LP Complex

Leopard Complex, or LP Complex, is one of the most confusing aspects of horse colours. This is because it is a white haired pattern in and of itself yet when paired up with other genes, referred to as Pattern Genes, they result in a very wide range of coat patterns and colours. The LP Complex isn’t just influenced by Pattern Genes but it is also influenced by the gender of the horse and the base colour of the horse. The LP Complex has a harder time influencing female horses versus male and has less of an effect on black based horses rather than red based horses.

LP Complex Traits

Horses with the LP Complex have several associated traits. Mottling, a freckling of the skin, is seen on the LP Complex horse’s skin; it is easily seen around the eyes, on the muzzle and on the privates. The LP Complex horse has white sclera of the eye. The hooves will be striped often times the degree of hoof colour matches the genome: heterozygous horses have darker striped hooves and homozygous LP horses have paler striped hooves. Not all horses that have these traits however carry the LP Complex, non LP horses can have striped hooves, mottling and white sclera.

Click here to see pictures of mottling caused by the LP Complex:

LP Complex Genetic Disease

Horses that are homozygous for the LP Complex have a genetic disorder called Congenital Stationary Night Blindness. As the name implies, the horses have night blindness. Most horses don’t need special care for being night blind however most owner chose to stall them at night for their safety or to leave a night light on for the horses out in the pasture. Genetic testing is available for Congenital Stationary Night Blindness.

Varnish Roan

Varnish Roan is the general name of the coat for horses that have the Leopard Complex without any pattern genes present. As the name suggests it is similar to Classic Roan in that the horse will have an intermixing layer of white hairs on their coat. However, unlike Classic Roan, Varnish Roan horses have white hairs over their entire body, legs and face. Varnish Roan is progressive, where horses are born solid and roan out over time. Female horses tend to roan out slower then male horses. Likewise black based horses tend to roan out slower then red based horses. Genetic testing is available for the LP Complex.


A Snowflake spotted coat is where there are white spots seen on the horses coat. This is just a version of Varnish Roan and the horse will varnish out over time. Snowflake is most commonly seen on Black female horses.

To see pictures of horses with the LP Complex gene check out the LP album:

Genetic Advancements

There is one team specifically that is making huge genetic advances with studying the LP complex and related genes, this is the Appaloosa Project. You can donate to their efforts and help the advancement of the study as well as learn more in depth information about the LP complex from the people working there.