Horses come in a dizzying variety of coat colours, patterns, and markings. Horse lovers use the different colours and markings to classify and distinguish horses. In this post, we provide an overview of basic coat colours and their variations, as well as patterns and facial and leg markings.
Basic Horse Coat Colours
The most common horse coat colour is bay, which is brown with a black mane and tail and black lower legs. Chestnut horses have a reddish-brown coat, with a mane and tail that are the same colour or lighter.
Black horses, as you would imagine, have a black coat, mane, and tail. A seal brown horse has a dark-brown coat with a black mane and tail and black lower legs. You can distinguish a seal brown horse by the lighter brown patches around its muzzle, eyes, flanks, and stifle (upper hind leg).
Pure white horses are rare but lack pigment in their skin, hooves, and coat.
Variations on Basic Coat Colours
A grey horse can be born with any coat colour but gradually starts growing white hairs. The eventual colour can range from nearly white to dark-grey. A grey horse may have a dappled or spotted pattern.
The roan pattern also involves white hairs mixed with a base colour. However, horses are born with this pattern. There are names for different types of roan, such as strawberry roan, which is white hairs interspersed with chestnut.
The cream gene makes chestnut, bay, and black coats lighter. For example, a palomino horse has a cream gene with a chestnut coat, giving it a light-yellow coat with a lighter-coloured mane and tail.
The dun gene typically gives a horse a darker head, limbs, mane, and tail; a dark stripe along its spine; and horizontal stripes on its legs. Dun horses come in different colours, such as blue dun, which has grey hair and is based on a black coat.
The rare silver gene turns a black coat chocolate-brown. The horse will have a whitish mane and tail and may have dapples. The champagne gene is another rare gene that causes a horse to have a shiny coat and grey-pink skin containing dark spots.
Horse Coat Patterns
A horse with the pinto pattern has patches of white and patches of another colour. Horses with smooth-edged white patches that go over their spine are known as tobiano. Those with jagged white patches seeming to start at the belly are called overo.
Horses with a combination of both patterns are called tovero. A horse that has coloured hairs mixed into the patches of white has a sabino pattern. A splashed white horse, meanwhile, looks like it has walked into white paint, with a large, smooth-edged white patch.
There are several types of spotted pattern. For example, a horse with the leopard pattern has dark spots on a white coat, while a horse with the snowflake pattern has white spots on a base colour. A horse with a blanket has a white patch over its hindquarters.
Horse Facial and Leg Markings
A horse can have 1 or more white markings on its face. A star is located between or above the eyes and can be various shapes, including a circle or a heart. A snip is a small white mark on a horse’s nose or muzzle.
A strip is a narrow white line that runs partway, or all the way, down a horse’s face. A blaze is similar but wider. A horse with a bald face has a large white patch that extends above its eyes.
A horse can have a white marking above its hooves on anywhere from 1 to all 4 legs. The white patch might be short. The marking can also be a sock, which extends about two-thirds of the way up the horse’s leg, or a stocking, which extends higher than its knee.
Do you have a favourite horse coat colour, pattern, or marking? Let us know in the comments!
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.