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Spotted and Piebald Animals.

A lot of wild animal species, like leopards, are naturally spotted--as are domesticated breeds like the appaloosa horse or Dalmatian dog. This hub primarily focuses on unusual spotted animals arising in a normally plain colored species or breed. Those unusual individuals that spring up, and help make life interesting.



Vitiligo can produce white spots on black cats, of both domestic and exotic varieties. These animals are called 'snowflake' cats. A snowflake leopard called Cobweb used to be housed at the Glasgow Zoo (see right).

Vitiligo will also produce white spotting on predominantly black-colored dogs such as dobermans and Rottweilers.

White spotted greyhound have also been seen although the genetics is not known (see: Snowblue Fortune Lethalgoodfellow)

Juvenile Spots Retained

In some rare cases an adult deer will retain its juvenile spots, as in the case of the whitetail buck shown below. Retained juvenile spotting my also sometimes be seen in mountain lions (a.k.a. cougar/puma).

There are persistent but unconfirmed reports of Marozi, or spotted lions. One explanation for the existence of a spotted lion is a mutation leading to adults retaining juvenile markings.

(Conversely some animals like Dalmatian dogs are born without spots and develop them only as they mature)



Piebald and white deer of various species are relatively common, sometimes showing spotted patterns.

Other piebald deer pictures:

Piebald markings including spots can be seen in many otherspecies including the American toad, cattle, camels, and mice.

Several heritage breeds of sheep are spotted, including the Jacob sheep, Miniature Spotted Sheep or Painted Desert Sheep.

Jacobs Sheep

Jacobs Sheep

While white moose having been seen on quite a few occasions this is the only example I have found of a piebald moose (2009). This one was photographed in Alaska by Hugh Edwards.

And here is a new one on me, a piebald squirrel (sighted in Ontario in 2008.) A rather different looking brown-toned piebald squirrel was shot in Illinois (2008). See another live example here (red and white), and a taxidermy example here (grey and white).

Melanistic Spotting

A deer with black spots was reported in India, presumably due to melanism. Mechanistic spotted morphs also occur in mosquito fish.


A spotted sub-species of the western striped skunk lives on several islands in California.

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Appaloosa and Other Horse Spots

While many breeds of domesticated horses are spotted it is unusual to see this pattern in the wild. One exception being a small number of Dartmoor (UK) ponies which demonstrate a striking leopard (dark on white) spot.

A spontaneous mutation of this type probably led to the true breeding spotted horse types such as the Appaloosa.

Spotting my be an ancestral trait in horses, as spotted horses are depicted in paleolithic art.

Less regular markings referred to as smuts or bend-or spots are also occasionally seen in horses.

Bend Or Spots

Bend Or Spots

Panda Spot

Japanese quail have a color morph that is white with some dark patches, called a panda spot.

Complex Causes

The spotting of the famously spotted Dalmatian dogs requires both parents carried mutations on all three of the genetic locations know to cause Piebald, Ticking, and Flecking.


State Library of New South Wales collection /



This spotted lobster (2007) is from a fascinating flickr set on mutant lobsters.


Spotted Zebra

In 1968 this spotted Zebra was photographed in Zambia. (See also: Zebras with a Difference).


In people spotting can be produced by a range of skin disorders including ichthyosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Several people were exhibited as "Leopard People" due to spotted skin--due to a condition called vitiligo which caused lose of skin pigment in patches.


  • Grosz, M. D., & MacNeil, M. D. (1999). The" Spotted" Locus Maps to Bovine Chromosome 6 in a HerefordCross Population. Journal of heredity, 90, 233-235.
  • Hosoda, K., Hammer, R. E., Richardson, J. A., Baynash, A. G., Cheung, J. C., Giaid, A., & Yanagisawa, M. (1994). Targeted and natural (piebald-lethal) mutations of endothelin-B receptor gene produce megacolon associated with spotted coat color in mice. Cell, 79(7), 1267-1276.


Penny Skinner (author) on November 18, 2010:

I made a new hub on striped animals and inclused the striped cheetah, thanks :)

Penny Skinner (author) on June 13, 2010:

I hadn't heard of that, but I will look it up now. thanks!

mrpopo from Canada on June 13, 2010:

I find these types of things interesting. Have you heard of the striped cheetah? It's a variant of the normally spotted cheetah. It's not the focus on this Hub, but still pretty interesting.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on June 05, 2010:

Oh, how pretty it is!

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