The roan color horse is one of the most popular. This unique coloring pattern results from the roan gene and can occur in any base coat color of the horse, although it is easiest to see on darker colors. A classic roan shows white hairs intermixed with colored hairs on the entire body of the horse.
The most common roan horses are blue and red, however a variety of other colors may also be roans. For example, palomino and other dilute coat colors may be roans, as can buckskins and grulas. These are often called champagne roans or gray roans. Depending on the genetic makeup of the horse, there may be a concentration of white hairs around the eyes or over the croup and hip area. This is called a minimal expression of the roan gene.
Roan horses may look different in the winter and summer, because the colored hairs will be thicker during the colder months and less visible than the white hairs. Additionally, a blue roan horse may appear lighter or darker because the colored hairs will shed in the warmer months and allow more of the white to show through.
Many people confuse the roan gene with the rabicano markings of the Appaloosa, which are a separate genetic mutation. A rabicano horse has horizontal white hair stripes at the base of the tail, often called a coon tail or skunk tail, and white flecking over the flanks and belly. A rabicano horse can be mistaken for a roan color horse, as the white flecking is very similar to that of a true roan.
A roan horse can have any base coat color, and any other colors or patterns can be added to this coloring, creating a wide variety of stunning horses. The roan gene is located on equine chromosome 3, and can combine with any other gene to create the resulting roan pattern.
There are several different types of roans, including blue, red, and sorrel. A blue roan has a black base coat, and the roan gene causes white hairs to grow on this black color. A blue roan horse will look greyish from a distance and bluish up close.
Red roans have a red or chestnut base coat, and the roan genes cause white hairs to mix with this color. A red roan will often have some darker regions of solid-colored hair, such as around the ears or at the feet. The red roan is also known as the strawberry roan because it is sometimes pinkish in hue.