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Colors and Markings

Equine coat coloring is controlled by many genes acting in combination to produce a multitude of variations in pigmentation. These inherited genes are located on paired structures known as chromosomes, half of these chromosomes come from the sire and half from the dam. There are both dominant and recessive genes. For example the chestnut chromosome is recessive to other colors, bay is dominant to black, and gray is dominant to bay and black. Horses that are born with a black coat and later turn gray as they grow older is the effect of the dominant graying gene. The Lipizzaner is an example where the graying effect is exceptionally noticeable. The foals are born dark and with rare exceptions they turn gray as they mature. When there is a congenital deficiency of coloring pigment you will get the Albino. The Albino has white hair, pink skin and often blue eyes.

A horse is always described first by its coat coloring, then by other distinguished features, such as white markings and color of the mane and tail. Some horses have more than one clearly defined coat color. Piebalds and Skewbalds also known as Pintos or Paint Horses in America, are broken or part colored horses. They have irregular patches of two different colors while Spotted Horses show a variety of spotted markings. Bay body colorings go with black legs. Although normally dark a horses eyes can be blue.


Facial Markings

Star- White spot on the forehead

Stripe- A narrow white stripe down the center of the face, on the bridge of the nose.

Interrupted stripe- A narrow white stripe down the center of the face that gets interuppted or cut off, then starts back up again.

Snip- White spot located on the muzzle, between or just below the nostrils.

Blaze- Wide white area that runs along the bridge of the nose.

Bald (or) white face- White that starts above the forehead, goes to the muzzle, and extends beyond the bridge of the nose to the side of the face.

Leg Markings

For registration purposes leg markings are described in detail, using points of the anatomy.

Examples- white to fetlock, white to knee, and white to hock, etc.


Two less specific terms that are also very popular are-

Sock- white coloring from the coronet up to the knee

Stocking- white coloring from the coronet up to and over the knee or hock.

Hoof Colorings The horn of the hoofs can vary from blue or black to white and may also be marked with black stripes.
Equine Colors

Gray- Mixture of black and white throughout the coat, varying from light to iron (very dark). The skin is black.

Fleabitten Gray- Gray coat flecked with brown specks.

Dappled Gray- Light gray base with dark gray rings.

Bay- Reddish coat with dark mane, tail and "points" or limbs. The color may vary from red to brown or yellowish.

Black- All black except for occasional white marks on head or legs.

Chestnut- Varies from pale golden color to a rich, red gold. The mane and tail can be lighter or darker than the coat color.

Liver Chestnut- Darkest chestnut body color with light mane and tail.

Chocolate Chestnut- Darkest chestnut body color with dark mane and tail.

Sorrel- Light-red chestnut

Brown- A mixture of black and brown hairs, with black limbs, mane and tail. A very bark brown horse may almost appear black.

Roan- Body color with white hairs interspersed, which lightens the overall effect.

Strawberry Roan- Chestnut body color with white hairs giving a pinkish red tinge.

Blue Roan- Black or brown body color with white hairs giving off a blue tinge.

Bay Roan- A true roan on a bay coat, it has an underlying shade of bay but the mane, tail and lower legs are black. The body is a redish color mixed with white hairs. The head is usually a red or bay color.

Dun- A light sandy colored cat with black mane and tail, often with a dark, dorsal eel-stripe extending from the line of the neck to the tail, and sometimes by "zebra markings" (stripes) on the withers and legs. Dun can vary from yellow to "mouse", depending on the diffusion of pigment. The skin is black.

Palomino- Golden coat with white mane and tail.

Spotted- Small circular patches or hair of different color from the main body color and disrupted over various areas of the body.

Piebald- Large irregular patches of black and white.

Skewbald- Large Irregular patches of white and any color except black.

Cream- A Cream colored coat with un-pigmented skin, also known as cremello.

White- White hairs with pink skin and white mane and tail.

White Markings- White marking on the face, legs and occasionally on the body, are a valuable feature of distinguishing one horse from another. They are also noted in detail on veterinary certificates and registration papers.

Brindle- Brown or gray streaked or patched with a darker color.





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