...the effort to conceal the
presence of something by breaking up its lines/shape visually,
or blending it into the background.
The most well-known form of camouflage in horses is dappling. Much
like the spots of a leopard, the spots formed by dappling break up the smooth,
rounded appearance of a horse's body, helping it to blend into the lights and
shadows that would be found in tall grass, for example, or in a wooded area.
Dapples are usually light spots, roughly 2" across, tied together with a darker
"netting". While "dapple gray" is the kind with which most folks are best
acquainted, many other colors will form dapples when the horse is in good
health, or is sooty, or has a cream gene, or is between coats.
http://www.tamarsventures.com/silvers/Ginger1990.jpg A few color genes even
tend toward "reverse dapples"... darker spots tied together with a lighter
http://www.ichregistry.com/images/Luke_dapples.jpg . (Photographs,
including close-ups, will show these various colors/stages with their attendant
Another well-known form of camouflage in horses
is "dun", the gene or genes that dilute most of the body color, while leaving it
dark in the form of stripes. That is covered in the
dun section of this web site.
Though in today's domestic horses, it may not look
much like camouflage, it's believed to be related to the striping of zebras,
tigers, and other such animals, in which it more drastically breaks up the
visual lines of the animal's body.
Probably the second-best-known form of
camouflage in horses is "countershading".
This form of camouflage works by making an
animal darker where natural lighting would highlight it, and making it
lighter where it would normally have shadows. Thus, its shape becomes
harder to distinguish "in the wild".
Sootiness, or smuttiness, is what we call
the dark shading over areas that would normally reflect light.
Pangare, or mealy, are terms for the
lightness of hair color in areas normally in the shadows.
... the combination of the effects of shading
and pangare, to most effectively disguise the shape of a horse.
Look at the American Quarter Horse
in this picture. He has dark patches on each hip bone, to minimize
their appearance. His big, round barrel (rib cage) is also
counter-shaded... dark where there would naturally be highlights. The
same thing is true of his large, noble head: the top, which would normally
catch the sun, is darker than his muzzle, which would normally be in its
shadow. This points out that this particular horse, which was the
author's husband's mount for about 14 years, also showed pangare: his
muzzle, flanks, belly, etc. were a lighter color than his body -- almost
flaxen in winter! Below, he is not quite shed out. Look at the
light edge where his belly meets his stifle, and also his "mealy" muzzle:
Then there's the mysterious
brindle. Brindle is the fine, somewhat blurred striping found in
some Boxers, Great Danes, Afghan Hounds, the various Bulldogs, etc.
Brindle is believed to come in at least three
forms: the chimera, brindling as an extreme form of dun, and other brindling.
A chimera is an animal that has two
complete sets of chromosomes within its cells, as though it were a set
of fraternal twins in one animal.
It's easy to imagine that a horse with
this condition could have two different body colors vying for
expression. When neither one succeeds in completely dominating the
other, one is visible in this form of striping or ticking against the
background of the other.
When a dun horse has an extreme amount of
striping, sometimes it's carried on to the larger areas of the body in
the form of brindle-like striping.
There are brindled horses that do not test
positive for being chimeras, and are not duns, either.
Brindling seems to be a very effective
form of camouflage, breaking up the smooth, flat surfaces of the
animal, and even enabling it to blend in with tall grass, weeds, or
Other reference: until this section is
better filled out, I'd like to recommend this web site which has held a
fascination for me for many, many years: