Coat colours of horses

A good horse has no colour, says an old equestrian proverb. Of course, the colour of a horse's coat does not influence whether it is well suited for dressage or show jumping or whether the horse can become an intrepid leisure partner. And yet horse breeding produces a rich palette of horse colours and many a horse lover nevertheless chooses his horse according to colour or excludes horses of some colours when choosing a new partner. Which coat colours exist at all? Is it possible to breed horses in such a way that a certain coat colour comes out? This article gives you an overview of all coat colours of horses.



Foxes are a dime a dozen, as they say in the equestrian world. The light brown horses with the same coloured coat are indeed often seen on the pastures and in the stables of Germany. However, not all sorrels are the same. A distinction can be made between the horse coat colours light chestnut, dark chestnut, copper chestnut, red chestnut, cabbage chestnut and sweat chestnut.

When talking about a brown horse, not the whole horse is brown, but only the coat colour, whereas mane and tail are black. If the horse is brown, the legs are black up to above the carpal and hock joints, and the black colouring also predominates in the face. Brown horses are also relatively common. A dark bay has a darker brown coat colour with a cape of the same colour.

The terms black and grey are not only known among horse lovers. Laymen often use these terms incorrectly, they speak of a "black black horse" or a "white grey horse", whereby horse people often have to smile a little because of this duplication. A black horse has a black coat as well as a black longhair. However, in addition to the year-round black horses, there are also horses that have a reddish or brownish coat in winter, the so-called summer black horses. Winter black horses are only black in winter and change to a reddish, brownish or greyish coat in summer. Black horses are not only popular in the equestrian world but also in the world of advertising, because they express dynamism and power to such an extent that, for example, car advertisements like to have a black horse gallop alongside the off-road vehicle to be purchased. In addition, the series stars Fury and Black Beauty were black horses.

The grey horse is also a popular advertising model, usually in connection with a fairytale magic world. Grey horses can have all kinds of colours as foals before they become whiter and whiter over time, i.e. they become mouldy. This is caused by the Grey gene, a mutation of the STX17 gene. This Grey mutation also causes an increased susceptibility to melanoma, a tumour-like growth that is usually benign in grey horses. The melanomas that can only affect mould are also called mould melanomas. Some horse lovers avoid grey horses because of these lumps, but also because dirt on them is more noticeable and their coat quickly turns yellowish, especially if they have been lying in manure.

Furthermore, the grey horse may have special patterns, such as outlined circles on a rather light coat. Such a patterned horse is called an apple grey. If the white coat has innumerable small black spots, it is called a fly grey. The trout mould is similar to the fly mould, but the small spots are brown or reddish. Often normal moulds turn into fly moulds or trout moulds when they get older. It is not clear why this phenomenon exists. In Spanish horses, such as the Andalusian or the Lipizzaner, horses of this colour predominate, and the French Camargue horses have exclusively the white coat colour.

Pinto horses were a speciality a decade ago, now almost every boarding stable herd contains one or more pinto horses. If the pinto horse combines black and white patches, it is called a black pinto. However, piebalds are possible in all basic colours, such as chestnut piebalds and brown piebalds. Pied is a disorder in which certain areas of the horse's skin are not stimulated to form colour and then form white hairs. It cannot be controlled, but occurs randomly.

The dun horse is caused by a dominant gene called Dun factor. This lightens the coat of the horse. A black horse becomes a black dun, or a grey dun, a bay becomes a brown dun and a chestnut becomes a red dun. If a black and bay horse is involved, the mouse dun is produced. dun horses have an eel line, the head is usually darker, as are the legs.

The Palomino horse is recognised as a horse breed, although strictly speaking the Palomino is only one of the horse coat colours. The Palomino horse breed is not uniform in appearance, as breeding horses is not about the exterior, but about the special colour of these horses. The coat colour is an isabelline gold tone, the poll is flaxen or silvery white. The name was probably derived from Don Juan de Palomino, who was given some of these beautiful horses by Queen Isabella of Spain. The most famous horse of this colour is the stallion Bamboo Harvester, who is however better known as "Mr. Ed".

Besides these quite well-known horse colours, there are also horse colours that are defined by mixing coloured hair with white hair. These horse colours are called "spiky haired", or the horses are called roan, brown or blue depending on the mixed colours of the hairs.Brindle, Lacing and Mosaic Pattern are very rare horse colours. In the Brindle, the horse resembles a brindle Boxer. A Brindle horse has lighter or darker stripes on the base colour. These stripes are mainly found on the neck and rump, but they can also be spread over the whole body. The lacing colouring is even rarer than the brindle horse. Here the lines on the horse's back have the shape of giraffe spots. As these lines are white, they are reminiscent of the regrowing coat of a fungal infection. However, they are born this way as foals, so that there can be no connection between the lacing colouring and fungal infestation. Extremely rare is a piebald pattern without white markings, also called mosaic pattern. Here the coat colours of the horse are brown and black, brown coat with black spots. Only very few of these Mosaic patterned horses are known, for example the Icelandic mare Miljon fra Grund. Since both parents and all siblings of this Icelandic mare are normally coloured, it is assumed that this unusual coat colouration is the result of a mutation that cannot be reproduced.

The colours of horses are varied and colourful. But no matter if your horse is a dun horse, a grey horse, a piebald horse, a black horse, a palomino horse or your horse is an apple grey or has a very unusual pattern, in the end it is the character that counts more. Because a good horse has no colour.