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horses and horsemanship
4-H HORSE PROGRAM
4-H HORSE PROGRAM
HORSES AND HORSEMANSHIP
This educational material has been prepared for 4-H use by the Cooperative Extension Services of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture and State Land-Grant Universities in cooperation with the National 4-H
Council and the American Quarter Horse Association.
Trade or brand names used in the publications are used only for the purpose of educational information.
The information given herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no
endorsement of products or breeds of horses by the Federal Extension Service or State Cooperative
Extension Services is implied, nor does it imply approval of products or breeds of horses to the exclusion
of others which may also be suitable.
This material was originally published by the National 4-H Council, 7100 Connecticut Avenue, Chevy
Chase, Maryland 20815.
Programs and educational materials supported by National 4-H Council; Extension Service, United
States Department of Agriculture; and all Cooperative Extension Services of the State Land-Grant
Universities are available to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin or
handicap. All are equal opportunity employers.
COLOR AND COLOR MARKINGS OF HORSES
A good horseman needs a working knowledge of horse
colors and patterns. The beginning horseman should
familiarize himself with the following descriptions of the
five basic horse coat colors and the five variations to
these colors. These descriptions will be helpful in
building the foundation for a working knowledge of
horse color characteristics.
The first and most important group is the basic coat
colors which are applicable to all horses. These color
terms are all commonly used. White feet may occur with
any basic coat color pattern.
I. FIVE BASIC HORSE COAT COLORS
The five basic horse coat colors are:
A short descriptive discussion of each of the colors
A) Bay A bay horse is one whose color is hardest to
describe, but easiest to distinguish. It is a mixture of red
and yellow, being probably as much the color of a loaf
of well-baked bread as anything. A light bay shows more
yellow, a dark bay more red. The darkest is the
mahogany bay, which is almost the color of blood, but
without the red overtone. Bays always have black points.
A red bay should never be confused with a chestnut, as
bays always have black manes and tails; chestnuts
always have red (or occasionally flax) manes and tails.
The body color of a mahogany bay and a chestnut can be
the same, but the mane and tail provide an easy method
B) Black A black horse almost invariably has black
eyes, hoofs, and skin. The points are always black. Tan
or brown hairs on the muzzle or flank indicates that the
horse is not a true black but a seal brown.
C) Brown A brown horse is one whose coloration is
brown. Many brown horses are mistakenly called black,
because they are so dark. A close examination of the
hair on the muzzle and around the lips will quickly tell
whether the horse is brown or black. The mane and tail
are always dark.
D) Chestnut (Sorrel) A chestnut is a horse whose
coat is basically red. His mane and tail are normally the
same shade as his body.
If the mane and tail are lighter in color than the body, the
horse is termed a flax or flaxen chestnut. The mane and
tail of a chestnut horse are never black. Chestnut color
varies from a bright yellowish red to a rich mahogany
E) White The true white horse is born pure white and
dies the same color. Very little, if any, seasonal change
takes place in his coat color. Age does not affect it.
The American Albino Horse Club, Incorporated of
Naper, Nebraska registers as "Albinos" white horses of
clear white body color, with brown eyes (rarely blue),
and pink skin. They also register as "Albinos Type A"
horses with a very pale ivory body color and white mane
and tail. Their eyes are blue and their skin is pink.
Geneticists classify a third group of light-colored horses
as 'Albinos Type B". Their body color is a very pale
cream; mane and tail darker than body (cinnamon-buff);
eyes blue. If during the life of a white horse, hairs of
color other than white are found, the chances are that the
horse is not white, but grey or roan.
II. FIVE MAJOR VARIATIONS TO
In addition to the five basic horse colors there are five
major variations to these coat colors. These are:
A) Dun (Buckskin)
A) Dun (Buckskin) The dun horse is one whose
dominant hair is some shade of yellow. A dun horse may
vary from a pale yellow to a dirty canvas color with
mane, tail, skin, and hoofs grading from white to black.
Duns always have a stripe down their back. There are
special colors of dun ranging from cream, the lightest,
through palomino color to duns with black points. A
coyote dun is one with black points and a black line. A
zebra dun is one with black points and a zebra stripe or
stripes on legs and withers. A red dun is a dun of reddish
orange cast often with a red stripe down his back and a
red mane and tail. In the Thoroughbred stud book, these
horses are listed as sorrels and sometimes ranchers refer
to them as claybanks.
Grullo (grew yo). This a dun horse, with roan
characteristics whose yellow hairs are mixed with brown
or black. They always have black points. They are a
smooth greyish-blue like a mouse, not a blue-roan or
grey as the color is more suave and always permanent.
Color and Color Markings of Horses.
STAR AND STRIPE
Some seem purple or smoke colored. Most are
back-lined and have zebra stripes on legs and withers.
B) Grey Most so-called white horses are really grey.
Many people even call an old grey horse an albino,
especially if it has light skin, hoofs, and one or more
white eyes. Born blue or almost black, more and more
white hairs come into this coat until by the age of 8 or 10
this horse will appear almost white. The dapple
generally comes between the second and fifth year.
Young grey horses are often called roan; when he has a
great deal of black still in his coat, he is called steel grey.
When small specks of black are present, he is flea-bitten;
when more white shows, it is silver grey.
C) Palomino The Palomino has body which is a
golden color, varying from bright copper color, to light
yellow, with white mane and tail. True Palominos have
no black points. The breed description lists the ideal
color to be that of a "newly minted coin."
D) Pinto (Calico or Paint) A pinto is a spotted horse
that has more than one color in or on his coat in large
irregular patches or spots. Small non-white spots, up to
the size of a silver dollar, embossed on a color other than
white, do not necessarily indicate a pinto. For example,
many chestnut horses have small black spots on their
rumps. A great deal of white on the upper legs or face is
a pretty good indication of pinto blood, as is any white
spot above the knees and hocks or outside the
rectangular area on the face outlined by the ears, eyes
E) Roan A roan horse is any horse whose coat carries
white hairs intermingled with one or more base colors.
Many are born and die about the same color. Whether a
horse is light roan or dark roan depends on the
proportions of white hairs in comparison to the colored.
Most roans are combinations of bay, chestnut, or black
with white hairs intermingled. They are known, in order,
as red, strawberry, or blue roan. The roan coloration is
generally not uniform and some patches on the body will
be darker than others.
III. VARIATIONS OF COLOR
PATTERNS OF HEAD AND POINTS
A) Head When discussing or describing an individual
horse among many, it is necessary to be more explicit
than merely using a general color term with a modifying
adjective. Instead of just saying a dark sorrel, it may be
necessary to say the dark sorrel with the blaze face.
1) Star Designates a small, clearly defined area of
white hairs on the forehead.
2) Snip A small patch of white which runs over
the muzzle, often to the lips.
3) Stripe A long narrow band of white working
from the forehead down toward the muzzle.
4) Blaze A white stripe down the face to the lips.
5) Bald Face One which has white over most of
the flat surface of the face, often extending toward
6) Eyes and Face Normally horses have a rich
brown eye with a black pupil, and no white shows
around the edge. When this coloration varies, many
adjectives are used to distinguish the difference.
When the eyeball is clear, some shade between
white and blue, he is normally termed China-eyed,
Glass-eyed, Cotton-eyed, or Blue-eyed. If one eye is
Color and Color Markings of Horses.
HALF STOCKING STOCKING
defective, he is called a Wall-eye. In some places,
Wall-eyed refers to the white in the face covering the
eye area. Orey- eyed is also used to denote a horse who
shows, because of fright, or because his pupil is overly
contracted, white around the rim.
7) A Mealy-mouthed horse is one whose color is
faded out around the mouth, and is found especially
in bays and browns. Occasionally this characteristic
is called mulish because so many mules are
1) Coronet a white strip covering the coronet
2) Pastern White extends from the coronet to and
including the pastern.
3) Ankle White extends from the coronet to and
including the fetlock.
4) Half Stocking White extends from the coronet
to the middle of the cannon.
5) Full Stocking white extends from the coronet
to and including the knee.
C) Mane and Tail Black points always indicate a dark
mane and tail, while white points or light points refer to
a light mane and tail.
1) Flax or flaxen, when applied to mane and/or
tail, indicates a straw yellow or dirty white. It is
normally caused by a mixture of dark hair in with
2) Silver is used to denote a mane or tail which is
white with a few black hairs giving it a silver cast.
3) True white manes and tails have only white
4) Rat-tailed is a horse having but little hair in its
OUTSIDE HEEL INSIDE HEEL
5) Broom-tailed or Bang-tailed is a horse with a
heavy, coarse tail.
IV. ADDITIONAL DESCRIPTIVE
There are a number of modifying adjectives used to
further describe horse coat colors. Those listed below
will be enough to cover most situations.
1) Black points black mane, tail and extremities.
2) Calico is the same as patched, although generally
applied to the livelier color combinations normally
found among pintos.
3) Cross designates the dark line over the withers
from side to side.
4) Dappled means darker spots are embossed on
5) Dark indicates a predominance of black hair or
deep color, with little yellow apparent.
6) Flea-bitten is a gray or roan horse having small
black or blue specks or spots on a predominantly
7) Golden refers to the sheen which, when the light
strikes certain shades of dun, chestnut, and bay,
makes them seem translucent and golden.
8) Light indicates a predominance of yellow or
9) Line-back means a darker ribbon which goes
along the back from the mane to the tail. The line
may be almost any color, although red and black are
10) Patched indicates large roan spots on some
11) Piebald black and white spotting only.
12) Pure indicates uniformity, clarity, and depth of
Color and Color Markings of Horses.
13) Ratty indicates lack of uniformity in color a
dull, dirty tone.
14) Ray line found along the back of some horses.
15) Red-speckled is a grey or roan horse having
bay or chestnut specks or spots on a predominantly
16) Skewbald any color except black, with white.
17) Smoky means a blue tinge to the color; it is an
18) Striped indicates black-stripes or bars on the
19) Spotted indicates spots of solid color on some
20) Toasted implies darker patches, dull finish, or
21) Zebra always means dark stripes on the legs
If the categories of terms listed in this topic are learned
and properly used, no one needs to worry about his
ability to describe or identify a horse properly.
DRAW OR PASTE A PICTURE OF YOUR HORSE HERE.
Color and Color Markings of Horses.
1. This document is 4HHSG02, one of a series of the 4-H Youth Development Program, Florida Cooperative
Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Printed. Please visit the
FAIRS Website at http://hammock.ifas.ufl.edu.
2. Don Wakeman, M. Koger, and J. R. Crockett, University of Florida; John Moore, J. E. Havens, Washington
State University, Debbie Glauer, member of 4-H Animal Science Design Team, Department of Family, Youth
and Community Science, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,
University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.
, UNIVERSITY OF
Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES, Christine
Taylor Waddill, Director, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this information to further the purpose
of the May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and is authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only
to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, age, sex, handicap or national origin. The information in this
publication is available in alternate formats. Single copies of extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available
free to Florida residents from county extension offices. Information on copies for out-of-state purchase is available from Publications
Distribution Center, University of Florida, PO Box 110011, Gainesville, FL 32611-0011. Information about alternate formats is available from
Educational Media and Services, University of Florida, PO Box 110810, Gainesville, FL 32611-0810. This information was published
December 1989, Florida Cooperative Extension Service.