Equine veterinary journal2003; 35(2); 153-157; doi: 10.2746/042516403776114234

Equine melanoma in a population of 296 grey Lipizzaner horses.

Abstract: Equine melanomas occur most commonly in grey horses at age 5 years or more. Generally, benign and malignant melanomas are distinguished by microscopy, but a more distinct classification would be helpful. Objective: The objectives of this study were to gain further evidence concerning the occurrence of melanotic tumours, and to evaluate the impact of heredity on melanoma development. Methods: A clinical study was conducted on a defined population of 296 grey horses of Lipizzaner breed. Individuals were classified according to their stage of disease using a 0-5 scale. Heritability was estimated on a sample of 296 grey horses with pedigrees traced back as far as 32 generations. Results: Of the 296 horses, dermal melanomas were present in 148 horses (50%), 68 of which were more than age 15 years; 51 of these were melanoma-bearing. In 75.6% of cases, melanotic tumours were detected underneath the tail. Although melanoma-bearing grey horses were encountered up to stage 4, none of the affected individuals suffered any severe clinical effect or was handicapped in performance. Statistical analysis revealed highly significant effects of stud and age (P < 0.0001), explaining 28% of the total variability. Conclusions: In contrast to melanomas in solid-coloured horses characterised by early metastases, melanomas in grey horses showed less malignancy. Affected individuals often had encapsulated nodules or structures similar to human blue nevi. Grey horse-specific genetic factors inhibiting metastatic processes may be responsible for this phenomenon. Conclusions: Although the obtained heritability estimate of 0.36 with a standard error of 0.11 indicates a strong genetic impact on the development of melanoma in ageing grey horses, a possible influence of the genes with large effects was also suggested. Therefore, further analysis is required of melanoma development in the ageing grey horse.
Publication Date: 2003-03-18 PubMed ID: 12638791DOI: 10.2746/042516403776114234Google Scholar: Lookup
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  • Journal Article


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This study explores the occurrence of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, in a population of 296 Lipizzaner horses that are grey in color. It also determines the influence of hereditary factors on the development of this condition.

Objective and Methodology

  • The researchers aimed to expand the understanding of the prevalence of melanotic tumours in this breed and determine if inheritance played a role in melanoma development.
  • A clinical examination was conducted on a specific population of 296 grey Lipizzaner horses.
  • The overall health of these horses was gauged using a scale from 0-5, with 0 being healthy and 5 being severely affected by the disease.
  • The researchers looked into the horses’ pedigrees as far as 32 generations back to assess hereditary factors.


  • The study discovered that 50% of the horses were affected by dermal melanomas, with a higher prevalence in horses older than 15 years.
  • Most of these tumors were located underneath the tail.
  • Despite having melanomas, none of these horses showed any severe clinical effects affecting their performances.
  • The researchers observed a significant effect of the stud and age of the horses on the occurrence of melanoma, which accounted for 28% of the total variability.


  • One of the key conclusions made was that melanomas in grey horses were less malignant when compared with solid-colored horses, often appearing as encapsulated nodules or similar human blue nevi.
  • The researchers proposed that this might be due to specific genetic factors in grey horses that inhibit the metastasis of the disease.
  • They also found that the occurrence of melanoma in aging grey horses is strongly influenced by their genetics, with a heritability estimate of 0.36.
  • However, the study also hints at the potential influence of other genes with large effects, thus, further research is necessary to fully understand melanoma development in these horses.

Cite This Article

Seltenhammer MH, Simhofer H, Scherzer S, Zechner R, Curik I, Su00f6lkner J, Brandt SM, Jansen B, Pehamberger H, Eisenmenger E. (2003). Equine melanoma in a population of 296 grey Lipizzaner horses. Equine Vet J, 35(2), 153-157. https://doi.org/10.2746/042516403776114234


ISSN: 0425-1644
NlmUniqueID: 0173320
Country: United States
Language: English
Volume: 35
Issue: 2
Pages: 153-157

Researcher Affiliations

Seltenhammer, M H
  • Department of Clinical Surgery and Ophthalmology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria.
Simhofer, H
    Scherzer, S
      Zechner, R
        Curik, I
          Su00f6lkner, J
            Brandt, S M
              Jansen, B
                Pehamberger, H
                  Eisenmenger, E

                    MeSH Terms

                    • Age Distribution
                    • Animals
                    • Breeding
                    • Female
                    • Hair Color
                    • Horse Diseases / classification
                    • Horse Diseases / diagnosis
                    • Horse Diseases / genetics
                    • Horses
                    • Male
                    • Melanoma / classification
                    • Melanoma / diagnosis
                    • Melanoma / genetics
                    • Melanoma / veterinary
                    • Nevus, Pigmented / classification
                    • Nevus, Pigmented / diagnosis
                    • Nevus, Pigmented / genetics
                    • Nevus, Pigmented / veterinary
                    • Skin Neoplasms / classification
                    • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis
                    • Skin Neoplasms / genetics
                    • Skin Neoplasms / veterinary


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