A horse of a different color is an expression that refers to something completely different from another thing. The phrase is similar to other common idioms, such as a bird of a different feather, a fish out of water and a can of worms. The phrase is often used to describe situations that are unforeseen or unexpected. For example, if your friend says they will bring dessert to the party but then show up with an entire dinner, you might say that is a horse of a different color!
The phrase horse of a different color is based on the line in William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night: “My purpose is, indeed, a horse of that colour.” The term was first recorded in 1824 and can be seen in numerous other popular culture references. In the 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz, the horse who pulls the carriage through the Emerald City is known as the Horse of a Different Color. The horse is depicted as being rainbow-colored. The filmmakers originally envisioned the horse as changing colors continuously, but this was later changed to a more limited set of changes as it would have made the scene too fast-paced for viewers. The producers also wanted to avoid using a live animal as they were worried about the safety of the horse. Instead, they used four separate horses to create the different color effects for the scenes involving the Horse of a Different Color.
Horses of a Different Color
In a herd of wild horses, the oldest mare usually leads. Older mares are generally believed to have the strength and experience necessary to keep herd safe from predators. However, if the herd’s leader is injured or ill, younger mares may step up and take over leadership duties. A herd may even kick out a mare who doesn’t fit into the herd and isn’t a good leader, because they don’t want that mare to endanger the whole herd.
When someone says that something is a horse of a different color, it means that it is completely different from another thing or person. For example, you might say that you are very free-spirited but your best friend is a total neat freak, so you’re definitely a horse of a different color! You might also use the expression to compare school subjects, such as saying that English is your favorite subject but grammar class is a horse of a different color. The phrase can also be used to describe business situations, such as referring to two different marketing campaigns or buyout offers.