How to distinguish horse color by name

How to distinguish horse color by name

Horses come in a wide range of colors, with a variety of different patterns and unique markings. In this article, we won’t go into detail about each color and coat since this is mainly intended to be a visual guide for new beginners, helping you to understand what the different colors and coats look like so you can associate the looks with the proper names.

Coat Colors

How to distinguish horse color by name

Credit: kudybadorota, Pixabay

You can find horses in many different colors, though the names of each color might be difficult to remember and associate with the proper hue. You won’t often use most of these color names in any other capacity.

How to distinguish horse color by name

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    BayBlackBrownBuckskinChampagneChestnutCremelloDunGrayGrullo/GrullaPerlinoRoanWhite Palomino

Coat Patterns

How to distinguish horse color by name

Credit: AinslieGillesPatel, Pixabay

Some horses have distinct patterns across their bodies. There aren’t as many distinct horse coat patterns as there are colors, but they are easily identifiable.

How to distinguish horse color by name

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    AppaloosaOveroPiebaldPintoSkewbaldSpottedTobianoTovero

Other Markings

How to distinguish horse color by name

Credit: pixel2013, Pixabay

Aside from patterns and colors, some horses also have additional markings. Generally, these are on the face, lower legs, chest, and ears.

    StarBlazeSocksStockingsStar on the foreheadStripesBarringTipped earsFacemask

Disclaimer

One thing to keep in mind: because of differences in computers and settings, images can look different on each monitor or screen they’re viewed on. As such, the colors you see might not accurately reflect real life. Still, you should be able to get a fairly good idea of what each color looks like so that you can easily identify many horse coat colors and patterns.

Featured image credit: JerzyGorecki, Pixabay

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Horse colors on this page: Paint through sorrel.

Paint

A “Paint” horse is not a color of horse. Instead, it is a horse registered with the American Paint Horse Association (APHA). Horses registered with the APHA, however, do have color (as well as bloodline and conformation) requirements, and Paint horses are characterized by their colorful, spotted coat patterns. The spots are large, and are a combination of white and any other color or colors.

While the term “Paint” horse technically means a horse registered with the APHA, the term is used more casually than that by many horse people to simply refer to a spotted horse with a stock-horse type build.

How to distinguish horse color by name

Palomino

Palominos have a body color that varies from a light tan or yellow to darker and/or more golden shades. They have manes and tails that are flaxen (lighter) or white, sometimes with a little black mixed in.

Because the palomino body color can vary dramatically, some horse people refer to the different shades as “yellow,” “chocolate palomino,” or “golden palomino” to denote the differences. However, they are all palominos.

How to distinguish horse color by name

A different Palomino horse than the one shown above. This one has a slightly different golden tone, and black in its tail.

How to distinguish horse color by name

A Famous Palomino – Perhaps the most famous palomino horse in the world was a horse named Trigger. He belonged to the cowboy singer/actor Roy Rogers, and together they became one of the most beloved and famous duos in entertainment history. You can read Trigger’s biography here (

Horse items from From eBay. Article continues below.

Piebald

A piebald colored horse is colored with black-and-white spots. The spots are large and irregular in shape. The mane and tail can be black, white, or a mixture of black and white.

The term piebald is more common in European countries than in the United States. In the United States the terms “pinto” and/or “Paint” are more commonly used to describe a horse with large spots.

How to distinguish horse color by name

A Famous Piebald – First published in 1935, author Enid Bagnold wrote a book about a piebald horse and the young girl that loved him. Titled “National Velvet,” the book tells a charming and thrilling story of the girl, Velvet Brown, and her dreams of winning the Grand National Steeplechase aboard a rogue piebald horse she wins in a raffle.

Clearly and repeatedly described throughout the book as a piebald, when the book was made into a movie in 1944 starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney the horse was portrayed by a bright chestnut-colored horse, not a piebald.

Pinto

A pinto horse has a spotted coat made up of white and any other color or colors. The spots are large and irregular in shape.

There is a breed registry for pinto-colored horses, the Pinto Horse Association. The Pinto Horse Association is a color registry only, meaning that while a registered Pinto does have to meet certain color requirements, it does not have to meet any bloodline or conformation requirements. A Pinto horse can be any breed or combination of breeds, and have any type of conformation.

Two pinto horses.

How to distinguish horse color by name

Red Dun

Red duns have bodies, manes, tails, and dorsal stripes of varying shades of red or reddish yellow.

How to distinguish horse color by name

Red Roan

A red roan has a mixture of red and white hairs across all or most of the horse’s body. The head and legs frequently have more red hairs than white, making them appear darker. The mane and tail are usually the same color of red as on the body, or mixed with lighter hairs.

This red roan mare has a head that is darker (more red hairs) than her body, a common trait of red roans.

How to distinguish horse color by name

This is a close-up of the shoulder, back, and side of the mare in the photo above. In her case there are more white hairs than red, making her a lighter shade of roan.

How to distinguish horse color by name

This is a close-up of a gelding that is a full brother to the mare in the photos above. He is also a red roan, but has more red hairs than white hairs, making him a darker roan than his full sister.

How to distinguish horse color by name

Skewbald

A skewbald colored horse has a spotted coat made up of white and any other color besides black. For example, a skewbald horse might be chestnut and white. The spots are large and irregular in shape.

The term skewbald is more common in European countries than in the United States. In the United States the terms “pinto” and/or “Paint” are more commonly used to describe a horse with large spots.

How to distinguish horse color by name

Sorrel

Sorrel horses have body colors of various shades of red. The mane and tail may be the same color as the body or flaxen (lighter).

This sorrel horse has a mane and tail the same color as its body.

How to distinguish horse color by name

This sorrel horse has a flaxen mane and tail.

How to distinguish horse color by name

It is worth mentioning that some individuals and breed organizations do not recognize the color sorrel. Instead, they classify it as a type of chestnut. However, since the term sorrel has been used by horse people for years and is recognized by some breed organizations, we have included it here.

Published: Nov 25, 2019 · Modified: Jul 1, 2020 by ihearthorses · This post may contain affiliate links · 7 Comments

Horses are amazing creatures. They are majestic, heart-warming, and, just like shoes, horses come in many colors. Horse coat colors are dependent upon genetics, just as our hair and eye colors are. Red, bay and black are the three base colors that horse colors stem from, but what are the most common colors? Continue reading to find out.

Bay

How to distinguish horse color by name

Since bay is a base color, it is no doubt that it is one of the most common coat colors. Bay horses have black points, meaning their mane and tail is black, the rims around their ears are black, and their muzzle and legs are usually black.

Chestnut

How to distinguish horse color by name

The chestnut color stems from the red base color. For a horse to be considered chestnut, the mane and tail must be the same color as the horse’s coat color. A chestnut horse has no black points but can be more of a darker red, or liver chestnut.

Sorrel

How to distinguish horse color by name

A sorrel horse should not be confused with a chestnut horse. Although similar, a sorrel horse is lighter than chestnut and the mane and tail of a sorrel horse is lighter than the horse’s coat color. It can even be flaxen or blonde.

Black

How to distinguish horse color by name

Another base color but harder to classify, a true black horse has no red hues to the coat color. The mane and tail are black, and they have no white areas on the coat.

Palomino

How to distinguish horse color by nameThe palomino horse color stands out in the crowd. The coat color is like a cream and the mane and tail are white. This color comes from the red base color, but the horse has an expressive cream dilution mutation in their genetics, resulting in a beautiful color.

Buckskin

How to distinguish horse color by name

Buckskin is another flashy color with a golden coat and black points. This color is also produced in the same manner as a palomino except for the base color being bay instead of red.

Dun

How to distinguish horse color by name

Although not as common, the dun horse color is just as beautiful but unique. True dun-colored horses have a black dorsal stripe, and some have black zebra stripes down their legs. This genetic mutation can affect all base colors and the dun hue color is dependent upon the base color.

Gray

How to distinguish horse color by nameGray horses are born another base color and lose their pigment over time. Eventually, they are a light gray or even white.

Roan

Roan horses are unique as their coat is. They have a base color and white hairs scattered throughout the coat. Roan horses have their own colors coming from the three base colors; strawberry or red roan, bay roan, and blue roan – coming from the black base color.

Pinto

How to distinguish horse color by name

A pinto coat color does not mean that a horse is a Paint. A Paint is a specific breed of horse, a pinto color can affect any breed. This color is basically a horse with a base color with white patches scattered throughout the coat.

All horse colors are beautiful, unique, and come in so many variations and patterns. If only we could have one of each! What’s your favorite coat color? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

Horse Courses by Elaine Heney

  • Listening to the Horse – The Documentary by Elaine Heney & Grey Pony Films
  • Shoulder In & Out Training for better balance, bend & topline development with your horse
  • Over 110+ Polework Exercises & Challenges to Download
  • Dancing at Liberty & Creating Connection with Your Horse (11 lessons) – Grey Pony Films

How to distinguish horse color by nameDani Buckley is a small-town resident in Montana. She is a veterinary technician manager and mom of eight four-legged kids – 5 dogs, 1 cat, and 2 horses. When she moved back home to Montana, her horses and her dogs moved with her (Carbon and Milo). The pack grew by three when she moved in with her boyfriend, Cody. Altogether there is a German Shepard (Lupay), a Border Collie (Missy), a Blue Heeler (Taz) and her two adorable mutts.

Her horses are her free time passion – Squaw and Tulsa. Dani has owned Squaw for 17 years and this mare has made 2 trips across the country with Dani! Squaw is a retired rodeo and cow horse. Her other mare, Tulsa, is an upcoming ranch horse. The girls have an unmatched personality and bond with Dani. She has been around horses her entire life and rodeoed throughout highschool and beyond. Now, she enjoys riding on the ranch, working cattle and trail riding.

Published: Nov 25, 2019 · Modified: Jul 1, 2020 by ihearthorses · This post may contain affiliate links · 7 Comments

Horses are amazing creatures. They are majestic, heart-warming, and, just like shoes, horses come in many colors. Horse coat colors are dependent upon genetics, just as our hair and eye colors are. Red, bay and black are the three base colors that horse colors stem from, but what are the most common colors? Continue reading to find out.

Bay

How to distinguish horse color by name

Since bay is a base color, it is no doubt that it is one of the most common coat colors. Bay horses have black points, meaning their mane and tail is black, the rims around their ears are black, and their muzzle and legs are usually black.

Chestnut

How to distinguish horse color by name

The chestnut color stems from the red base color. For a horse to be considered chestnut, the mane and tail must be the same color as the horse’s coat color. A chestnut horse has no black points but can be more of a darker red, or liver chestnut.

Sorrel

How to distinguish horse color by name

A sorrel horse should not be confused with a chestnut horse. Although similar, a sorrel horse is lighter than chestnut and the mane and tail of a sorrel horse is lighter than the horse’s coat color. It can even be flaxen or blonde.

Black

How to distinguish horse color by name

Another base color but harder to classify, a true black horse has no red hues to the coat color. The mane and tail are black, and they have no white areas on the coat.

Palomino

How to distinguish horse color by nameThe palomino horse color stands out in the crowd. The coat color is like a cream and the mane and tail are white. This color comes from the red base color, but the horse has an expressive cream dilution mutation in their genetics, resulting in a beautiful color.

Buckskin

How to distinguish horse color by name

Buckskin is another flashy color with a golden coat and black points. This color is also produced in the same manner as a palomino except for the base color being bay instead of red.

Dun

How to distinguish horse color by name

Although not as common, the dun horse color is just as beautiful but unique. True dun-colored horses have a black dorsal stripe, and some have black zebra stripes down their legs. This genetic mutation can affect all base colors and the dun hue color is dependent upon the base color.

Gray

How to distinguish horse color by nameGray horses are born another base color and lose their pigment over time. Eventually, they are a light gray or even white.

Roan

How to distinguish horse color by nameRoan horses are unique as their coat is. They have a base color and white hairs scattered throughout the coat. Roan horses have their own colors coming from the three base colors; strawberry or red roan, bay roan, and blue roan – coming from the black base color.

Pinto

How to distinguish horse color by name

A pinto coat color does not mean that a horse is a Paint. A Paint is a specific breed of horse, a pinto color can affect any breed. This color is basically a horse with a base color with white patches scattered throughout the coat.

All horse colors are beautiful, unique, and come in so many variations and patterns. If only we could have one of each! What’s your favorite coat color? Let us know in the comments below!

How to distinguish horse color by name

About the Author

Horse Courses by Elaine Heney

  • Listening to the Horse – The Documentary by Elaine Heney & Grey Pony Films
  • Shoulder In & Out Training for better balance, bend & topline development with your horse
  • Over 110+ Polework Exercises & Challenges to Download
  • Dancing at Liberty & Creating Connection with Your Horse (11 lessons) – Grey Pony Films

How to distinguish horse color by nameDani Buckley is a small-town resident in Montana. She is a veterinary technician manager and mom of eight four-legged kids – 5 dogs, 1 cat, and 2 horses. When she moved back home to Montana, her horses and her dogs moved with her (Carbon and Milo). The pack grew by three when she moved in with her boyfriend, Cody. Altogether there is a German Shepard (Lupay), a Border Collie (Missy), a Blue Heeler (Taz) and her two adorable mutts.

Her horses are her free time passion – Squaw and Tulsa. Dani has owned Squaw for 17 years and this mare has made 2 trips across the country with Dani! Squaw is a retired rodeo and cow horse. Her other mare, Tulsa, is an upcoming ranch horse. The girls have an unmatched personality and bond with Dani. She has been around horses her entire life and rodeoed throughout highschool and beyond. Now, she enjoys riding on the ranch, working cattle and trail riding.

How to distinguish horse color by name

Although there are several basic facial markings on horses, each marking will be unique in shape to each horse. Like snowflakes, no two are precisely the same. This is useful for horse owners because it provides a means of accurate identification. If you need to fill out registration papers, or documents like Coggins Tests, facial markings will be part of the identifying markings recorded for your horse.

In “The Black Stallion,” the horse is a solid black Arabian. The role in the movie was filled by a horse named Cass Ole, a black Arabian stallion with a white star on his face. In some scenes, if you watch carefully, you can see the shadow of Cass Ole’s white facial and leg markings under his stage “make-up.”

How to distinguish horse color by name

A star is a white spot on a horse’s forehead, between the eyes. A faint star may only appear as a few white hairs, or the star can be large enough it covers the whole forehead area. Stars can be very symmetrical in shape, like spots or diamonds, or they may appear as irregular splotches.

Some stars extend down the bridge of the nose without connecting to any other facial markings. On gray horses, the star may be very obvious when the horse is young and disappear into the graying hair coat as the horse ages. The star may blend into the coat color, but the skin beneath the coat will be lighter in color.

How to distinguish horse color by name

A snip is a patch of white on the horse’s nose. It may be a small spot between the nostrils, or it may extend over the whole nose. A snip might be connected to a blaze or stripe. Or, a horse may have a star and a snip.

Strip

How to distinguish horse color by name

A strip is a band of white that extends in a more or less even stripe down the bridge of the nose. A strip may connect to a star at the top and extend to the white markings on the horse’s nose. Or they may be broken so there are three separate facial markings on the face, a star, strip and snip. The strip is quite narrow, only an inch or two wide and stays on top of the nasal bone. A strip may also be called a stripe.

Blaze

How to distinguish horse color by name

A blaze covers the whole bridge of the nose, from the forehead area, down to the nose. Blazes can be very symmetrical, or they can wander down the face unevenly. A blaze is much wider than the strip. The difference between a strip and a blaze is the width, as blazes cover most of the horse’s face between the ridges of the bone.

How to distinguish horse color by name

A bald face is covered with a much wider white marking than a blaze. The white areas extend from the forehead to the nose, and from side to side beyond the eye area to the cheekbones. The whole nose and muzzle area can be white. It’s not uncommon to see bald faced horses with blue eyes. Horses with a lot of white on their noses may be more prone to sunburn. Bald faces are common in some Paint and pinto horses as well as Clydesdales. There are specific names within some breeds for types of bald faces such as apron or medicine hat.

Ermine

How to distinguish horse color by name

An ermine is a small colored spot within any white area on the horse’s face. Ermines may appear within a star or blaze. The may be round or very asymmetrical. Ermines also appear on leg markings. It’s not unusual to see a black ermine on a lighter colored horse. These ermine spots are genetic. Dark spots within the coat color are called Bend-Or spots.

Combinations

How to distinguish horse color by name

Combinations of these markings result in horses’ unique facial markings. Typical combinations include star and strip, star and snip, and star, strip and snip. These combinations are an important way to identify individual horses. On medical records and breed registration records these identifying marks are photographed or drawn so that the horse’s identity can be verified.

If your horse suddenly develops white markings around the eyes these aren’t likely to be permanent. White or pinkish areas may actually be a skin condition called Vitiligo. Scars too may leave white markings on a horse, but the skin beneath will not be lighter like a true marking the horse was born with.

Home » Ghost of Tsushima » Ghost of Tsushima Horse Guide – Which Horse to Choose – Nobu, Sora, Kage

You get to choose which Ghost of Tsushima horse to ride for the rest of the game pretty early on. I wasn’t really sure if there is some hidden difference between the horses you get to choose from other than their color. Then the game asks you to pick a name for your new horse. That really got me wondering. Ghost of Tsushima has a lot of RPG elements. Maybe picking a horse at the start of Ghost of Tsushima has hidden benefits? Maybe one of them is the fastest horse? Can you customize it later? Which horse is the best? Those are the questions we’re going to answer in our Ghost of Tsushima Horse guide.

How to distinguish horse color by name

The Best Horse to Choose in Ghost of Tsushima?

Which horse you choose in Ghost of Tsushima depends entirely on your aesthetic preferences. At the beginning of your adventure, the game will take you to a stable, where you’ll have your choice between a white horse, a black horse, and a dapple horse. I can tell you right away that we conducted tests and there are no hidden benefits to either choice. It comes down to which horse color pleases you the most and the choice has no effect on gameplay. Horses are a method of transportation; nothing more, nothing less.

Ghost of Tsushima Which Horse Name to Pick – Nobu, Sora, Kage?

The game throws you another curve-ball. You are asked to choose the name for your new horse. Your choices are Nobu, Sora, or Kage, which, in English, mean Trust, Sky, and Shadow, respectively. Having lots of RPG elements you might think that different horse names in Ghost of Tsushima might have some effect on your horse speed or stats. Turns out it is just a stylistic choice. So, all you have to do is pick the one that you think is the coolest and be on your way. It doesn’t affect gameplay in any way, it just gives you a bit more of a connection to your noble steed.

What is the Fastest Horse in Ghost of Tsushima?

According to the tests we’ve conducted, all the horses you get to pick at the start in Ghost of Tsushima have the same speed. We started the game three different times and ran the same route with different horses. We timed all that and it turns out all the horses had the same time. You can see the results of our test in the video on our youtube channel. You might want to subscribe while you’re there.

Can You Customize your Horse?

Yes, you can customize your Ghost of Tsushima horse. However, as far as we can tell, the options are fairly limited. Aside from the color and the name you get to pick at the beginning, the only other customization we’ve seen is the different saddles. You unlock those by finding the dozens and dozens of Sashimono Banners scattered all across the map. The more of those you find, the more different saddles you get. That said, the saddles don’t really affect anything, aside from looking snazzy. If you pre ordered or bought the deluxe edition of the game you will also get a special looking saddle.

How to Change your Horse?

To change your horse in Ghost of Tsushima, you have to find another stable. Simply approach one of the horses there and press R2 to mount it. You don’t get to name it, though, nor do you really get to keep it. If it’s in range of your whistle, the new horse is going to come, but if you wander too far away from it and whistle, your horse from the start of the game is going to appear. In conclusion, you can temporarily ride a different horse, but in all likelihood you will revert to your starting horse sooner or later.

Equine Coat Color Genetics

Base Coat Color

The basic coat colors of horses include chestnut, bay, and black. These are controlled by the interaction between two genes : Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) and Agouti Signaling Protein (ASIP). MC1R, which has also been referred to as the extension or red factor locus , controls the production of red and black pigment. To date, there are three versions ( alleles ) of this gene that have been identified at the molecular level: E, e, and e a . The e and e a alleles are recessive to E and are considered to be loss of function mutations in MC1R. In homozygous individuals (e/e or e a /e a ) only red pigment is produced, hence the name red factor. ASIP, also known as Agouti, controls the distribution of black pigment. The dominant allele (A) restricts black pigment to the points of the horse (mane, tail, lower legs, ear rims), while the recessive form (a) distributes black pigment uniformly over the body.

Currently, genetic tests for the three basic coat colors include: Agouti and Red Factor

Variability exists among the three basic coat colors. This variability has been described as shade. For example, some horses are a very dark chestnut known as liver chestnut while others are a much lighter yellow shade. While, over 300 different genes have been identified that contribute to mammalian pigmentation, for many of these their contribution to equine pigmentation variation remains unknown. The genetics behind the variability in shade in horses is something we still have a lot to learn about.

Dilution Genes

There are several genes that that have been shown to reduce the amount of pigment produced and/or reduce the amount transferred from the pigment cell to the hair follicular cells, and these are know as dilution genes. Some of these dilution genes affect only one type of pigment (red or black) while others affect both (red and black). Some dilute both the coat and the points (mane, tail, lower legs, ear rims), while others primarily dilute the points, and still others leave the points unaffected and only dilute the coat. Molecular characterization of six different dilution phenotypes in horses include Cream, Champagne, Dun, Pearl, Silver, and Mushroom. Cream is dominant and has a dosage effect in that a single copy of the cream allele (N/Cr) produces palominos on a chestnut background and buckskin on a bay background. Two doses of the Cream allele (Cr/Cr) produce cremellos on a chestnut background, perlinos on a bay background, and smoky creams on a black background. Pearl is an allele at the same locus at Cream (SLC45a2) but is recessive; two copies of the Pearl allele (Prl/Prl) or one copy of Pearl and one of Cream (Prl/Cr, this is known as a compound heterozygote) are needed to see the dilution effect on the coat.

Champagne, Dun, and Silver are all dominant traits, and therefore only one copy of dilution causing allele is needed to produce the respective phenotypes. Silver is interesting because it primarily affects black pigment of the points (black and bay horses). Chestnut horses with the sliver mutation do not show a different coat color phenotype than those chestnut horses without the silver mutation, as silver does not dilute red pigment. Horses with the silver mutation, regardless of base coat color, have an ocular condition known as multiple congenital ocular anomaly or MCOA for short. Horses with two copies of silver (Z/Z) have a more severe phenotype than those with one (N/Z).

The mushroom allele (Mu) is recessive and dilutes red pigment. Chestnut horses who are homozygous for Mu will have a dilute sepia coat phenotype. Bay horses homozygous for the mushroom phenotype have a lighter shade of red body with black counter shading, suggesting that Mu increases black pigment production having the opposite effect on black pigment as it does on red.

Current genetic tests for dilution mutations in the horse include:

White Spotting Pattern Genes

There are several genes responsible for white coat patterns in horses. These can occur on any base color and in combination with any dilution mutation. White spotting patterns can be divided into distributed white or patch white patterning. Distributed white patterns, in which white hairs are intermixed with colors hairs, include classic Roan and Gray. Both classic Roan and Gray are caused by dominant mutations. Classic Roan horses have fully or nearly fully pigmented faces but white hairs are distributed throughout the coat. Grey horses will progressively loose pigment distributed in the coat as they age. Gray horses are at risk for melanoma . Patch white spotting patterns include Appaloosa, Dominant White, Sabino 1, Splashed White, Tobiano, and Overo. These all vary in the location of the white pattern. For example, Appaloosa white patterning tends to be symmetrical and centered over the hips, but the amount of white can vary from just a few white flecks on the rump to a horse that is almost completely white. Patch white patterns identified to date have all been caused by dominant mutations. Some of these, like gray and silver described above, have pleiotropic effects; that is, a mutation in one gene can affect more than one body system. Homozygosity for the frame-overo allele (O/O) is lethal (Lethal White Overo syndrome). Horses with two copies of the Appaloosa mutation (LP/LP), also known as leopard complex, have an ocular condition known as congenital stationary night blindness, which means they are unable to see in low light conditions.

Current genetic tests for white spotting pattern mutations in the horse include:

Conclusions

Some color assignments and also genotypes can be correctly determined based on physical appearance or phenotype alone. However, genetic testing may be necessary to define phenotypes that are visually ambiguous and can help to determine color possibilities for offspring. For example, it is not possible to know by appearance alone if a chestnut horse is able to produce a black horse. Therefore, genotyping for Agouti can assist in these cases. There are many examples where genetic testing for coat color in horses can an assist with predicting breeding outcomes as well as inform clinical management decisions for those coat color phenotypes with pleiotropic effects. Researchers at the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory and around the globe are working towards identifying other variants involved in producing the myriad of beautiful coat color phenotypes that exist in the horse.

For more information on Equine Color Genetics please see

Sponenberg, D.P. and Bellone, R.R. (2017). Equine Color Genetics. 4th Edition Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press. ISBN: 978-1-119-13058-1.

Summary Table

Wild type allele

Tests Available at the VGL

Currently, genetic tests for specific pigmentation mutations available for the horse include:

How to distinguish horse color by name

Although there are several basic facial markings on horses, each marking will be unique in shape to each horse. Like snowflakes, no two are precisely the same. This is useful for horse owners because it provides a means of accurate identification. If you need to fill out registration papers, or documents like Coggins Tests, facial markings will be part of the identifying markings recorded for your horse.

In “The Black Stallion,” the horse is a solid black Arabian. The role in the movie was filled by a horse named Cass Ole, a black Arabian stallion with a white star on his face. In some scenes, if you watch carefully, you can see the shadow of Cass Ole’s white facial and leg markings under his stage “make-up.”

How to distinguish horse color by name

A star is a white spot on a horse’s forehead, between the eyes. A faint star may only appear as a few white hairs, or the star can be large enough it covers the whole forehead area. Stars can be very symmetrical in shape, like spots or diamonds, or they may appear as irregular splotches.

Some stars extend down the bridge of the nose without connecting to any other facial markings. On gray horses, the star may be very obvious when the horse is young and disappear into the graying hair coat as the horse ages. The star may blend into the coat color, but the skin beneath the coat will be lighter in color.

How to distinguish horse color by name

A snip is a patch of white on the horse’s nose. It may be a small spot between the nostrils, or it may extend over the whole nose. A snip might be connected to a blaze or stripe. Or, a horse may have a star and a snip.

Strip

How to distinguish horse color by name

A strip is a band of white that extends in a more or less even stripe down the bridge of the nose. A strip may connect to a star at the top and extend to the white markings on the horse’s nose. Or they may be broken so there are three separate facial markings on the face, a star, strip and snip. The strip is quite narrow, only an inch or two wide and stays on top of the nasal bone. A strip may also be called a stripe.

Blaze

How to distinguish horse color by name

A blaze covers the whole bridge of the nose, from the forehead area, down to the nose. Blazes can be very symmetrical, or they can wander down the face unevenly. A blaze is much wider than the strip. The difference between a strip and a blaze is the width, as blazes cover most of the horse’s face between the ridges of the bone.

How to distinguish horse color by name

A bald face is covered with a much wider white marking than a blaze. The white areas extend from the forehead to the nose, and from side to side beyond the eye area to the cheekbones. The whole nose and muzzle area can be white. It’s not uncommon to see bald faced horses with blue eyes. Horses with a lot of white on their noses may be more prone to sunburn. Bald faces are common in some Paint and pinto horses as well as Clydesdales. There are specific names within some breeds for types of bald faces such as apron or medicine hat.

Ermine

How to distinguish horse color by name

An ermine is a small colored spot within any white area on the horse’s face. Ermines may appear within a star or blaze. The may be round or very asymmetrical. Ermines also appear on leg markings. It’s not unusual to see a black ermine on a lighter colored horse. These ermine spots are genetic. Dark spots within the coat color are called Bend-Or spots.

Combinations

How to distinguish horse color by name

Combinations of these markings result in horses’ unique facial markings. Typical combinations include star and strip, star and snip, and star, strip and snip. These combinations are an important way to identify individual horses. On medical records and breed registration records these identifying marks are photographed or drawn so that the horse’s identity can be verified.

If your horse suddenly develops white markings around the eyes these aren’t likely to be permanent. White or pinkish areas may actually be a skin condition called Vitiligo. Scars too may leave white markings on a horse, but the skin beneath will not be lighter like a true marking the horse was born with.