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Horse Colors and Markings

Updated on September 2, 2009

Glossary of Colors and Markings

  • Albino. An all-white horse. See White.
  • Appaloosa. Actually a breed, rather than a coloration, with several characteristic patterns. An area of white, called the blanket, is commonly found on the loins and hips. The blanket may be solid white, mixed with dark hairs ("frosted"), or spotted. An overall white appaloosa marked with dark spots is called leopard; an overall dark horse with white spots is called snowflake. Some blanket-hipped appaloosas are solid colored outside the blanket area; others are roan. Appaloosas also occur in roan without blankets, but with the distinctive appaloosa spotting on the hips.
  • Apron. A very large area of white on the face.
  • Bald-faced. A horse having a large area of white on the face.
  • Bay. A coat consisting of a brownish body color and black "points", that is, a black mane and tail and black on the legs below the knees and hocks. Light bays lean toward yellow; dark bays lean toward red. Common shades include mahogany (the darkest) and blood bay (almost the color of dark blood).
  • Black. A coat coloration consisting entirely of black hairs; white markings may be present on the legs and face.
  • Blanket. An area of white on the loins and hips of an appaloosa. See Appaloosa.
  • Blaze. A relatively broad streak of white running down the face.
  • Blood Bay. A dark red bay.
  • Blue Roan. A coat of intermingled white and black hairs.
  • Boot. A broad band of white on the leg, extending from the top of the hoof halfway to the knee or hock.
  • Brown. A coat coloration consisting entirely of brownish hairs; white markings may be present on the legs and face. Browns occur in various shades. Some browns are so dark they are mistaken for blacks, but even on these, brown hairs can be found in the muzzle area.
  • Buckskin. A dun with black mane and tail.
  • Calico. A white coat spotted with roan.
  • Chestnut. A reddish brown coat.
  • Claybank. A washed-out dun.
  • Copper Dun. A reddish yellow coat.
  • Coronet. A ring of white on the leg just above the hoof.
  • Cream. See Cremelo.
  • Cremelo. A pale cream coat.
  • Dappled Gray. A gray coat marked with ill-defined dark spots.
  • Dappling. Dark ill-defined spots.
  • Dun. A coat of yellowish color, varying in shade from very Light to very dark. A dun with a white or silvery mane and tail is called a palomino; a dun with a black mane and tail is called a buckskin. True duns have yellow manes and tails, although these may be lighter or darker than the body shade. The lightest duns, looking almost like whites or albinos, may show only a faint cream color and are called cremelos. Red dun and copper dun are common shades. True duns and buckskins frequently have dark lines down their backs, often with zebra, or tiger, stripes above the knees and hocks and on the withers.
  • Fleabitten Gray. A dark-flecked gray.
  • Frosted. An appaloosa blanket of mixed white and dark hairs.
  • Golden. A light sorrel.
  • Gray. A coat of mixed white and dark brown or black hairs, producing a distinct grayish appearance generally lighter in shade than a roan. Grays are often (but incorrectly) called white, because many appear white at a distance. The usual gray horse is dark at birth, turning more and more gray with the appearance of white hairs as it grows older. Dark grays are called iron grays; light ones may be called silver grays. When small flecks of dark hairs seem to group together in the white hairs, giving the appearance of tiny ink splatters, the coat is called flea-bitten. When the dark hairs tend to form small concentric patterns in the coat, it is called dappled gray.
  • Grulla. A grayish yellow, mouse-colored coat, often called mouse dun. It occurs in varying shades from slate gray to blue, or smoke color. Grullas, like true duns and buckskins, frequently have black striping.
  • Iron Gray. A dark gray.
  • Leopard. An overall white appaloosa with dark spots.
  • Liver. A dark sorrel (or chestnut).
  • Mahogany Bay. A very dark bay.
  • Mottled. Marked with spots.
  • Mouse Dun. See Grulla.
  • Navajo. A dun coat with reddish splashes.
  • Overo. A white coat patterned with irregular roan markings, the white seemingly spreading upward from the belly.
  • Paint. A white coat marked with patches of roan.
  • Palomino. A dun with a white or silvery mane and tail.
  • Patch. Same as paint.
  • Piebald. A coat of white marked with patches of black.

Photo by Sue Byford
Photo by Sue Byford
  • Pinto. A coat of white patterned with spots or large, irregular markings of darker color. If the white and other color come together on the crest of the neck, the mane changes color abruptly at that point. Years ago a distinction was made in South America between two types of pintos: the tobiano and the overo. Tobianos have much larger and more clearly denned markings; the markings are of any color except roan; and the white area spreads down from the back. Overos, also called calicos or patched, have smaller and not so clearly defined markings; the markings are always roan; and the white spreads upward from the belly. Tobianos are further classified as piebald or skewbald. Piebald is the combination of white and black; skewbald is the combination of white and any other color except roan. The great number of names applied to irregularly patterned horses has resulted in considerable confusion, which is compounded by the fact that some horses do not fit any category and others carry the characteristics of two supposedly distinct types.
  • Race. An irregular or uneven stripe of white running down the face.
  • Red. A light sorrel (or chestnut).
  • Red Dun. A dark reddish yellow coat.
  • Red Roan. A coat of intermingled white and brown hairs, with black mane, tail, and lower legs.
  • Roan. A coat of white hairs generally rather evenly intermingled with hairs of one or more other colors, usually darker than a gray. The roan coloration is not always uniform over the entire body: dark patches occur where dark hairs predominate; light patches, where white hairs predominate. Depending on the other colors mixed with white, roans are described as red roan (mixed with bay), strawberry roan (mixed with sorrel, or chestnut), or blue roan (mixed with black). When some roans grow their winter coats, they may appear lighter or darker than their summer shade due to either the white hairs or the dark hairs growing relatively longer.
  • Silver Gray. A light gray.
  • Skewbald. A white coat marked with patches of any color other than black or roan.
  • Snip. A small blotch of white on the nose.
  • Snowflake. An overall dark appaloosa with white spots.
  • Sock. A band of white on the pastern of the leg.
  • Sorrel, or Chestnut. A coat that is basically some shade of solid reddish brown. The mane and tail are usually the same color as the body, but they may be of a Lighter or darker shade. Thoroughbred breeders refer to sorrel as a shade of chestnut; quarter horse breeders refer to chestnut as a shade of sorrel. Dark sorrel (or chestnut) is called liver; light sorrel (or chestnut) is called red or golden.
  • Spot. A small white mark on the forehead.
  • Star. A blotch of white on the forehead.
  • Stocking. A broad band of white on the leg, extending from the top of the hoof to about the knee or hock. In solid-colored horses, white extending above the knees or hocks is considered undesirable.
  • Strawberry Roan. A coat of intermingled white and sorrel (or chestnut) hairs.
  • Stripe. A narrow streak of white running down the face.
  • Tobiano. A white coat patterned with irregular markings of any color but roan, the white seemingly spreading down from the back.
  • White. A coat of solid white hairs. A horse that is born white and remains white, unaffected by age or season, is called an albino. This is rarely a true albino—that is, one completely lacking color pigment; the eyes, for example, are usually dark. Some horses that look white may have hairs of another color mixed into the coat. These horses are more accurately called grays or roans, depending upon the color and the mixture of the hairs.


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    • profile image

      rhylee 4 years ago

      wow that is some cool stuff to lern about in this hool thing love this pag

    • profile image

      Linda 5 years ago

      Hi. I have been told a pony apoloosa is called a poloosa. Howevery someone else advised me the poloosa is the all white colour with the glasses look around the eyes and the coloured blanket of spots.

      Can you please tell which is right

    • shay921 profile image

      shay921 7 years ago

      Lots of information, however you need to check your facts!

    • wildfiremare7 profile image

      wildfiremare7 7 years ago from Maybell, Colorado

      I have to say you are very brave. The horse world has so many confusing terms for colors and markings and I have found that different areas have different terms for the same thing. Even my husband and I get into areguements about colors and markings of our horses. LOL.... Good read hun!!

    • profile image

      Dee 8 years ago

      You have many things wrong! Check out proper proper genetic terms to get the colours right.

    • Mardi profile image

      Mardi 8 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

      Excellent listing. It is interesting how different areas use different terms for the same colors, leads to a bit of confusion to say the least.

    • thelesleyshow profile image

      TheLesleyShow 8 years ago from US

      This hub is insanely resourceful!! I had no idea. Thanks for sharing. Thumbs up!