Horses come in many colors and patterns. The basics of equine coat color genetics have been largely resolved, and DNA tests exist to establish the likelihood that a horse will carry specific genes. However, much discussion, research and controversy continues about some of the details, particularly those related to spotting patterns and hair sub-shades and markings.
The brown horse color chart is an overview of a variety of shades and patterns associated with the brown equine. Some are more common than others, but all share the characteristic of a dark base with a light pattern covering it.
A horse may be dun or roan and still have a brown base color. A classic dun is genetically bay; a red dun is genetically chestnut or sorrel; and a grullo is genetically black. A roan can be a true roan (genetic roan), varnish roan or snowflake roan. A true roan is a mix of body and white hairs that extends over the entire coat, while varnish and snowflake roans are mixes that do not extend to the mane, tail and wind pipe.
Chocolate or silver dapple is caused by the dilution gene. This gene acts upon black hair pigment to lighten it. This effect is less dramatic on a chestnut or red-colored base coat, and can be seen on horses with a spotted or pinto pattern.
Seal brown is a dark shade of bay that has more black in the coat than other shades of bay. It can look almost black, especially when the horse is young and its coat hasn’t matured fully. A seal brown horse can be distinguished from a dark bay by looking at the mane, tail and legs for the presence of black hairs.
A liver chestnut is a very dark red shade. It can be confused with a chestnut or even a bay due to its close shade and the fact that a few black hairs are often found in the mane, tail and legs. However, a true liver chestnut will not have any black hairs on its head, muzzle or front legs.
Cremello is a pale cream or champagne color. It results from one cream gene washing out all or most of the original hair color on a black, chestnut, red or bay base coat. It is not a true white, but does usually have pink skin and amber or blue eyes. A cremello is sometimes called a champagne or palomino.
The tobiano and overo spotting patterns result when one or more of these genes are present. They produce rounded spots, typically with more white than dark, and can be mixed with different patterns to create other spotting patterns such as the tri-color, skewbald and tovero. The spotting patterns can also be combined to create colorations such as the pinto and Paint. A tovero is a mix of tobiano and overo, and is generally distinguished by blue eyes on a dark head.