A horse’s coat color depends on its genetics, much like human hair does. Let’s check out the 20 most common horse coat colors and learn how to identify each one!
Bay is the most common color in most horse breeds; it’s their base color. Bay horses typically have brown bodies and a black point coloration in their tail, mane, muzzles, lower legs, and rims around their ears.
A true black horse usually has brown eyes, black hair coats, and black skin. They have no areas of brown or reddish hair, but they do sometimes have a blue hue to their coat. Black horses aren't exactly rare but are seen as uncommon among breeds. There are two different types of black horses:
- Fading black horses have a black color that fades into brown when the horse gets exposed to regular sunlight.
- Non-fading black horses have a blue and black shade that does not fade in the sunlight.
Chestnut horses have reddish-brown hair with flaxen tails and manes, which are a few shades lighter than their coats and can range from sorrel or light to dark. It’s not the same as a bay horse; you can distinguish the differences by noting that bay horses have a black coloration on their lower legs, talk, or main, while a chestnut horse does not.
Brown horses have a dark brown or dark seal color to their coat and black points on their lower legs, mane, and tail. They have a reddish tan or lighter brown areas around their muzzles, eyes, behind their elbows, and in front of their stifle.
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Dun horses are known for their creamy golden color and black tails and manes with a distinctively dark dorsal stripe. They come in many shades, but every dun horse exhibits the characteristics of the dorsal stripe, dark-tipped ears, leg-baring, and dark spots on their face. Duns also have shoulder stripes, tail and mane frostings, and cob webbing throughout their coats.
Buckskin horses range from a rich to creamy golden color, and they have black points on their legs, manes, tails, and ears. They are unique because they don’t exhibit the classic dun horse coloring but are similar in the zebra coloring aspect.[elementor-template id="88965"]
Palomino horses have golden coats and creamy white tails and manes. Their base coats can range from rich gold to a pale yellow color.
Light gray horses are commonly mistaken for white horses, but those are extremely rare. Gray horses are typically born as chestnut, dun, palomino, or bay horses, and they become lighter over time, eventually turning gray. Gray horses range from dark gray to almost white, and you can usually see their dark-pigmented skin through the lighter shades. Gray foals are usually born with a solid coloring and slight gray around their eyes.
The roan pattern, also called varnish, features white hair that sticks through the base of a horse’s coat. These horses are born with this coat color, and it doesn’t change over time. Roans have varying bay colors, including bay, red, and blue or black. There are two well-known variations of roan horses:
- Blue roans have a dark base color and have white hairs mixed in with black undertones and dark points.
- Red roans have a chestnut base color and have white hairs mixed in with some red or dark brown coloration.
Appaloosa patterns feature several variations of colors, blankets, and spottings. These patterns include:
- Blanket Appaloosas have distinctive white markings across their rump.
- Leopard Appaloosas have leopard-like spots and a white coat.
- Appaloosa roans have a snowflake blanket, and their appearance changes continuously over their lives.
- Appaloosas with few spots are blanketed but have no or very few spots on their coats.
Pinto horses have an appearance that looks like white paint splattered on a dark coat. They have large patches or spots that come in a variety of combinations and colors.
12) Dark Bay
Like a bay horse, a dark bay has a black tail, main, and points, but they have a darker base coat than other bays, sometimes appearing pitch black. They have lighter points around their flank, forelegs, and muzzle.
Sorrel horses are a variation of chestnut, but they have a reddish hue that makes them distinct. They have a light reddish coat and blonde manes and tails. Sorrels are also known as light chestnut horses.
Overo horses have a white pattern on their coats that stems from their bellies. This pattern can get combined with just about any other coloration, leading to a massive variety in overos.
Cream horses have a certain gene that dilutes the base colors like bay, chestnut, or black. Palomino or buckskin horses with this gene get even lighter than usual.
16) Dapple Gray
Dapple gray horses have a gray base with splatters of white spots throughout their coats. A dapple gray with black points looks almost exactly like a blue roan.
Grullo horses have a dun overlay on a mousy, black color. They can have a dorsal stripe, zebra stripes on their legs, or a darker face.
Tobiano horses have a spotted color pattern with pink skin patches and white hair among their base coat color; it’s most commonly seen in Pinto horses. Tobiano horses can be identified by their white legs and solid-colored heads.
Skewbald describes any horse that has overo or tobiano patterns (or a combination of the two), without a black color.
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Piebald horses are the opposite of Skewbald; they feature the overo, tovero, or tobiano pattern with a black base coat.