points down the bridge of their nose extending into the muzzle. Chakman seems to have mostly a clear yellow colored face that matches the rest of her body, and is missing a lot of the nasal bridge dark markings that are characteristic of duns. (The author of a newly printed horse color genetics book seems to think that the mare might be a dun that has the cream gene as well - hence the cream genetics have washed her facial darker points out, so they are not visible.) She also exhibits dappling in her winter coat, which is rare for dun horses - but not impossible. A lot of horses can have "sheen dappling" when they are in good health and condition. (She's pretty fat and happy in the picture.) And lastly, what about those leg bars? Maybe just like "Cooper" the arabian, they might be an effect of sootiness at work. Maybe....who knows?
But I'm still clinging desperately to a shard of hope that she "might/maybe" be a dun. The odds are stacked fairly evenly to argue the case both ways. If she was a quarter horse, the automatic reaction that everyone would say is, "she's a dun". End of story. But, we're talking about a rare breed of horse that is un-tested yet and has a lot of creams and funky shades of buckskin, so the mystery continues. The artist side of me wants to believe that she's a dun oh so badly....
(And as a side note while I'm still thinking about it: Interestingly, the only photo that I've ever seen of a so-called "grulla" in the Akhal Teke breed was a yearling that looked like it was going through the greying process. It wasn't a good photo, and definitely not a true/solid enough example for the dun gene as being present in the breed. This gives rise to the question: that if there is indeed a dun gene present - why aren't we seeing any grullas produced when dun carriers are bred to darker purebred horses? They're just not happening for one reason or another.)
So I will eek back into my studio clinging to those photos and a tiny shard of hope that Chakman might still indeed be a dun - or maybe not. In the future there will be a Teke model creeping down the pike from my nook of the world with all the right characteristics - but as to if it's a dun or just a weird buckskin.....you can be the judge of that. =:)