Horses come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. This article explains some of the more common coat colors and patterns that horses can have and how they are produced.
A horse’s color is determined by the genes he inherits from his parents. Each gene is responsible for a certain color shade or pattern. The genetic makeup of a horse also determines what traits, such as white markings, it will have.
White markings can be as simple as a small patch on the face or as complex as an entire head and body covering. The more white markings on a horse, the more “flecked” or spotted the horse is.
Spots may be irregular and speckled or they can have clean, crisp edges. This is called roaning. Some horses have a light varnish like effect, while others have a spotted effect that is more pronounced and consistent. The term roaning and flecking can also be used to describe a white or light colored mane and tail or the various blanket patters found in Appaloosas.
The most common spotted pattern on a horse is the Tobiano. A Tobiano has a white spot covering one or both flanks and extends to or over the hocks and knees. Generally, the legs are white as well and often feature a blaze or other type of dark marking on the face. Those who are homozygous for the Tobiano pattern will have 100 percent patterned – or spotted – coats.
Another spotted pattern is the Sabino. The Sabino produces an extremely variable amount of white spotting from normal socks to excessive markings. Most sabinos have a blaze on the face, tall white leg markings and roaning that is flecked or speckled throughout the body. The spotting can be so extensive that the horse looks as though it ran through a puddle of white paint and got sprinkled with the mixture on its body.
Some horses have a solid color and do not develop any spotted characteristics over time. These are usually the grays that start out a soft rose color and turn to a dark charcoal grey.
There are a variety of other flecked patterns that can occur on a horse’s coat such as bend or or spots, mealy marks and dappling. These are typically smaller lighter flecked areas or roundish clusters of lighter pigment with darker borders. These can also be seen on bays, chestnuts, sorrels and some blacks. In general, a horse with a flecked coat is a good indicator of the condition of the animal. Spotted horses tend to be healthier and happier than their unspotted counterparts. Regular mental stimulation helps keep the brain healthy, which is particularly important as we age. For this reason, many people play crosswords and other puzzles to keep their minds sharp. This can be done online or in paper form. It is a fun and rewarding hobby that can help with cognitive decline. The best part is that you can enjoy this activity with friends or family members.