2004 AGHR

Coat Colors and Markings of the Horse

When choosing the color of your horse, base it on the overall color. When describing a Paint, Appaloosa, or any complicated coloring, choose the color most like your horses, and attach on a separate piece of paper a detailed description of any unusual color patterns.

Coat and Coat Markings:

The horse's skin is thin, and its hair reasonably uniform except for the long, coarse hairs of the mane, which springs from the upper border of the neck and adjacent part of the withers, and the tail. The fetlock, above the hoof, is so named because of the tuft of hairs on its rear surface. These hairs are more developed in the draft breeds and are called feathers.

The following are some basic colors of the horse, they are only listed as a means for basic identification:

(Click on the button to view an example and/or detailed descriptions of each color)

: (varying from reddish to yellowish) That always has a black mane, tail, and black legs, referred to as points. Bay is a dominant color and it's different shades are common and very prevalent in all breeds of horses. There are many different terms used when describing the different shades of Bay. The most popular being Black Bay, Mahogany Bay, Standard Bay, Blood Bay and Light Bay. Regardless of the terms used to classify a shade of Bay, all Bay horses will have a red body, ranging from light to dark, with black legs from the hoof to the knee and hock and sometimes extending above the knee and hock. The mane and tail will also be black.

There is an exception to this rule. In the case of "Wild" Bay, the black points are restricted lower on the legs, to varying degrees. "Wild" Bay is considered a subtype of Bay. The characteristic of this subtype is that the black on the leg will only extend up to the pastern or fetlock. When it reaches the cannon it fades out leaving an interplay of red and black areas. This subtype of Bay is considered fairly rare.

: A chestnut horse is a horse whose coat is basically red. Varies from a pale golden color to a rich, red gold. The mane and tail are normally the same color as the body, but may be lighter or darker than the body. If the mane and tail are lighter in color than the body, the horse is referred to as having a flaxen mane and tail. Thoroughbreds of this color are called chestnut; quarter horses are called sorrel. The darkest of chestnut shades is referred to as a "Liver Chestnut" and usually has a flaxen mane and tail.

: Dark brown or nearly black. If ANY brown hairs are visible on the face or body, the horse is brown rather than black. Many brown horses are mistakenly called black. But a close examination of the hair around the muzzle and lips will soon confirm if the horse is truly black or brown.

: All hairs are black, although white markings may be found on the face and lower legs. A black horse has black eyes, hooves, and skin. If there are tan or brown hairs on the muzzle or flank, this horse would be referred to as a seal brown

: Yellowish or tan, often has black points. A Dun has a dark "Dorsal" stripe running down the back. Dun is one of the dilution genes that affects both black and red pigment. Unlike Silver or Cream, it has the ability to change the physical appearance of all Black, Bay or Chestnut based horses to some degree. Because Dun does not cause the horse to look any different when it's in present in one dose or two, this gene would not be considered an incomplete dominant.

Dun is found in many breeds such as Quarter Horses, Spanish Mustangs, Miniature Horses, Icelandic Horses and many European pony and draft breeds. Fjords and the Sorria are exclusively Dun and in some breeds such as the Arabian and Thoroughbred, Dun doesn't exist at all.

Since Dun closely resembles Buckskin when it's present on a Bay base color, it's common to hear the term Buckskin and Dun used to describe any horses that have a tan colored body with black points whether there are primitive markings present or not. The difference between this gene and the Cream dilution gene is that Dun also causes primitive markings to be present on the horse. These are a shade or two darker than the body color and include the following traits.

Dorsal Stripe
This is a dark line that goes from the base of the mane to the base of the tail. Sometimes it goes through the middle of the mane, tail or both giving the horse a dark streak through the middle of each. This trait is always present on a Dun horse and should not be confused with the more subtle dorsal stripes caused by countershading. Terms associated with this Dun trait are: eel stripe, list, lineback and backstripe. You may hear people call Dun colored horses, "lineback Duns".

Zebra Stripes
Another trait caused by the Dun gene is horizontal marks on the legs of the horse. These range from above the hock or knee to below and usually fade into the dark part of the leg. These lines are commonly called Zebra or Tiger stripes. These can be very dark like in the photo or so light they are hardly visible. These marks may not appear on all Dun horses and it is sometimes very hard to see them on darker shades.

Shoulder Stripe
These are dark marks that can be very obvious or subtle shading that cross over the withers onto the shoulders of the horse

Some Dun horses have darker rings or stripes on their foreheads. This is commonly called cobwebbing or spiderwebbing.

Brindle Dun
A different and unique body coloration with stripes appearing over the barrel of the body and most, if not all, the dun factor characteristics. Brindle Duns show up in the Netherlands and they are referred to as an ancient dun color. The peculiar body markings can appear in the form of tear drops or zebra stripes.

: A true colored buckskin should be the color of tanned deerhide with black points. Shades may vary from yellow to dark gold. Points (mane, tail, legs) can be dark brown or black. Buckskin is clean of any smuttiness. Guard hairs which are buckskin colored grow through the body coat up over the base of the mane and tail.


: Palaminos can vary from smoky gray to creamy yellow. Palaminos have manes and tails the color of their bodies or they can be white, silver, or mixed with chestnut. Their skin is usually gray, brown, black or mottled, without underlying pink skin except under white face and leg markings.

Are pearlescent or cream-colored, and have manes and tails that range in color from matching their bodies to being silver or nearly white. Their skin is pink and their eyes are blue. The points of most cremellos are the same color as their bodies.

Are pearlescent or cream-colored horses with gold and pale reddish-orange points. Their skin is pink and their eyes are blue. They may have white face and leg markings that may only be visible in certain light. Some may have a gold dorsal stripe.


: A mixture of black and white hairs throughout. The coat varies from light to iron (very dark). The skin is black. 

Light Gray
This is the type of horse that people mistake for "white". This horse is a light gray, not white. See how the skin (around his nose, inside his ears, and between his hind legs) is black? That is how you can tell that this horse is really a light gray.

Dapple Gray
A dapple is like a small, white "eraser" mark. Dapple gray horses usually have dapples throughout their entire body, often with darker colored points.

Fleabitten Gray
A fleabitten gray is a horse with a light gray body, but with little speckles of black and/or brown. These speckles are like tiny dots that are pretty much evenly distributed throughout the horse's body. Don't get this color confused with roans or appaloosa coat patterns!

Steel Gray
Steel gray horses are a dark gray, silver color. The horse has a black base coat with lightly mixed white/gray hairs. Many steel gray horses lighten and turn into a dapple gray or a light gray with age.

Rose Gray
Medium gray whose hairs are tinted with red. This type of hair gives the horse a light "rose" tint. Rose gray horses often have points that are darker than their body color, including mane and tail.

: Most so-called white horses are gray. The only true white horse would being an albino, having pink eyes, and totally lacking any color pigments of skin or hair. If the horse at any time of its life has had hairs of any color other than white, it is probably a gray. The term "albino" used within this registry is only in reference to horses meeting the Albino associations standards of color.

The American White, regardless of breeding, must have pink skin and truly white coloring ... no slight pigmentation of hair allowed. A few, small scattered spots are permissible (Usually found around eye, chest, and on genital areas, but only on skin, not on hair, these spots frequently are not exhibited until the foal approaches 18 months in age.). The various eye colors common to horses are acceptable including amber and very pale blue and parti-colored.

: Black or brown with a sprinkling of white hairs (blue roan), or chestnut with a sprinkling of white (strawberry roan). Roan horses have otherwise solid colored coats, but with white hairs interspersed. The white hairs are not actual spots, but single white hairs mixed with the darker coat color. 

Bay Roan:
A Bay Roan is a horse with a bay coat and the roan gene. The roan gene gives the horse interspersed white hairs on his body. The Bay roan sometimes looks very similar to a red roan or a blue roan.

Red Roan:
A Red Roan (sometimes called "Strawberry Roan") is a chestnut or sorrel horse with the roan gene. The roan gene gives the horse interspersed white hairs on his body.

Blue Roan:
A Blue Roan is a black horse with the roan gene. The roan gene gives the horse interspersed white hairs on his body. The horse to the left is a blue roan.

: Multicolored. Piebald is black and white. Skewbald is any color besides black and white. A Paint is a specific breed of horse, bred for the conformation and musculature similar to a Quarter Horse, and also bred for unique coloring. Paint horses aren't always colored, some turn out solid but may still carry the genes needed to have colored offspring. Pinto, on the other hand, is ANY breed of horse exhibiting the colorations below (Common breeds that you may see exhibiting these colors are Arabian, Saddlebred, Mustang, Icelandic Horse, and many others).


Tobiano is a dominant color pattern, and is most common. A tobiano generally has four white legs, at least below the hocks and knees. The dark color of the pattern is usually covering one or both flanks and the spots are regular and distinct (smooth ovals or round patterns that extend down over the neck, chest, and/or shoulders giving the appearance of a "war shield"). Generally, face markings are just like a solid-colored horse (solid, blaze, strip, star or snip) and body color may be either predominantly dark or white. The mane and tail is usually mixed of two colors. A majority of tobianos have spots that are smooth-edged and not jagged like most overos, and many have white over their back and/or neck.


This color pattern most commonly comes from crossing a Tobiano horse with an Overo colored horse. In most cases, the result will be a mix of the two color patterns. For example: a tobiano with bald-face or apron-face markings, will most likely be called a "tovero". Or, some overos with a large amount of white color in their manes or past the withers are sometimes considered to be a tovero. However, some overos or tobianos will appear to be toveros even when they aren't genetically a tovero...this is the most confusing color pattern.


On an Overo colored horse, the white will not usually cross the back of the horse between the withers and tail. It is desirable for all four legs to be dark, or at least one. Face markings are usually bald-faced, apron-faced or bonnet-faced. The white color throughout the overo's body is generally irregular or sometimes 'jagged' instead of forming smooth lines between the colors.

Sabino Overo: Appears speckled or "roany", mostly near the spot's edges. This is the most common overo pattern. Sabinos often have spotted or roan-like facial markings, which can look quite wild. It is rare to find a sabino with a normal star or stripe for a facial marking. Another distinct characteristic of the sabino, is that they generally have three or four white legs.

Frame Overo: White spots along the horse's barrel, with a "frame" of darker color around the white. Over 95% of all frame overos are solid colored along the back from the withers to the tail, and it is uncommon for the mane to be of mixed color.

Splash White Overo: This is a very rare overo color pattern. In my opinion, splash white overos look like a reverse-colored Tobiano...with smooth-edged color patterns, and with a white "shield" in the front covering the shoulders and bottom of the neck being a common trait. Splash whites generally have light-to-medium blue eyes. It is also common for splash whites to have 4 white legs.

: More or less circular patches of hair in a different color than the base coat. Distributed over the body in various sizes and amounts.


The common measurement of stature in the United States is the hand, which is 4 in (10 cm). If a horse is said to stand 10.2 hands, that means it is 40 + 2 in (107 cm) tall at the withers (the highest point over the shoulders when the head is down to graze).

There are three basic classifications of horses and about 100 breeds.

A PONY stands 10.0 to 14.2 hands (approximately 100-150 cm) and weighs 300 to 850 lb (135-380 kg).
A LIGHT HORSE stands 14.2 to 17.0 hands (150-175 cm) and weighs 800 to 1,300 lb (360-590 kg).
  stands 15.2 to 19.0 hands (160-190 cm) and weighs 1,500 to 2,600 lb (700-1200 kg).

Ponies are generally defined as small horses, and the development of the various pony breeds have been due to breeding for a specific purpose, such as working in mines, or to customary or natural selection for smallness over a long period of time in a given area where a reduction in size was in better accord with the limited available food supply or climatic conditions. The best-known breed is probably the Shetland pony, one of the smallest of all horses.

Light horses are used for riding, racing, pulling light vehicles, ranch work, and warfare. The Arabian is one of the oldest light-horse breeds and has contributed to the foundation of many others.

In the United States three breeds of light horse--the thoroughbred, the standardbred, and quarter horse--are used in professional racing as well as for pleasure riding.

Draft Horses are heavy breeds best for heavy farm work and/or large acreage. They weigh 1,600 pounds or better and stand at least 16 hands high from ground to withers (one hand equals 4 inches). About 95 percent of all heavy horses in America are either Belgian (originating in Belgium) or Percheron (originally from France).

 2004 AGHR
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