Quarter Horses Colors That All Budding Equestrians Absolutely Adore!

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Jan 24, 2024 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Nov 23, 2021
Edited by Sarah Nyamekye
Fact-checked by Pratiti Nath
American Quarter horse in farm.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.2 Min

Every horse lover has a favorite horse color of his or her own.

Several conclusions have been drawn regarding a horse's coat color affecting its abilities. We have referred to the most recent discovery regarding their colors and abilities.

The horses have three base colors and some variations of those colors. There are four color variations of a bay horse; they are blood bay (also known as red bay), dark bay, mahogany bay, and brown. The dark bay is also referred to as the black bay. Most often, the horse described as a brown horse is either a bay or chestnut horse.

There are three main variations of the chestnut base color; they are light chestnut, liver chestnut, and flaxen chestnut. The pale reddish horse without any trace of black or brown is of the light chestnut variation, while the liver chestnut variation has a very dark red coat. The flaxen chestnut is characterized by a blonde mane and tail. There's only one type of horse whose black body color does not fade into brown color; it is the blue-black horse. A black horse bleached in the sun is still called a black horse even though its skin turns dark bay or brown.

If you are interested in more such articles on horses, keep on reading the articles on horse daily sleep and how to tame a horse facts too.

Rarest Color Of A Horse

There are many horse colors that have become very rare recently as the horse breeds are being modified continuously. However, according to the researchers, there are two breed colors that were found commonly once but have become one of the rarest in the present day. They are the brindle-colored horses and the true white or the albino horses.

Both the true white horses and the brindle horses have become rare at present, especially the true white horses with the W gene are the hardest to find. Most of the white horses that we have seen in our life were actually light gray horses that appeared white. A true white or an albino horse is the one that had the W gene. They lack any coloring pigment. There is another variant of the albino horse called the Cremello horse; they have a pinkish tinge on different parts of the body. Even they have become one of the rarest at present.

The brindle horses are also very rare currently. They are differently textured horses, with no two brindle horses having been found to have the same body pattern. This rare species has two sets of DNA that control the two body colors. The brindle color was found mostly in quarter horse breeds. This unusual characteristic of the brindle horses makes them one of the most extraordinary horses of history.

How do horses get their coat color?

Horses get their skin color mainly from two pigments. One is responsible for the black color, and the other one gives the red color. The white color in Albino horses is due to the lack of pigment in their body. The pinkish tinge coming off the body of a white horse is due to the blood vessels running under the skin of the horse.

Black is the dominant color in American quarter horses, and red is the recessive color. A black-based horse is any type of horse having black color over any part of its body, including legs, ears, mane, and tail. The presence of a single homozygous gene in the body of a horse is responsible for the black color.

A pure black horse consists of two homozygous genes. A red horse does not have any homozygous gene in its body. They do not have any black on their body, not even on the mane and tail. The red color of the horses ranges from yellow to dark red. The sorrel and the chestnut horses are variations of the red horses. Sometimes the brown horses appear so dark that they look like the black ones. However, the brown or tan hairs give away their original identity.

Quarter Horse Markings And Color Genetics

The quarter horse color depends entirely on the genes and body color of its parent breeds. To determine the body color of the foals, you have to have some idea about the basic horse color genetics and marking. American quarter horses have 17 recognized colors; they are white, grullo, bay roan, buckskin, chestnut, black, sorrel, gray, palomino, bay, cremello, dun, perlino, red dun, blue roan, red roan, and brown.

There are two more colors-smoky black and smoky cream-but they are not included in the list produced by American Quarter Horse Association or the AQHA. All of these colors of American quarter horses are simply the diluted versions of two base colors, black and red. Most of the horse's coat colors are either black-based or red-based and are considered to be the modifications of these two colors.

The body color of all horses either comes from two basic pigments, one of them gives the black body color to the American quarter horses, and the other one is responsible for the red color of the American quarter horse breed.

An American quarter horse exhibiting the color black on any part of thier body like the ears, legs, mane, and tail, including an all-black horse, is termed as a black-based horse. The breed of American quarter horse has no black point on its body even if the mane and tail appear dark. The black-based colors are buckskin, bay, black, grullo, dun bay roan, brown, blue roan, and perlino. The red-based horse colors can be classified into chestnut, palomino, sorrel, cremello, red dun, and red roan. Some black horses appear brown as their coat color fades in the sun; however, genetically, they remain black. The most common color of the foals is sorrel.

American Quarter horse ranch horses in the dry area.

Base Horse Colors

There are three base colors in horses that are accepted universally. They are chestnut or sorrel horses, black horses, and bay horses. These three colors originate from two basic pigments colors, red or reddish-brown and black.

The body color of a bay horse ranges from reddish light-brown to rich chocolate dark brown. Their mane and tail are black in color.

The base color sorrel or a red horse is a reddish coat without any trace of black. The mane and tail also have a lighter or a darker shade of chestnut color.

A pure black horse is an uncommon one, although not rare. A black horse either has a single copy or has two copies of the black gene known as homozygous. On being exposed to sunlight for a long time, the skin of most black horses will turn brown.

Other Acceptable Color Dilutions

Now that we are accustomed to the base colors of a horse, there are some breeds that show complex color dilutions. The color diluted variations are lighter versions of the base colors. The horses having basic skin color has a dark coat color. The lightened colored variations have much lighter bodies because of the dilution of the dark base colors. Some acceptable color dilutions in horses are buckskin, champagne, cremello, and dun.

The buckskin is a diluted version of the bay variation. It consists of only one cream-colored gene, which lightens the body color to yellow, golden, or cream while the mane and tail remain black. The champagne color is produced by a gene other than the cream. It gives a metallic tinge to the horse's body. They have mottled skin and light eyes. The champagne color lightens both the skin and hair color.

A cremello horse consists of two cream genes that wash out all the dark colors of the chestnut genes. They sometimes appear as white horses, but they are not actually white. They are pale cream or light tan in color and have blue eyes.

Dun horses have a yellow or tan coat with markings on its body. The markings are referred to as dun markings. The mane and tail are darker than the body. The markings vary from a single dorsal stripe to a fainter version of zebra-like vertical stripes.

The dun has several variations under them, and they are blue dun, red dun, zebra dun or bay dun, and buckskin dun. The blue dun is a horse with a black base and a dun gene. They look like gray-colored horses. The base color of the red dun is chestnut which, when mixed with the dun gene, appears tan or pale yellow. The bay dun also has classic yellow or tan skin of the dun. A buckskin dun is a type of dun that carries the cream gene; they have a pale gold coat with black mane and tails.

Equine Color And Genetic Testing Labs

The field of equine genetics is continuously evolving. Many researchers are working in this rapidly developing field to discover many new facts about a horse's color and genetic. Numerous testing labs are also being established for DNA testing of the horses.

A quick and easy genetic testing of the horse helps in the verification of the horse's parentage and speeds up the process of registration. This helps in identifying and choosing smarter breeds. Once you know the diseases that your horse is carrying with the help of DNA testing, you can easily pick the genes yourself. It also helps in preventing genetic diseases in breeds by letting you select the healthy and potential genes for your foals. It is an easy and cost-effective process that will help to determine the right genes for your horse.

Does the color of a horse matter?

There's an old saying that states that a good horse can never come in bad colors. However, whether the body color of a horse affects other aspects like racing is a debated topic.

Recently a study regarding the horses noted a potential link between the performance of a cold-blooded trotter and pangare coloring, also known as the mealy coloring. A pangare colored horse is characterized by a light muzzle, flanks, eye area, and belly area.

The gene combination for the pangare coloring is also responsible for the good racing capabilities of a horse. The TT phenotype and the CC phenotype of the horse are associated with superior racing abilities and are found separately in many high-performance breeds. A combination of two T's and two C's phonotypes are found in mealy colored trotters, making them one of the best performers in racing.

Some also say that the prices of a horse also depend on their body color, and this fact has been verified by some regular buyers. Most of the experienced buyers seem to agree on the fact that the price of a horse also depends on its body color, and most of them are not in favor of this price discrimination. According to them, a horse's pricing should always be based on its racing capabilities and physical strength and not on something as petty as color.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for quarter horse colors then why not take a look at the most expensive horse breed or quarter horse facts.

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

Read full bio >
Read the DisclaimerFact Correction