Horse Hair Color Varieties

Horse hair cells contain melanin pigment that determines their color; sunlight bleaches this out to lighten its hue and alter the hue of their locks.

The dominant A gene restricts black pigment to specific points on red bases; its recessive counterpart, mushroom allele dilutes red pigmentation.


Bay horses range in color from copper red to rich dark red or brown, often called mahogany bay, black-bay or seal brown. When dark shades overlap they can appear black with some difficulty being able to differentiate their distinctive black points in manes and tails.

Bay horses are recognized by their black points found throughout their mane, tail, ear edges and lower legs. When combined with recessive agouti (A) genes that limit distribution to points or top line only, this produces various shades of bay.


Black horses are captivating to look upon and offer an intriguing aura. Unfortunately, their color can fade over time from sun and sweat exposure; to help preserve it further, make sure they receive proper feed, blanketing and are kept out of direct sunlight, while also washing away sweat regularly to preserve its vibrant hues.

When trying to identify a black horse, it is essential to disregard white markings & patterns as these do not influence its base coat color. Black horses must possess at least one dominant extension gene (EE) and two copies of Agouti gene allele Aa (nonfunctional recessive allele), this combination ensures production of black pigment without restrictions from patterns.


Chestnut is one of the most frequently seen horse coat colors. A mating between a chestnut stallion and mare will produce offspring with this coat color even if their father or grandfather were black. Horses with reddish-hued coats may be called sorrel; however, some registries simply refer to them as chestnut horses.

Liver chestnuts feature dark brown-red coats with light straw-colored mane and tail. Their darker coat color distinguishes them from light chestnuts, which have coppery-colored bodies with darker spots that may even look almost black and can sometimes be mistaken for palominos.


Gray horses are among the most commonly seen horses and can be found across several breeds such as Arabians, Lusitanos and Lipizzaners. Graying occurs as a result of genetic mutation, producing excessive pigment in foals as they age while gradually diminishing into whiteness as they reach maturity.

Iron grey horses, in their early stages of greying, feature dark hairs interspersed with lighter ones that create an “iron gray” look. Often mistaken for roans due to similar white-hued head and leg colors on both, yet grays lighten over time unlike their counterparts.


White horses have snow-white fur and unpigmented or pink skin, typically with brown or blue eyes. Though white horses may start off any base color, over time their pigment is gradually lost until they’re considered true albino horses.

Variations in the gene for color create various white patterns that manifest themselves through genetic mutation. Common examples are cremello, perlino and smoky cream – variants of double dilute gene that also produces palomino, buckskin and roan colors.

Other color genes may cause more subtle hues to develop as well, including dun and pale chestnut shades that appear white due to reduced pigment levels compared to their counterparts. While they do contain pigment, their hue may make them seem lighter than expected and appear as such to the naked eye.


A Grulla horse is distinguished by a slate gray body with primitive markings such as dark facial features, cobwebbing around eyes and forehead, dorsal striping (commonly known as zebra striping), leg barring over knees and hocks and leg barring over knees and hocks, knee barring, leg barring over knees and hocks and leg barring over knees and hocks; they may also possess light mane and tail colors which result from mixing roan genes (commonly known as roan genes) with black genes (commonly known as Roan Gene).

Grullo horses may carry either the cream gene and look cremello/perlino, or be homozygous for dun genes and look white. Furthermore, some are silver dapple/smokey types which possess light silvery shades but carry silver dapple genes that give their coats their characteristic light silvery shade.


Roan horses possess a patterning gene that mixes white and colored hairs throughout their coat, leaving only their head, lower legs, mane, and tail solid colors. Roans can appear on many base colors but are most frequently found among black-based duns and seal browns.

A roan horse’s pattern may change over time as it matures, creating its distinct look. This stunning blend of colors resembles that of a deep starlit night sky – to distinguish a true roan from other patterns like rabicano or sabino, white hairs must be evenly spread across its entire body.


Paint horses are distinguished by a white pattern covering their base color coat. The pattern may take any form, from stripes and spots to bold blazes and more flamboyant markings such as blazes. Paints are known for their exuberant markings which often include colorful blazes, stripes, spots or any combination thereof.

The three primary Paint pattern types include tobiano, overo and tovero. Horses with tobiano patterns feature symmetrical white patches that may be either round or oval-shaped with some having colored hair roaning them, commonly referred to as tobianing.

Overo horses feature irregularly-shaped white patches on their body that often display some colorful legs. Some even sport bald or apron-faces. Some feature dark-colored caps known as medicine hats at their poll.


While there can be much confusion surrounding what constitutes a pinto horse, Overo is genetically distinct from other white patterns such as Tobiano and splashed or sabino. Although other white patterns may display areas with no pigmentation (white), they do not qualify as Overo according to PHAA definition and must carry separate genes for that effect.

The Overo gene produces a pattern with clearly defined horizontal-oriented white patches that do not cross the back. It may be moderate in expression or extensive, with wide blazes on their heads and blue eyes. Homozygous Overo foals suffer from Overo Lethal White Syndrome and will die shortly after birth.






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