The Camarillo White Horse is a rare horse breed less than 100 years old known for its pure white colour. It dates back to 1921, when Adolfo Camarillo, one of the last Californios, purchased a 9-year-old stallion named Sultan at the California State Fair in Sacramento. The California White horse was owned and bred by the Camarillo family until the death of Adolfo Camarillo’s daughter Carmen in 1987.
The Camarillo White Horse is known for its pure white colour, which includes pink skin under the white hair coat. Unlike a gray horse that is born dark and lightens as it gets older, Camarillo White horses are white from birth and remain white throughout their lives.
The breed is not only a colour breed. It has other distinctive physical characteristics, including a compact and refined build. They are known to have strong limbs, an expressive face, large eyes, well-defined withers, laid back shoulders and a well-arched neck.
True white is a very difficult and rare colour to achieve, as statistically there is only a 50% chance of producing living white offspring from any given mating, regardless of the colour of the other parent. This is because of an unusual characteristic of the white "W" gene. Although it is a dominant gene, it is lethal when homozygous (WW), and such foals die in the womb. This means that all living true white horses are heterozygous (Ww) for the gene. Thus, when a white horse (Ww) is bred to a non-white (ww) horse, there is a 50% chance of producing white and a 50% chance of producing a non-white horse.
When two white horses (Ww) are bred to one another, there is a 50% chance of producing a living white horse (Ww), a 25% chance of producing a non-white horse (ww), but also a 25% chance of producing a dead foal (WW). The W gene is dominant: if a horse carries the gene it will be white and conversely, if the horse is not white, it does not carry the white gene, and thus and cannot produce white offspring if bred to another non-white horse. Breeders of true white horses generally cross them on non-white horses, as the statistical probability of a white foal is the same with no risk of producing a WW foal. However, because there are different genetics involved, Camarillo White horses do not carry the genes for Lethal white syndrome.
All Camarillo White Horses trace back to a single foundation sire, Sultan, a Spanish Mustang born in 1912 that Camarillo would latter describe as a "Stallion of a dream." Camarillo found Sultan at the 1921 California State Fair in Sacramento being shown by the Miller & Lux cattle ranch. Camarillo purchased Sultan and the pair went on to win many championships throughout California.
Camarillo bred Sultan to Morgan mares at the Camarillo Ranch, developing a line of horses privately owned and bred by the Camarillo family for the next 65 years. Upon Camarillo’s death in 1958, Adolfo’s daughter Carmen took over the horse breeding operation. She continued to show the horses at parades and events for the enjoyment of the people of Ventura County until her death in 1987, when, according to her wishes, the horses were sold at public auction, ending the tradition of exclusive ownership of the breed by the Camarillo family.
In 1989, five individuals decided to regroup the horses for public performances. By 1991, when only 11 horses remained, it became apparent the breed could die out, and the idea for an association began. In 1992, the Camarillo White Horse Association was formed. To avoid inbreeding, the registry has an open stud book, requiring least one parent to be of Camarillo's original stock, but allowing the other parent to be from various breeds, including Andalusian and Standardbredbloodlines. They also maintain a separate record of non-white foals from these bloodlines.
Events of Distinction
From the 1930s on, Camarillo White Horses became famous all along the California coast for their performances at various events. They became well known as regular participants in the Tournament of Roses Parade and even attended the parade to open the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge.
They are the official horse of the city of Camarillo. They have appeared in every Santa Barbara Fiesta parade since it began in 1924. Many people of note have ridden Camarillo White Horses, including (then-Governor) Ronald Reagan, 1946 Nobel Peace Prize recipient John Mott, movie star Leo Carrillo, and Steven Ford (son of President Gerald Ford).