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definitions of dun-related terms

  • barbs
    • dark lines attached to and coming out from a dorsal stripe.  Also known as fishboning.
  • barring
    • darker markings on the back of a diluted upper foreleg that resemble bar-shaped rungs of a ladder.  Leg markings can also be smudges, marbling, or zig-zags, etc.
  • "blue" grulla
    • colloquial for an effect of dun gene(s) on solid (not bay or brown) black, with or without a cream gene: a cool slate-gray, light or dark body color.
  • brown dun
    • dun gene(s) on (seal) brown.
  • claybank dun
    • usually refers to a lighter-than-usual Red Dun. Sometimes used by Kiger breeders to describe their extremely pale-bodied Kiger duns with dark points; sometimes these are actually grays.
  • cobwebbing
    • concentric circles of dark lines on the forehead.  A dark dot may appear in the middle.
  • cross
    • the markings a donkey has -- line down the back, with an intersecting perpendicular line down each shoulder.
  • dilution
    • lightening of of a base color, much like adding various amounts of milk to coffee
  • dun
    • diluted body color with darker points and markings that usually include a  distinct dorsal stripe, leg barring, etc.  NOTE:  The dictionary definition of dun is "grayish brown", and this is often the meaning when found in older pedigrees and writings.
  • dunalino
    • colloquial for palomino and dun mixture. Looks like a palomino with darker gold, red, brown, pewter or tan "dun markings".
  • dorsal
    • area along the back (spine) from withers to tail
  • dorsal stripe
    • sharp-edged darker color stripe from withers to tail; ideally, it stretches, unbroken, from poll to tail bones, but is often interrupted by any number of modifiers; ideally at least 1/2 inch wide, as sharp and as dark as possible, showing great contrast with the rest of the body color.
    • triple dorsal - strong dun characteristic of one strong center dorsal line flanked on each side by a parallel fainter one
  • dunskin
    • colloquial for dun on bay plus one cream gene;  buckskin and dun mixture ... usually lighter dun to creamy body with black points & red, brown or black dun markings
  • ear barring
    • a band of darker color horizontally midway down the ear on the outside
  • ear tips
    • dun and many other colors can have darker tips on the ears, but so far white dots on the very tips of the darker area seem to be found only in duns
  • ear outlining; (and/or lighter inner ear hairs)
    • not found only on duns; can be seen even on regular bays or chestnuts: darker edges on a lighter ear.  Also, lighter hairs inside of ears are not found only on duns, but on most dilutes.
  • eye barring
    • a dark line near, but usually above, the eye... sometimes called "eyebrows" or eye lines, usually touching a corner of the eye.  Eyebrows are also sometimes seen on other colors, such as (seal brown buckskin).
  • eye shadowing 
    • a dark smudge under the eyes, as though the dark eye color has been smeared down the face
  • face mask 
    • lower face is usually dark in duns; in countershaded/sooty/smutty horses, upper face around eyes is usually dark
  • factor
    • word sometimes used to describe dun markings
  • fishboning

    • dark lines extending out from dorsal line as though they were going to wrap around  the barrel
  • frosting, mane or tail
    • often, but not always found on dun horses; may also be found on non-dun cream dilutes and some chestnuts.  (see "guard hairs")
  • grulla
    • dun on solid black; body is usually mousey grey, points and dun markings are black.  The word is the name of a mousy-gray crane found in South America. 
  • guard hairs
    • the hairs that edge the mane (and tail), which are usually (but not always) lighter, sometimes even flaxen or white, on a dun.  Can also be found on cream dilutes and some chestnuts, however.
  • leg markings (barring, striping, mottling)
    • found primarily on the rear of the upper forelegs, these may vary greatly from 
      • barring (like the rungs of a ladder) to 
      • striping (like zebra stripes or marbling) to 
      • mottling (like a sponge painting).  
    • other places to look for these markings are inside the upper forelegs, on or behind the knees, around the hocks, or anywhere on the legs
  • lobo dun/grulla
    • a colloquial term for a very dark brown (in appearance) dun or grulla
  • mane frosting: see "frosting", or "guard hairs"
  • mottling
    • an effect similar to sponge painting; also marbling
  • neck barring
    • dark "smears" extending outward from the mane
  • olive grulla
    • colloquial for an elusive color that appears to be grulla but with a greenish cast.  May often be dun on brown rather than grulla, which is dun on black
  • red dun
    • dun on red base (no black gene); lighter red body with darker red points and markings
  • rib markings
    • usually faint, darker striping on barrel apparently tracing ribs.  Not brindling.
  • shoulder markings/bars
    • not usually "barring" so much as dark "smears" extending from the mane at the withers or nearby.  Have seen it called a "cape".
  • smoky brown dun
    • a brown dun with one cream gene
  • smoky grulla
    • a grulla with one cream gene.  Can be golden or silvery.
  • striping
    • darker lines on a lighter background
  • tail frosting
    • lighter hairs around the edges of the bast of the tail; found on some, but not all, duns, and also some cream dilutes and chestnuts. See "guard hairs", "frosting"
  • ventral
    • referring to the belly, from chest to genitals
  • ventral stripe
    • a darker line along the belly from chest to genitals; may not be a dun trait
  • yellow dun
    • another colloquial name for a Palomino with dun markings
  • zebra dun
    • colloquial for dun on bay;  black points & dun markings, tan body.  Often simply called "dun".


other color definitions:

  • buckskin - bay (or brown) plus one cream gene
  • champagne - gene that causes a diluted coat, mane & tail, lighter eyes, and pink skin with copious purplish freckles
  • countershading - a camouflage coloring of lighter beneath, darker on top
  • 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.
  • 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 top of back , belly, or legs.)  Two copies causes a lethal white overo foal which should be put down as soo as possible (if verified) to avoid its agonizing death within days.
  • gray - gene which causes gradual loss of hair pigment, making the hairs clear and colorless, which appears white.
  • mask - dark areas which may be present on the lower face (usually duns), upper face (brown or sooty colors), or entire head (grulla, usually).
  • mealy - lighter/flaxen muzzle; also possibly around eyes,  "armpits", belly, groin, or lower legs
  • overo - one of at least 3 pinto/paint genes that are not tobiano: sabino, overo, 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
  • pinto - most common word in English for horses with large (pigment free) white spots on a colored body
  • roan - gene causes white hairs throughout the body/trunk of the horse, while leaving the head, lower legs, mane & tail original color
  • roaming/roaned - white hairs scattered all over a horse with a sabino-paint/pinto gene, including the head, mane & tail.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • sootiness/smuttiness - dark to black hairs on top of another color, usually gathered together into particular areas forming "smudges"
  • splash - a form of pinto/paint that looks like the horse has been *dipped* into white. Can cause blue eyes.
  • tobiano - a form of pinto/paint where the horse looks like white has been *poured* onto it from above.

For an intro to color genetics, see THIS PAGE.

From old site, to be incorporated into sections above:

Albino - complete absence of pigment from skin and eyes.  Does not exist in the horse.

Amber Champagne - champagne on bay. Tan body with brown points, lighter legs, pink freckled skin, light brown eyes.

Bay - black based, with agouti gene, which restricts the black to the points, leaving the body red.

Bi-Color Mane or Tail - see Frosting.

Black - no agouti gene, entire body is black.  When not modified, no brown hairs are found on the muzzle or flanks.

Brown - mostly black with brownish muzzle and flanks, etc.

Buckskin - bay with one cream gene.  May have dorsal shading that looks a lot like a dun's dorsal stripe.

Buttermilk Buckskin - pale creamy body with black points

Buttermilk Dun - pale creamy body with black points and dun markings

Chestnut - red horse, black is restricted from entire coat.

Classic Champagne - champagne on solid black. Body, darker mane & tail look very dark taupe; pink freckled skin, light brown eyes.

Countershading - dark/black hairs where the sun would usually highlight the animal and lighter hairs where there would usually be dark shadows. See Sooty, Smutty, Mealy, & Pangare.

Cremello - two cream genes on chestnut.  Cream/flaxen all over, blue eyes, nearly pink skin.

Flaxen - ivory or extremely pale yellow to white.  Not normally used to describe pure white.  May be silvery as in a silver dapple's mane.

Frame - pinto pattern of white confined to the middle of the horses' body on each side, not crossing the back or belly or on the face, legs or feet.  Lethal when gene is doubled.

Frosting - m & t have light-to-white outside edges.

Gold Champagne - champagne on chestnut or sorrel.  Gold body, gold or flaxen m & t, pink freckled skin, green or light brown eyes.

Gray/Grey - horse is born any color, usually with at least a few white hairs around the eyes, goes gradually grey-then-white as it ages, with the points sometimes darkening markedly in the process.

Isabella, Isabelo - female & male very light Palomino; or any Palomino in parts of Europe.

Ivory Champagne - champagne on any base color plus at least one cream gene.  Cream body, m & t vary according to base color (never black, often frosted), pink freckled skin, blue, green or amber eyes.

Mealy - a lightening of the muzzle, lower flanks, belly, armpits, and lower legs.  Also called Pangare.

Overo - pinto other than Tobiano (sabino, frame, splash - did I miss any?)

Palomino - one cream gene on chestnut. Gold body, flaxen m & t.

Pangare - a lightening of the muzzle, lower flanks, belly, armpits, and lower legs.  Also called Mealy.

Perlino - two cream genes on bay. Cream body, darker m & t, blue eyes, nearly pink skin.

Roan - interspersing of white hairs mostly on body with face, m & t and legs remaining original color.

Roaning - intermingling of white hairs in any pattern, any place.

Sabino - pinto with any of the traits of jagged white socks/stockings, bold blaze usually extending below the chin, jagged or lacy spots from the belly extending up the sides; can cause entire horse to be white except a tiny, nearly invisible spot; roaning, from around the white spots only to covering the entire face, body and legs evenly, to nearly a white horse.

Silver, Silver Dapple - dilutes black body color slightly, and black m & t usually become mostly flaxen/silver; only affects black so cannot be seen in a red horse.

Smoky Black - solid Black with one cream gene.  Looks like anything from black to dark brown chestnut

Smoky Cream - solid black with two cream genes.  Believed to look much like a Perlino.

Smutty - areas of dark, usually black, hair, variously forming a topline (fuzzy dorsal), upper face mask, shoulder or hip patches, upper leg shadowing (imitation barring), intensifying dapples, and sometimes almost making the entire horse look black with brown shadows.  Can make a flaxen m & t dark.  Also called Sooty.

Sooty - areas of dark, usually black, hair, variously forming a topline (fuzzy dorsal), upper face mask, shoulder or hip patches, upper leg shadowing (imitation barring), intensifying dapples, and sometimes almost making the entire horse look black with brown shadows.  Can make a flaxen m & t dark.  Also called Smutty.

Sorrel - sometimes used for a light or golden chestnut; geneticists tend to use this term to describe a chestnut with the Pangare, or Mealy, lightening effect.

Splash - pinto with white coming up from below in smooth-edged large patches.  Often associated with blue eyes.

Tobiano - pinto with white crossing the back in usually predictable, smooth-edged patterns, white on legs and face is usual also.





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