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Horse Sense: 5. What Are Some Typical Horse Colors?

Brown body coat with a black mane and tail, and usually black legs. The brown can range from a bright, mahogany color, to a deep brown that is almost black, yet with brown around the muzzle, eyes and flanks. Often will have white markings on their faces, and may have white on one or more legs.
A rich, solid red, which may range in hue from coppery to an almost brick red. This color may be accompanied by a contrasting, lighter mane and tail, or the coat and mane/tail may be of the same reddish hue as the body. White on the face and legs are common. Among working folk often the word "sorrel" is often dropped for just plain ol' "red."
A solid, monotone brown in varying shades. Most working horsemen would lump this in with "red," or else just call it "brown."
True black has no brown or red tint in the coat, whatsoever. May or may not have white on legs and face, but the eyes are usually dark. I have seen golden eyes, a time or two, in true black mules.
Most white horses are truly grey. A grey horse is born dark, and lightens with age. In his youth, he will be black-to-charcoal colored, and may show a strong dabbling effect in his coat, particularly on his haunches and shoulders. As he nears his teens and gets into his twenties, his coat gradually bleaches out to white. Yet he will retain his grey skin pigmentation, which is most visible around his eyes, muzzle and genitalia. His eyes are dark in color, as are his hooves. Sometimes white on the face will give him a pink muzzle, but his overall skin color remains greyish.
True white is fairly rare and is more rightly a lack of color, the near-absence of pigmentation. The horse is born white, and his skin pigmentation is very pale ivory with occasions of pink. His eyes will be blue or almost colorless, and his hooves will be ivory-white. This horse may have a hard time with extremes in sun and weather.
In their most common sense, the words "pinto" and "paint" refer to a horse broadly splotched with areas of white and a darker color. That dark color may be any imaginable shade of red, chestnut, brown, black, gray, or bay. The pinto - also called "Piebald" in older days - pattern can range from almost pure white with a few random patches of color, to almost entirely colored with just a couple splash-marks of white on the body. Eyes can be any color of brown to golden, and a blue eye, also called a "glass eye," is not uncommon. Note; contrary to myth, there is NOTHING wrong with a blue eye, and it does not indicate blindness.
This color has many manifestations. Basically, it is a dark coat that is dusted freely with white hairs, in a salt/pepper or cinnamon/sugar fashion. "Strawberry roan" refers to a roan whose primary color is red, yet the white dusting over it lends a pinkish hue. Sometimes the red roan coloring will appear distinctly orange. "Blue roan" is a roan whose coat is some shade of grey, the white hairs giving it a bluish cast. Often the roan coats will bleach out with age, creating an even stronger "frosting" effect. White legs and/or facial markings are common. Eyes are usually dark, but I've seen some with a blue eye. The mane and tail may be solid colored, either the same color as or darker than the under-color, or streaked with white or grey.
A light cream to tan or golden color, with sharply contrasting black mane, tail and legs. Once in a while you'll find a bit of white on the face, or perhaps a white foot, but the eyes are dark, and the hooves are most often black. Traditionally, buckskins are regarded as very tough and hardy horses.
A tan, golden, light red, or sooty-tan body color, but with the mane and tail only a couple shades darker than the rest of the coat, or a dirty brown-black. Further trademarked by a darker dorsal stripe down the spine, and hints of zebra striping on the legs, which will also be a darker shade than the body. This is a very ancient coloring, dating back to prehistoric horses. May have a bit of white on the face or legs. The eyes are dark. An old-fashioned term referrs to this coloring as "line-backed dun," but the fact is, every dun has a stripe down his back.
A blond to golden body color, with contrasting white or flaxen mane and tail, frequently accompanied by white on the face and legs. Eyes may be dark or golden. A palomino who lives and works outdoors will often bleach out to a very pale blond.
Pronounced "grew-yuh." Perhaps the rarest of horse colors, the body is a solid slate grey, ranging from almost dark steel blue to a lighter mouse grey. It will have a black mane and tail, black legs, and a black dorsal stripe down the spine. Sometimes faint primitive zebra striping is present on the legs. A striking and handsome color, when it is found. Seldom has any white markings, and if so, usually very little.

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In Playlists

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Last Update: 30 Dec 09
Stories: 4
Type: Reader List
Created By: Elena Tiriel

Non-fiction works about topics useful to writers.

Why This Story?

Helpful information about horses and ponies.


Story Information

Author: ErinRua

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Research Article

Rating: General

Last Updated: 12/17/02

Original Post: 09/24/02

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