Thursday, July 9, 2009

Equine Color Conspiracy Theory!

(Bay Roan)

Okay, so it's not a conspiracy theory but I do wonder what some people are thinking when they fill out the registration papers of their foal. Or the info in a sales ad....
(I say this is a bay roan but have listed her as "questionable")

If it is one thing I've learned through years of horsey window shopping and through my obsessive compulsive need to research pedigrees and bloodlines (like they are my own person crossword puzzles) it is that one should never assume that the registered color of a horse is accurate.
Determining the true color of a foal can be confusing at the best of times and so very often horses are registered inaccurately.
(Bay Roan)

I understand that. I also understand that some horses are really difficult to classify...

(TRUE blue roan)
I've mentioned before how often I see horses that are listed for sale as some color that they are not.... Blue Roans, grullas or Blacks that are really gray, Palominos that are sorrel with (barely) flaxen mane and tail, buckskins that are dun, duns that are buckskins and duns/buckskins that are simply bay. Not to mention the black or brown (dark bay) issue....or bay roan/blue roan! I don't mean to come across as a know it all...sometimes I cant determine what color a horse is or have mistaken one for another, especially when it comes to paints.
But in my mind some should be simple. And yet are still mistaken.


And then there is the registration end of things.... I imagine that with the number of horses that AQHA has to process in a year they can hardly take a hard look at every paper that comes across their desk...but I do wonder how it is that people get away with registering a horse as buckskin out of two sorrel parents. I've seen it. Far more often than you might think.
For some there is a simple explanation- a sooty buckskin that was registered as a bay goes on to produce a palomino foal... that kind of thing.
(Bay Roan)

Whenever I research the pedigree of a horse I like to go back three generations to make sure the colors match up to the real color of a horse.
(Bay Roan)
Just this evening I found a nice black looking mare for sale. Upon further research I discovered that her dam is actually a perlino (there was a picture to prove it.) and as such this mare MUST be a smokey black (must care the creme gene). Imagine someones shock had they bought that mare and bred her to a stud with a creme gene (palomino or buckskin) and unknowingly produced a cremello/perlino!
When AQHA or APHA processed her papers, did they not see that one of her parents was a perlino and therefore it would be pertinant information to have her registered as.... BUT WAIT!! AQHA does not classify a horse specifically as smokey black (black horse with the creme gene), nor a dunalino (horse with dun and creme gene)... You'd think that noting the cream gene on a horses papers would be fairly important... but apparently not!
Now it's sure a good thing that those AQHA papers determine if a horse is chestnut or sorrel (genetically the same) or bay or brown (also the same). *note the sarcasm*


The color issuereally isnt important in the long run! A good horse is a good horse, no matter what the color! And dispite the old wise tales the color of a horse says little about it's health.

But the truth is that the color of a horse can effect it's value.

And so I wonder at the motive behind the results of a little experiment I ran this evening...

I entered a dreamhorse search for a:

3 year old or over, BLUE ROAN AQHA or APHA horse.

This yielded 151 results.

The first page of the results showed 30 horses.

Of those 30 horses:

Only 10 appear to be TRUE BLUE roans. A true blue roan is a black horse with a roan gene. The do not have brown noses or a rose hue to their body. They have black legs and black faces.

10 appear to be BAY roans. A bay roan is a bay horse with a roan gene. These horses have black legs, a brown hue to their body and usually dark heads with brown noses.

4 appear to be GRAY. A blue roan does not have roaning on his face, especially not between the eyes (excluding a star or blaze.)

6 appear questionable...the pictures do not show enough to tell one way or the other but I highly suspect that they are not true Blue Roans.


All of the pictures in this post are from the first 30 of my search results.

More on this coming up next!


  1. I wouldn't want to have to fill out the papers to assign a foal a color — especially Appies. They seem to change every other day. Jaz was black when he was a foal. Sometimes I go to my friend's place and don't even recognize certain horses because their coats have changed so much.

    Poco changes colors. He's a bay roan Appy — has all the characteristics. In the summer he's the color of rocky road ice cream. In the winter, he's silvery roan.

    Enjoyed the post about paints. Found myself doing the nose/toes thing yesterday LOL!

  2. I've been enjoying your posts about horse color. It's not something I know a lot about - I come from a H/J background and we're bay, bay, bay, bay, chestnut, bay, bay, bay, bay, pinto, bay, bay, bay - you get the idea! We do have an overo pony - who's a true champagne with the amber eyes - so I've got the O/T distinction down. But the roaning thing is a mystery to me, although I think the horses are beautiful. What books/resources do you think are the best on horse colors and genetics?

  3. I've known of some horses who were registered one color and actually another. I know why people do it too, because my dad did the same thing a few times. He registered my old mare as a buckskin...because buckskins sell better than duns. I told him I thought that was freaking dumb because anyone could see she was a classic dun. He just laughed and told me, "You'd be surprised at how dumb some people are. If the papers say she is buckskin, they will believe she is buckskin."
    But let me tell you, it was a mess trying to register Moon, because I registered him as a dun and the AQHA blew up and said it was not possible for a "buckskin" and a sorrel to produce a dun. I had to take pictures of both of them and for good measure sent in a picture of Woofer's mother, who was also dun. It got straightened out but was a PITA.

    The AQHA also only has 2 roan colors-red roan and blue roan listed as options on the registration papers. So all of the Bay Roans and Strawberry roans are lumped together as Red Roans.

    So now that people are breeding funky things like Palomino and Buckskin roans...I wonder how you would register them? Or the guy up the road who has a gray stud and is breeding for things like Gray Buckskins, Gray Palominos and Gray Grullos?

  4. Awesome post today!
    I have that issue with my horse, I've given up and now refer to him as what ever I feel like. One day he can be a "dun" and the next he can be a "buckskin." Or I just call him a dun buckskin.
    I had thought that becuase he has the list/dorsal stripe that he was technically a dun, but his coat is so so so light gold that Im ALSO told that he could be classified as a buckskin. He's not registered, he's just my little grade horse, so really, I don't know what to call him. His ear tips are dark brown/black, and his legs are all black with zebra stripes.
    Is dun-buckskin a good term? I'll just stick with that...:)

  5. Good job on the post chickie!!

    AQHA does now allow for the designation of "Bay Roan" but I still don't like the "buckskin roans" stuck into that category because they are simple not.

  6. simply - you know what I meant.

  7. Casey is a smokey black. Now that it's summer, I actually wonder if he's a black bay (dark bay) as he's browner and clearly has black stockings and white socks. Clearly has tall, black stockings. However, he's registered as "black".

    Really, if I were some official, I'm not sure I'd believe that he's the same horse as the one described on his papers.

  8. OH this is a fun post!! I LOVE colors and trying to find out what color horses are. I have learned a lot since breeding my "brown" mare to a cremello!! Talk about funky colored baby!! But I think a lot of people get it wrong. I had a person tell me that this mare we were looking at couldn't be a buckskin be cause she didn't have a dorsal stripe or leg baring. I just looked at him like he was nuts!! Buckskins don't have those things silly, duns do!! It's amazing how many really smart horse people have no idea about colors. The horse we were talking about was actually a sooty buckskin. I had a bay roan and he was registered with APHA as a blue roan. Registries just don't offer a lot of different color options!

  9. Funny timing! My friend and I were debating what color her horse is because she calls him a brown but he's something weird like a grullo or a strange dun. My horse is actually listed as brown on her papers but I think she's bay. What exactly is the difference between a brown and a dark bay? The cremello stuff is strange (in my mind) and not something I'd have ever thought of. Also, what's up with the rabicano (totally spelled wrong) - why is that so trendy now?

  10. Fascinating post, Chelsi. The whole genetic color thing can be so confusing.


  11. Oh...and one question...what colors make up a buttermilk buckskin? And is that a newer color? It sure is pretty, but doesn't seem very common.


  12. It's like haflingers. They're not really chestnut, they're not really palomino and some can be close to a dun colour. When people ask me what colour Niels is, I just say he's haflinger colour!

  13. Leah- I havent even tried try to figure out the Appy color thing!! Yikes!

    Kate- I left you a message on your blog with reference to a post I did on color genetics...

    BECG- Your dad was right. It is surprising how many horse people dont have a clue and will pay the extra dollar for color. I just happen to have an interest in it but before I got started I didnt have any idea how the colors worked. I guess its just not important....but as a breeder I would want to know what I was producing and some dont. I'm glad to hear that AQHA caught the dun thing...though sorry it caused you grief.

    N.Dun- I answered your question on your blog but will here again for Lisa.

    Stephanie- I agree. And you are right, there is a bay roan category. I think AQHA needs a serious over hall to their color selection.

    Oregon- I think that the creme gene on a black horse only lightens the body to a smokey (sometimes browny) color, so that makes sense.

    Andrea- I agree, it is surprising and there needs to be more color selection to make room for the fact that people are breeding and paying for "weird" colors. I love a really sooty buckskin!

    Country Girl- A brown and a bay are basically genetically the same thing. It is like someone with dark blue eyes vs. those with pale blue eyes. Bay horses are black horses with a bay gene...just like the creme gene lightens the body to varying degrees (sooty buckskin vs buttermilk buckskin) so does the bay gene (dark brown vs blood bay).

    Some Grullas and duns are hard to recognize as they can be very dark. Look for dun factor like zebra stripes on the legs, a dark patch over the wither or some markings on his face. Or, send in for a test to UCDavis, it is cheaper than you'd think...under $100.

    Lisa- Buttermilk duns are most often dun horses (carry dun gene) that also have the creme gene (that makes buckskins and palominos). They are called dunskins. There is no way to determine, besides a genetic test if they are a true dunskin.

    eggb4- I LOVE haflingers. Luck you that you have one! I actually did a post a while back on haflingers...

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