What Are the Different Colors of Quarter Horses?

Quarter Horses come in many colors. While AQHA rules restrict any white markings beyond those on their face and legs, their breed registries recognize 17 base colors including sorrel, black, brown, buckskin, palomino red dun grulla cremello silver perlino.

Cremello-colored horses possess either a chestnut or sorrel base color with two cream-dilution genes working together to produce their characteristic cream hue. They often sport blue eyes.


Bay is one of the most beloved colors found among quarter horses, typically appearing reddish brown in hue with black “points” (mane, tail, ear rims and lower legs). There are various shades of bay horses ranging from light golden to deep buckskin hues.

Sand bay is a light hue often confused with buckskin or dun. This shade of bay results from adding one cream gene to an existing chestnut or bay basecoat color.

Another variation of the bay shade is blood or mahogany bay, characterized by rich reddish-brown hues topped off with characteristic black points.

Copper bay horses are among the rarest varieties, resembling bright orange-red penny designs. Although once disapproved by AQHA for registration purposes, smoky cream and cremellos have since been approved.


Chestnut quarter horses are reddish-copper in color with manes and tails of the same or lighter colors, without any black hair on their bodies. A light shade known as sorrel may have some dark tones such as liver chestnut, which could be mistaken for black horses at times; these horses typically sport straw-colored or flaxen manes and tails for added distinction.

A roan horse is a breed of chestnut or sorrel horse with thousands of white hairs intermixed throughout its coat. They’re most easily visible during summer when their colors become most striking; to spot one easily you should look out for their distinctive dorsal stripe which allows identification.

Champagne horses possess a bay base with two cream dilution genes. Their skin has either pink or lavenderish tones, differing from palomino horses. Champagne horses typically sport either chestnut or sorrel tail and mane colors but have black ear rims and lower legs, and some even sport small white spots called “blazes” on their face or muzzle.


Quarter horses typically come in black-based colors such as sorrel, chestnut, bay, buckskin, cremello and red roan; their coats may also include sorrel, chestnut, bay, buckskin cremello and red roan. Dappled horses may feature star markings like star, stripe, snip or blaze. Black horses come either solid or roan with dark coloring on their ears tails and lower legs for further contrast.

Champagne quarter horses are an unusual sight, their chocolate hue produced by a dominant champagne gene that lightens hair pigment. Champagnes resemble palominos but with golden sheen instead of mouse gray manes and tails; also, when one copy of cream gene exists on a chestnut or red base color they become buckskins; these golden-hued quarter horses feature black points on their heads, manes and tails and may feature either dappled or solid patterns; sun faded variations are possible as well.


Color is one of the first things people notice about horses. Each unique and stunning color variation makes a horse stand out among a crowd.

Horses come in various shades of brown. Dark bay is one such hue; this medium shade of reddish-brown contains black points on its mane, tail and legs for an instantaneous eye catcher.

Seal brown is another common shade of brown that features reddish-brown areas around the eyes, muzzle, and elbows, while chestnut/sorrel, cremello, red dun, and buckskin are variations on lighter red tones.

These colors are determined by a combination of genes. One major player in this equation is the melanocortin one receptor gene (MC1R), which produces melanin pigment. Horses with the dominant (E) form of this gene have black hair while those with recessive forms produce red locks. Other genes affect skin color as well; horses without pigment have no color at all while those with pink skin get their hue from blood vessels underneath the surface layer of skin.


Horse colors offer many choices when it comes to foal registration, with 17 accepted coat colors according to American Quarter Horse breed standards for registered foals; however, variations exist that include reddish hues such as sorrel, chestnut, palomino, cremello and red dun. Other possible hues may include black, brown, gray and bay hues.

Palomino horses feature golden shades ranging from light cream to rich gold, with white mane and tail markings. Their golden hue comes from the presence of the CCr allele which dilutes red pigment into yellow pigment.

Genes can have an influence on a horse’s coat color too, such as melanocortin one receptor gene (MC1R). These cause horses to have darker spots on their bodies and dark eyes. Queen Isabella of Spain funded Christopher Columbus’ expedition to New World in 1492 by owning one hundred palomino horses which she used for ranching and farming purposes – Queen Isabella owned Argo herself! If you watch 90s television series like Xena: Warrior Princess you might even spot Argo again!

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