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Monday, February 25, 2013

Horse Colors

Picture Credit: http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/
Yes, we are once again going to talk horses for this blog on the random research that I've done.

As I mentioned in my last blog about horses, I had to do significant research due to my main character's familiarity with horses. I find this research interesting. Any followers who are very familiar with horses will not learn anything new in this blog. But I do welcome any comments from your experience.

Horses are classified by their breed and their color and/or markings. In fact, many horse owners are just as concerned about the way the horse looks as they are the actual breed. If the temperament and condition of two horses is similar, color and markings can sway the decision if one looks better than the other. This is NOT to say owners of race or rodeo horses care more what they look like than performance, but less-serious owners at least take it into consideration.

Read more about horse colors, patterns, and genetics here.

There are 4 base colors of horses, with all other colors and patterns being a combination of the colors:
  • Bay
  • Black
  • Brown
  • Chestnut

White is technically not a color--it is the absence of other colors. When we look at how these colors manifest themselves on the horse, we are left with 15 different categories of horse colors:
  • Bay- These horses range from golden brown, to reddish brown, to a deep (almost purple) brown. They always have dark points, which are commonly black, but may be slightly lighter in light bays.
  • Black
  • Brown- These horses can be anywhere from light brown to almost completely black. Their soft parts (muzzle, eyebrows, and around the flanks, quarters, and girth are red or golden brown). The color on these soft parts may be the only distinguishing features between a brown and a black horse.
  • Buckskin- These horses vary in shade from pale cream to a deep rich gold color, and their coats may change color during the seasons. Their manes and tails are either black or very dark brown.
  • Champagne- The champagne pigment dilutes the horse's color received from it's other genes. What would otherwise be red coats are diluted to gold, and black pigment is changed to brown or taupe. These horses are frequently mis-classified as one of the other colors.
  • Chestnut-These horses are red, and vary from honey-gold, to an orange color, to copper, chocolate, and nearly black.
  • Cream/Cremello/Perlino/Smoky Cream- These are actually four different color classifications, but the color description is the same. It would take more than a layman to determine the difference. These horses can vary in color from a pale, off-white to a pale gold color. Their eyes are blue or pink.
  • Dominant White- These horses are white, but may have markings of other colors on their coats. Unlike the cream, cremello, perlino, and smoky cream horses, these have brown eyes.
  • Dun- The pigment in each hair of these horse's coats is concentrated to just one side of the hair. The legs of these horses tend to be darker because the pigment is better distributed, but their bodies have a diluted look to them. They can be shades of red or black.
  • Grey- These horses have a mixture of white and colored hairs over a dark skin.
  • Palomino- These horses are a golden color with ivory manes and tails.
  • Pearl (Barlink)- These colors are recessive. With one pearl gene, the horse will be lightened to an apricot color. If both genes are pearl, the horse will have white hair, pink skin, and blue or green eyes.
  • Silver- Most silver horses have diluted black coats and almost-silver tails and manes. However, the horse may be a bluish-grey color.
  • Sorrel- These horses are a light red color with a flaxen colored mane and tail.

Now that we've established the colors of horses, I'll go into the coat patterns in my next blog.

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