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Glossary/Index for "Horse Colors"

An alphabetical list of the various names for colors and markings that you may come across (also a few general horse terms) linked to an explanation of the 'genetic color' referred to by that name.  If you have any suggestions, please let us know, especially since the 'common names' vary greatly from one place to another.


  • albino - complete absence of pigment from skin and eyes; does not exist in the horse
  • amber  - (champagne) on bay; tan body with brown points, lighter legs, pink skin with abundant, dark freckles, light brown eyes at maturity
  • appaloosa - see leopard complex
  • bay - a horse with a red-brown-colored body and black points
  • bi-color mane or tail - see frosting
  • black - (horse) entire body is black;  no brown hairs are found on the muzzle or flanks
  • black - (pigment) eumelanin; every hair-making cell produces it unless blocked
  • blue roan - the true roan gene's effect on a solid black horse
  • buckskin - bay (or brown) plus one cream gene. Brown-based buckskin may be called smoky brown
  • buttermilk buckskin - a light shade of buckskin; pale creamy body with black points
  • buttermilk dun - pale creamy body with black points and dun markings; usually bay + dun + cream
  • camouflage - coloring that obscured the outlines of an animal, making it blend in with its surroundings to avoid being seen
  • champagne - gene that causes a diluted coat, mane & tail, lighter eyes, and pink skin with abundant dark freckles
  • chestnut - red horse; black is restricted from entire coat
  • classic - (champagne) on solid black; body dark taupe, darker (brown) points; pink skin with abundant dark freckles; light brown eyes at maturity
  • countershading - a camouflage coloring of darker on top, lighter underneath, which "counters" natural shading
  • cream - gene that causes palomino, buckskin, smoky black, cremello, perlino, smoky cream, smoky brown (aka brown buckskin) and brown cream.
  • cremello - two cream genes on chestnut.  Cream coat, white mane & tail, pink-pigmented skin, blue eyes.
  • dapple gray - a stage in the action of the gray gene where the horse has lighter gray areas surrounded by a "netting" of darker gray areas
  • dunalino - colloquial term for one cream gene plus dun on chestnut
  • dunskin - colloquial term for one cream gene plus dun on bay
  • frame - aka lethal white overo gene; one copy causes a pinto/paint pattern of ragged-edged white on sides of body and face only (not center of back or belly, or legs); two copies causes a lethal white overo foal; do not breed two horses with this gene
  • flaxen - ivory or extremely pale yellow to white; may be silvery, as in a black silver horse's mane
  • frosting - mane & tail have light-to-white outside edges; occurs with various dilutions
  • gold - (champagne) on red (chestnut/sorrel); golden body, gold or flaxen mane & tail, pink skin with abundant dark freckles, light brown eyes at maturity
  • gray - gene which causes gradual loss of hair pigment, making the hairs eventually clear and colorless, appearing white
  • grulla - dun on black; the Spanish word for crane
  • isabella, isabel - lightest shade of palomino; in France, a buckskin; in Spain, any double-cream
  • leopard - (appaloosa) the body is all white with dark, rounded spots all over
  • leopard complex - a group of genes all found in horses commonly called "appaloosa", which cause white areas with or without darker, rounded spots
  • lobo dun - colloquial term for any very dark dun
  • mask - dark areas which may be present on the lower face (usually duns), upper face (brown or sooty colors), or entire head (grulla)
  • mealy - lighter/flaxen muzzle; also possibly around eyes,  "armpits", belly, groin, or lower legs
  • olive dun - colloquial term for a dark dun with a real or imagined olive tint
  • overo - one of at least 3 pinto/paint patterns that are not tobiano: sabino, frame, splash
  • pangare - lighter/flaxen muzzle; also possibly around eyes,  "armpits", belly, groin, or lower legs
  • paint - western USA term for horses with large (pigment free) white spots on a colored body
  • palomino - chestnut plus one cream gene; usually light to dark golden body, flaxen mane & tail
  • perlino - bay plus two cream genes; cream colored body, yellow to dark orange points, pink, pigmented skin, blue eyes
  • piebald - mostly-British term for a pinto horse that is strictly black and white
  • pinto - most common word in English for horses with large (pigment free) white areas on a colored body
  • rabicano - white hairs scattered or concentrated beginning at tail head
  • red roan - the roan gene's effect on the body of a bay horse
  • roan - gene causes white hairs throughout the body/trunk of the horse, while leaving the head, lower legs, mane & tail original color
  • roaning/roaned - white hairs intermingled with colored anywhere on a horse
  • sabino - gene that causes most white markings in horses, from a partial white coronet band or a star to great patches of white with heavy "roaning".  The horse tends to look "spray painted"
  • silver - dilutes black body color slightly, and black manes & tails usually become mostly flaxen/silver; only affects black, so cannot be seen on a red horse
  • silver dapple - old name for silver
  • skewbald - mostly-British term for a pinto horse that is black, reddish-brown and white
  • smoky black - black plus one cream gene; may look black or brownish; often fades to reddish-brown in sun
  • smoky brown - (seal) brown with one cream gene.  Also called brown buckskin.
  • smoky cream - black with two cream genes.  Usually a cream body with orangish points, but may be lighter or darker, with pink, pigmented skin and blue to blue-green eyes
  • smoky grulla - one cream gene plus dun on black.  Often indistinguishable from grulla.
  • smutty - see sootiness/smuttiness
  • sootiness/smuttiness - dark to black-looking hairs on top of another color, usually gathered together into particular areas forming "smudges", usually near the top line; a form of camouflage
  • sooty - see sootiness/smuttiness
  • sorrel - sometimes used for a light or golden chestnut; other uses personal or regional
  • splash - a form of pinto/paint that looks like the horse has been *dipped* into white. Can cause blue eyes.
  • strawberry roan - the true roan gene's effect on a red (chestnut/sorrel) horse
  • tobiano - a form of pinto/paint where the horse looks like white has been *poured* onto it from above.

For dun coloring definitions, for now, see THIS PAGE

For an introduction to color genetics, see THIS PAGE.

 

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