Horse Colours and Markings

Many years ago, horse coats were probably a particular colour to give them camouflage to hide from predators in their wild surroundings. However, today, most horses have coats of different colours as a result of breeding. Some colours are dominant and some are recessive.

The Basic Horse Coat Colours

The overall colour of a horse isn't necessarily just the colour of it's body. A horse's tail, lower legs and mane are also factors in describing the overall colour of a horse.

  • Bay - has a reddish-brown body, with black lower legs, mane and tail
  • Dun - has black tail, man and legs, with a mouse or sandy coloured body
  • Brown - has a mixture of brown and black hairs over it's body with black mane, tail and legs
  • Chestnut - A browny-red horse with mane and tail to match
  • Blue roan - roans have white coloured hairs mixed with either black, chestnut or bay hairs, making them blue roan, strawberry roan or red roans respectively
  • Palomino - has a golden coloured body with even lighter tail and mane
  • Spotted - normally a grey horse with brown or black spots
  • Dappled grey - varying from white to dark grey, their pattern can be flea-bitten, plain or dappled
  • Skewbald - has a coat with large areas of white and brown. If the areas are black and white, it is called piebald

Face Markings of Horses

There are only two official types of white markings on a horse's face. These are:

  • A Star - a white mark above or between the eyes
  • A Stripe - any vertical white marking on the face

A wide white mark down the horse's nose is often referred to as a blaze, but officially it is actually a stripe which is the width of the frontal bones and extends to the nostrils.

Some horses will have both a star and stripe and some may have a freckled stripe!

Horse Leg Markings

The white markings on a horse's leg are normally described by the height of which the white markings reach up the leg. If the white extends to the fetlock joint, the marking is often called a 'sock'. If the white marking extends up the cannon, it is often referred to as a ' stocking'.


Nearly all horses have a brown pigmented iris in both of their eyes. If a horse has eyes with no pigment of a slight blue tint, they are called wall-eyes. Wall-eyes can make a horse look slightly unerring or wild but this has no reflection on their behaviour or character.


Horses hooves normally either have a creamy and pale horn, or a dark pigmented horn, or both. This makes for dark horn, pale horn or mixed horn hooves.