Horses come in a wide range of colors and coat patterns, from the most common (bay or chestnut) to more rare ones like buckskin or roan. In addition, white horses can be found in every breed. Some have spotted white areas while others are solid white. And there are also a variety of coloring patterns that produce different combinations of spotting and patching.
Bay is the most common equine color, formed from the agouti gene acting on a black coat. This gene dilutes the body color, but leaves the mane, tail and lower legs black. The shade of a bay can vary widely, from light blood red to mahogany. It is the same color of such famous racehorses as Seabiscuit and Khemosabi.
Palomino is another very eye-catching equine color. It is the result of a chestnut horse carrying one cream dilution gene. The color is described as “the color of twenty-two carat gold” and it stands out wherever it goes. Palominos are found in many different breeds, including the Quarter Horse and Akhal-Teke.
Champagne horses are produced by yet another dilution gene. The color is similar to that of a palomino, but they have a golden or tan coat instead of the light yellow of a palomino. Champagne horses can be a few shades lighter than palomino and they often have flaxen or white manes and tails.
Appaloosa is a patterned coat color created by the leopard complex LP gene in combination with modifying genes. These genes control whether or not an Appaloosa will show a spotted pattern, as well as how much and where the spots will appear.
The base color of a dun is a darker shade of the horse’s usual color, and can be any of the standard horse colors other than black. The hairs on a dun can be a variety of red or reddish yellow shades, and the mane and tail can be lighter or darker than the body color. If a dun is very dark, it is sometimes called a seal brown or mahogany bay.
Pinto and roan are color patterns that can be added to any of the standard equine colors, producing a variety of different shades and markings. These spotting and splotchy patterns are usually spread throughout the whole coat, but can occur in patches or in groups of dots.
All of these horse colors and patterns can be combined to create even more interesting and unusual equine colorings. For example, a tovero is a mixture of tobiano and overo coloring. The result is a horse with white spotting and patches, but the face and leg markings are dark as if they were a tobiano. A tovero can be a beautiful addition to any breeding program and has its own distinct look. The same genes that make a horse a certain color can cause it to gray with age, which can be an attractive or unattractive trait depending on the individual.