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Colours & Patterns


Horses and ponies have only two colour pigments, Black and Red . All the different coat colours we can see are a result of the various combinations of genes that affect these two colours. There are four base coat colours Chestnut, Black, Bay and Brown. Bay and Brown are modified Blacks.

All genes come in pairs, so it is possible for a horse/pony to have a variety of matched pairs of genes called homozygous (double) or mismatched pairs of genes called heterozygous (single). Some colour genes have a visible effect on the coat while other genes are hidden and have little or no visible effect on the base colour. Two horses/ponies can look exactly the same colour but they can be different genetically and will breed differently.

The silver/taffy gene has little or no visible effect on the chestnut coat except for the mane and tail. The mane and tail of a chestnut can be lightened from a mix of light and chestnut through to a complete silver white. Black is modified by the silver/taffygene and the effect is complete and the entire coat is affected often with the extreme affect of a silver white mane and tail. As bay has a combination of red and black hairs the black hair is effected but the red hair is not.

The heterozygous (single) dilute gene, cream has little or no visible effect on the black or brown coat, but it modifies the chestnut coat to the colour palomino. The homozygous (double) cream gene modifies both black and chestnut coats to white or near white.

Some genes have partial or incomplete effects such as the gene that modifies the body colour black, to a bay or brown while the mane, tail and legs are unaffected and remain black. The same gene has little or no visible effect on the colour chestnut. There is no visible difference between the homozygous (double) bay and the heterozygous (single) bay.

The dilute gene dun partially affects both chestnut and black coats in the same way. The body coat is faded leaving the head, legs, dorsal stripe, mane and tail the original colour. There is no visible difference between the homozygous (double) dun and the heterozygous (single) dun.

Foal coats are often very deceptive; the colour they are born can change dramatically as they mature. Often foals are born with varing amounts of very pale or white hair on the legs, around the stifles and on the belly. This pale hair is often mistaken for socks and other markings.


Chestnut varying shades of red from very dark almost chocolate, to a light almost gold. Chestnut bred to chestnut will always produce a chestnut.

Black has two types, fading and non-fading. Non-fading blacks are born black and remain black, while fading blacks are born a smokey colour and vary in shade at maturity. Blacks can be homozygous (double) or heterozygous (single). Homozygous black bred to homozygous black will always produce black. Heterozygous black bred to heterozygous black can produce chestnut.

Bay varying shades of red to brown, from very dark almost black to very light almost buckskin with black points (mane, tail, legs, ear tips).

Brown almost black or brown coat with lighter parts.


Cream dilute genes lighten the chestnut colour to gold or cream with extreme lightening of the mane and tail. Homozygous (double) cream with chestnut produces cremello. Cream is a colour gene that does not dilute black pigment until present as a homozygous or double cream where it produces the smokey cream.

Dun dilute genes lighten chestnut and black. All duns have a dorsal stripe, but not all horses that have dorsal stripes are duns. This gene can also create a variety of primitive marks. Black Dun is called Grullo/a depending on sex ("a" is for female).

Silver, or Silver Dapple (Taffy) is not necessary dappled or silver. Unrelated to dapple-grey. Dilutes black pigment including an extreme lighting of the mane & tail. The silver gene is often accompanied by hoof striping. Foals are often born with white eyelashes.

Champagne dilute gene lightens both chestnut and black colour, the skin is pink and freckled. Foals are born with blue eyes that change to amber/brown at maturity.


Grey is born coloured. Progressively whitening with age.

Spotted patterns come in a wide variety often changing from birth to maturity. May be born solid and spot out. Spotted characteristics include sclera, striped hooves & mottled skin.

Tobiano large, usually regular, patches of white hair. White often crosses the spine, commonly four white legs.

Roan the body coat is a mix of light and dark hair, solid head and legs, mane & tail may be mixed with white hair.

White pure white coat, dark eyes

Frame Overo
white, often irregular, markings on the sides, usually surrounded by a frame of colour. Most frames have solid coloured legs, manes and tails.

markings give the appearance of being dipped in white paint. Usually bald face, blue eyes, four white legs, belly splash and a white tail.

Sabino often a roany, speckled pattern, usually solid colour over the backbone, white legs. Extreme sabinos can be pure white, not to be mistaken with lethal white foals, which die within two to three days of birth.

Chestnut + Cream Palomino Gold/Cream Coat White Mane & Tail
Chestnut + Silver/Taffy Silver/Taffy Chestnut Chestnut Coat Silver, Light or Mixed Mane & Tail
Chestnut + Dun Apricot Dun Apricot Coat Shaded Head, Chestnut Legs, Dorsal Stripe, Mane & Tail
Chestnut + Champagne Gold Champagne Gold/Cream Coat White Mane & Tail, Freckled Pink Skin
Chestnut + Double Cream Cremello White or Pale Cream Coat Mane & Tail
Palomino + Silver/Taffy Silver/Taffy Palomino Gold/Cream Coat White Mane & Tail
Palomino + Dun Cream Dun Light Cream Coat Shaded Head, Legs, Dorsal Stripe, White Mane & Tail
Palomino + Champagne Gold Cream Champagne Gold/Cream Coat White Mane & Tail, Freckled Pink Skin
Black + Cream Smokey Black Black Coat Mane & Tail
Black + Silver Silver/Taffy Silver Coat White/Silver or Mixed Mane & Tail
Black + Dun Blue Dun or Grullo/a Slate Coat Shaded Head, Black Legs, Dorsal Stripe, Mane & Tail
Black + Champagne Classic Champagne Lilac Tan Coat Dark Lilac Tan Legs, Freckled Pink Skin
Black + Double Cream Smokey Cream Light Smokey Cream Coat Mane & Tail
Black + Double Silver/Taffy Homozygous Silver White Coat Mane & Tail Dark Eyes
Brown + Dun Mouse Dun Muddy Brown Coat Shaded Head, Darker Legs, Mane & Tail
Brown + Champagne Sable Champagne Tan Coat Dark Legs, Freckled Pink Skin
Bay + Cream Buckskin Gold/Cream Coat Black Legs, Mane & Tail
Bay + Dun Red Dun Light Red Coat Shaded Head and Dorsal Stripe, Chocolate Legs Silver Mixed Mane & or Tail,
Bay + Champagne Amber Champagne Golden Tan Coat Dark Brown Legs, Mane & Tail, Freckled Pink Skin
Bay + Double Cream Perlino White or Pale Cream Coat Mane & Tail.
Buckskin + Silver/Taffy Silver/Taffy Buckskin Cream Coat Chocolate Legs, White or Mixed Mane & Tail
Buckskin & Dun Buckskin Dun Light Cream Coat Shaded Head, Legs and Dorsal Stripe. Dark Mixed Mane & Tail
Buckskin + Champagne Amber Cream Gold/Cream Coat Dark Legs, Mane & Tail, Freckled Pink Skin

Useful Colour Sites