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Horse Articles :: Horse Colors

Horse Colors

What color is a horse? The words for a horse's coat color have very specific meanings.

A bay horse has a body coat that is a shade of brown with black legs, mane, and tail. Within the bay group, there are blood bays which is a more dark reddish shade of brown and bright bays which can look a golden brown. There are also black bays, which might appear to most people as a black horse. Truly black horses are a more rare color.

Most horses that you might think look black are black bays, which is a very dark brown. You will see lighter colored hair between the hind legs and tummy area and around the muzzle. This makes them black bays instead of black horses. People also call this seal brown.

A chestnut horse has a coat that is a shade of red, while the legs, mane, and tail may be lighter or darker than the body, or the same color, but never black. A chestnut horse can be any shade of red, reddish-brown, or orangey-red. A very dark brownish red with no black on the legs, mane, or tail is known as liver chestnut. It is a more rare color. Sorrel is another word for a light chestnut color.

Grey horses have black skin with white or gray hair. A grey horse might look white, but if its skin is dark, it is a grey. Grey horses are born a dark color, such as black or brown, and their coat grows lighter as they grow older. There are light grey, dapple grey, flea-bitten grey, and steel grey variations in coloring. A white horse must have pink skin, which is more rare than grey horses.


Dun horses have a sandy yellow to reddish brown coat. Their legs are usually darker than their body and they sometimes have faint zebra stripes on their legs. Dun horses always have a dark stripe down the middle of their back along their back bone, known as a dorsal stripe.

Sometimes the dorsal stripe continues down the horse's tail and through the mane. Many dun colored horses also have face masking, which makes the horse's nose and sometimes the rest of the face a darker color than the horse's body.

A buckskin horse has a sandy yellow or tan color with black legs, mane, and tails. Buckskins are similar looking to duns, except that buckskins do not have a dorsal stripe or other primitive markings that are seen in duns.

Palomino horses have gold-colored coat with a white or light cream colored mane and tail. A palomino coat can range from a light off-white shade to a deep shade of gold.

Roan horses have white hairs mixed with a body color to produce blue roan, which is roan mixed with black, red roan, which is roan and bay, and strawberry or rose roan, which roan and chestnut.

There are other white body markings and spots that can affect the horse color to be a Paint or an Appaloosa, which also have breed registries just for them.

So next time you see a brown or black horse, look carefully - What color is the horse?

About Author
Jennifer Allbright writes for which provides information to new-comers on caring for, riding, and showing horses. The site offers a wide range of information from safety around horses and resources for horse items to specifics about dressage training and showing.










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