Equine Color Genetics

UPDATE NOTE: As of September 2014, I am slowly giving this website a much needed overhaul. I started this site back in 2002, and since then, our knowledge of horse color genetics has grown by leaps and bounds. Many more people are familiar with the basics now, but the purpose of these pages will continue to be to give an easy-to-understand overview of the workings of horse color genetics. I have a ton of new content and edits I'm planning to make, so please check back!

Please excuse any messy coding. It's just temporary. :)

Also, I'm always interested in seeing pix of unusually colored horses, so feel free to email me if you have a unique picture to share or a question to ask. Thanks!


The Basics of Horse Color:

Original pages here: One, Two, Three, Four (The info may be slightly out of date while I work on rewriting and reorganizing this site.)

  • The basics of genetics: genes vs alleles; dominant, recessive, and incomplete dominants
  • Base Colors (chestnut and black; rethinking bay)
  • Dilution Genes (cream, dun, silver, champagne, pearl)
  • Suspected Dilutions (light black, mushroom, etc -- under construction)
  • Grey
  • White Patterning
  • KIT: Roan, Tobiano, Sabino 1, Dominant White
  • Splash
  • Frame Overo
  • Manchado
  • Combined Patterns (Tovero)
  • Appaloosa Patterns (varnish, blanket, leopard, snowcap, and few spot)
  • Oddities (rabicano, sooty, pangare, brindle, Birdcatcher spots, chubari spots, Bend Or spots, bloody shoulder markings, Gulastra plume, badger face, chimeras, and somatic mutations)
  • Mapping the equine genome
  • Frequent Topics

    Grey vs Roan

    The Myth of Albino Horses

    The myth of albinism and the scoop on sabino white, dominant white, lethal white overo, and other "white" patterns.

    Thoroughbred Color

    A discussion of horse color on a racing forum sparked my creation of this site, and as Thoroughbreds are "my" breed, I have included some pages specific to that breed. They come in a number of surprising colors and patterns!

    The Colorful Thoroughbred

    The Thoroughbred has a remarkably colorful genetic palette, ranging from ordinary bays to dazzling dominant white pintos. This page will delve into the mechanisms behind the colors as well as dispel some common misunderstandings about Thoroughbred color.

    Winning Colors was NOT a roan!

    The difference between grey and roan and why Winning Colors and other so-called "roan" TBs are all actually greys (with one rare and notable exception).

    True Roan Thoroughbreds

    Believed to be a new and rare mutation

    Cream Dilution Thoroughbreds

    A page devoted to cream dilute TBs (palomino, buckskin, smokey black, cremello, perlino, and smokey cream), both modern and historical.

    Pinto Thoroughbreds

    A page devoted to white spotted (formerly known as dominant white), frame overo, and splash TBs, both modern and historical. (Under construction)