Dear HN: Help! I don’t know what color my horse is

Reader Arwyn Anthony is the proud owner of, well, a horse of a different color. Share your thoughts and then take our Horse Nation Name-That-Color Challenge!

Arwyn writes:

Hi Horse Nation,

I was just wondering if you guys could help me out on a coloring question. This is my horse Ty, he’s a 5 year old Thoroughbred (pictured above). When I met him last spring and he was a dark gray color and I was told he would lighten up to a dapple or flea-bitten gray. As the summer progressed he started getting a light brown tint to his coat. I was slightly confused, and at a show last summer I met another horse with this particular coloring. I asked his owner who said he was an 8 year old TB and would turn this brownish-gray color in the summer then turn dark gray again every winter but never seemed to lighten like normal gray horses. This winter he has turned back to a dark gray with no sign of brownish hairs at all. I honestly am not sure what to call his coloring, and I’m curious if anyone else has had experience with it and what color he might turn out to be.


Have some advice for Arwyn? Leave it in the comments section.

BONUS! Horse Nation Color Challenge

What would you call the colors/coat patterns of the horses below? (BTW, there are no answers because we have no idea ourselves!)















Tack N Tails - Two Horses, One Body - Chimerism - Horse












Bonnie May 15 2009 DSCF5992


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46 thoughts on “Dear HN: Help! I don’t know what color my horse is

  1. Wow, I have no clue what to call them, but the “paints” with dapples, spots and stripes are striking.

    I knew a horse named Splash that looked just like the 7th picture down, but with a smaller reddish blotch (from Apparently it was a birthmark.

  2. Debra says:

    That’s called the “bloody shoulder” and in Arab legend it is a sign of a great horse. A warrior horse that bravely carried its wounded rider safely back to camp.

  3. Alicia says:

    i see some brindle, reverse bridle, a badger face, and a couple birth marks. one with the Bird spots (carried gene of a tbred birdcatcher), pintaloosa, and a couple Zebra cross breeds.

  4. B says:

    The first looks like a normal Clydesdale with a striped clipping job revealing the lighter hair below. 3rd and 5th seem to be brindle and the second to last seems to be a zony (Zebra crossed with a pony) so I don’t know what you’d say the colouring really is. I have no clue about the horse being described though. All these horses sure are amazing! I love interesting colours and patterns on horses

  5. wylie says:

    Ah ha! I was wondering about that first horse-that explains it!

  6. colonialchick says:

    I wonder if any of the more “brindle” looking colors are animals that are in fact, examples of chimerism (they are their own non-identical twin). The striped ones are Zorse (zebra crosses).

  7. Celeste says:

    I like this game!! I can name several! #3 is called a reverse brindle and #5 is simply a grey brindle. #7 is called a bloody shoulder, a birth mark on grey horses (predominently occur around the shoulder/withers area, but can occur on any part of the body, e.g. face, neck, rump, etc.). #8 is a Chimera and “results from the fusing of fraternal twins in utero resulting in 2 sets of DNA in 1 horse. The dual DNA is not always manifested as brindle. Often, it results in random patches of color.” As it states, brindling is sometimes caused by the same thing. #6 & #9 are both somatic mutations where a gene is “switched off” causing an odd color variation. #10 is a TB with something often referred to as either Birdcatcher spots or Chubarri/Tetrarch spots although technically the size and shape of the spots dictate the difference in classification. #14 is a chocolate roan.

    Though I’d love to claim I’m just a genius, I only learned all of this because I’m facsinated with equine color genetics and I found this website years ago and I read it and re-read it so many times. Plus I referred back to it for this. You’ll see many of her pictures are the exact same one’s you found scattered throughout the “interwebs” I looked but couldn’t find anything right off to help you Arwyn, but you might want to try contacting her or reading the book she refers to! He’s a beautiful boy!

  8. Arwyn says:

    Thank you for the link, there is one example called a “Rose Grey” that sounds similar, although Ty is much darker and the brown is a different tint. I guess only time will tell!

  9. L says:


    I personally have a Blue Roan Paint… yeah. I had no idea what that was but at least they had a name for it lol.

    I would say Dappled pintos or paints, Brindle!!! Brindles are so cool looking! Some birthmarked horse coats, the last one a flaxen gruella? The baby with spots and paint marking I would call a Pintaloosa.

  10. Tally says:

    I would call them: awesome. Those horses are the color awesome.

  11. wylie says:

    Hahahaha… I agree:)

  12. Aeryn says:

    I’ve always called #7 a “bloody shoulder” like the Breyer model. There’s some legend about an Arabian mare andfoal combo, in which the guy had to kill the foal (he stabbed it through the shoulder), but the next morning it was miraculously alive. It’s said that it’s a sign of luck/strength. And that’s my two cents.

  13. wylie says:

    Omg, that’s crazy!!!

  14. wylie says:

    Horse Nation readers are the smartest! I can’t believe you guys recognized some of that stuff!

  15. wylie says:

    BTW, Arwyn, my guess is that your horse is going to end up gray… someday… probably in the distant distant future

  16. Nicki says:

    the 4th one down is simply a fewspot appaloosa. it’s a form of extreme snowcap coloration where the blanket basically covers the whole body. that horse would be 100% appaloosa characteristic producing.

  17. voomies says:

    Hmm, that one looks like a mosaic chestnut to me.

  18. voomies says:

    The 6th one down looks like a Mosaic Chestnut to me..

  19. accphotography says:

    I have seen all of these horses before. The reader’s horse is a gray who is just graying slowly. The others are:

    1: Indeed an unknown phenomena. A Gypsy horse.
    2: Black silver (silver dapple) tobiano Gypsy named Austen.
    3: Natal Clasi, a brindle Warmblood (non chimeric).
    4: A black fewspot Appaloosa filly out of Ziggaboo.
    5: A gray brindle named Reckless Dan.
    6: A Trakehner colt with a somatic mutation.
    7: Bloody shoulder on the TB mare Charmander.
    8: A chimeric Paint named Stetson’s Mr. Blue.
    9: Arabian/Hackney named Clicker who has a white pattern skewing causing brindle like markings.
    10: TB with Birdcatcher spots named Will Spy Now.
    11: A gray Andalusian whose mane and tail are graying slowly.
    12: An Appaloosa filly named Uniquely Destined with a somatic mutation or some other skewing of her pattern. NOT a Pintaloosa.
    13: A zorse (well known one too).
    14: A black silver roan Rocky Mountain named Gem’s Silver Bells.

    Most of these horses are well known and their colors documented.

  20. alyssa says:

    andalusian is mulberry grey

  21. Arwyn says:

    If it helps, here is a link to another picture of Ty later in the summer. Unfortunately I don’t have many pictures to show off his color better. As you can see, his coat turned even lighter and all across his body (even under his belly). It’s not because of the sun, he wore a sheet most of the time. Some friends suggested he might turn white with black legs. For those who say he will turn gray, do you have any guesses as to what kind of gray? (Dappled, flea-bitten, etc). As I said, the only other horse I’ve seen with this color was 8 years old and still just as dark as Ty. Thanks for the input everyone!

  22. accphotography says:

    That photo does help. It makes me feel sure he is gray. So unusual for them to be so dark at his age.
    Dapples and flea bites are just stages of gray that any gray can have and may or may not lose. So he could go dappled next year and then flea-bitten the year after, or neither. They’re all a bit different.

  23. Arwyn says:

    Thanks, that’s kind of what I’ve been going with. He is coming 6 now and is very dark again. Every grey horse I’ve been around is much lighter or at least showing signs of turning white long before they turn 5 or 6 so that is partially why I was confused. I’m hoping he stays this way for a while, I like it!

  24. Sarah says:

    Yeah some of those are definitely brindle. I’ve seen one in person – just like a brindle pit bull dog or something! Beautiful.

  25. Linda says:

    Great pics, beautiful horses, accphotography above, seems to have the best answers, how ever I wouild call # 4 a paint foal, #8 a tri-color paint, and #12 a appyand paint cross. Now I have a question for everyone, who knows what a black dun is currently being called? Horse do and have come in all colors and patterns the names we call them may change but their beauty remains the same.

  26. accphotography says:

    #4 is a registered Appaloosa filly. Here is her page where you can see her parents have no Paint characteristics:
    #8 is tested chimeric.
    #12 is tested negative for all paint genes.

    A black dun is called a grulla or grullo.

  27. alyssa says:

    the andalusian is a mulberry grey. Everyone else got the rest already :)

  28. Beatha says:

    First horse is a clipper job, “appaloosa’ looking bay foal is not an appaloosa, it’s a tobiano with a modification that occurs at times in tobianos. It’s not quite the same as cat tracks or ermine spots, but it occurs in tobianos. Not an appaloosa. Lots of questions about the tb mare, she may have something else going on rather than Birdcatcher spots. Most of these have been discussed on Lesli Kathman’s Equine Tapestry blog, I highly recommend it. Oh, and mulberry grey is just another word for rose grey that has been pushed by Iberian promoters.

  29. accphotography says:

    That (registered) Appaloosa filly tested negative for tobiano.

  30. Mary says:

    # 2 is a GREY pinto that started out looking black and white and is now greying out in the spectacular dapple pattern. This is fairly common in Arab pinto crosses because grey is so common in Arabs. A friend had one. I had a purebred Arab for 20 some years who was not pinto but born solid black which about age 4 turned into the gorgeous dapple phase. Horse # 11 is simply a light grey whose mane is greying out at a slower rate. Again fairly common in Arabs.

  31. Abby says:

    I know a few, or at least I think I do:
    #1: Zebra Clydesdale cross?
    #2: Dapple grey paint?
    #3: Brindle
    #4: Not sure
    #5: Grey brindle
    #7: Grey with bloody shoulder
    #8: Mosaic chestnut sabino
    #9: Some sort of brindle?
    #10: Not sure
    #11: Mulberry grey
    #12: Spotted paint. Is there such thing? Lol.
    #13: Zorse…
    #14: Some sort of roan

  32. anonymouse says:

    1) I’m not absolutely sure, but to me his color looks 100% fake, like somebody edited him on Photoshop, or that they clipped him like that.
    2) This one’s easy! He’s a dapple gray tobiano, according to the breeder’s site.
    3) Bay reverse brindle… he looks familiar to me, I’m pretty sure he’s a Brazilian Warmblood that I’ve met before!
    4) That’s Ziggaboo (sp?), a black few-spot leopard appaloosa.
    5) Gray brindle
    6) This little fellow I’ve seen before as well! Precious thing is a bay with a somatic mutation.
    7) Gray with a bloody shoulder mark, I believe she was a racehorse at one point in her life…?
    8) Chestnut / black chimera, I have met a horse like him but not this one in particular.
    9) I think she’s the result of a somatic mutation acting on a paint gene? Not positive though :)
    10) Those are birdcatcher spots, my gelding has them!
    11) Mulberry gray
    12) I’d say it’s either “ink spots” (not sure if that’s what you call them over in the states :)) or possibly a semi-leopard acting on tobiano; i’ve seen a similar horse somewhere, though I can’t place my finger on where.
    13) Not a horse. It’s a zorse.
    14) Flaxen chocolate roan! :)

  33. ash says:

    1) grulla draft with clip or paint on it
    2) Dapple gray tobiano
    3) Brincle
    4) overo/tovero (just an unsusual coat)
    5) gray brindle, Reckless Dan (AQHA reg)
    6) somatic mutation, Holme Park Van Gogh (Reg. trankener)
    7) bloody shoulder, Charmander (Reg, Thoroughbred)
    8) chimeras, Stetsons Mr Blue (Reg, APHA)
    9) somatic mutation, DA Remote Control (Reg, 1/2 arabian)
    10) birdcatcher spots, WIll Spy Now (Reg, Thoroughbred)
    11) slowly graying horse.
    12) Pintaloosa (paint or pinto bred to appaloosa)
    13) Tobiano Zorse.
    14) flaxen roan dun or grulla

  34. Colors says:

    First picture: A black Gypsy Vanner that was clipped to look striped

    Second Picture: Silver dapple tobiano, the Gypsy Vanner stallion “Desert Jewel’s Austen”

    Third Picture: A bay brindle Warmblood stallion.

    Fourth Picture: Varnish Appaloosa colt, as he matures his markings will change.

    Fifth Picture: Another brindle stallion, he is a Quarter Horse.

    Sixth Picture: A bay chimeric colt.

    Seventh Picture: A grey Warmblood with the “bloody shoulder” marking.

    Eighth Picture: Chestnut chimeric Quarter Horse Stallion

    Ninth Picture: Bay brindle Arabian/Saddlebred cross mare.

    Tenth Picture: Bay Warmblood stallion with birdcatcher spots.

    Eleventh Picture: Just a normal grey Andalusian horse.

    Twelfth Picture: A heavily marked bay Appaloosa, I’m friends with her breeder on Facebook and she’s quite a beautiful filly!

    Thirteenth Picture: A Paint/Zebra cross, it lives at a Zoo, and it was the “baby” they used in the “Stripes” movie.

    Fourteenth Picture: A brown silver horse with the roan gene, so brown silver roan.

    Your horse will eventually grey out, he’s just taking a long time.

  35. Kendra says:

    Re: pics. I believe Colors on Sept.5 is absolutely ‘spot’ on!! Lol

  36. Christine says:

    Well, I know a few of them actually.

    1) Possibly just a Clyde with tribal markings or a Clyde Zebra cross.
    3) He is clearly brindled
    5) Also a brindle
    6) Mosaic Chestnut
    8)Mosaic chestnut sabino
    10) Looks like a rabinico or it has what one may call birdcatcher spots

  37. Christine says:

    I spelled rabicano wrong…. Oops

  38. Nox says:

    Okay, I’m pretty confident on these.

    1) Not real. Looks like a black horse that has been clipped
    2) Dapple gray tobiano/tovero
    3) Dark bay brindle
    4) Black tovero
    5) Gray brindle
    6) Bay and black chimera/mosaic
    7) Bloody shoulder dapple gray (on bay)
    8) Chestnut and black chimera/mosaic
    9) Dark bay brindle
    10) Bay with birdcatcher spots
    11) Mulberry gray (on chestnut)
    12) Bay tobiano pintaloosa
    13) Buckskin tobiano zebra cross
    14) Flaxen chestnut roan

  39. nicole says:

    I want the draft zebra x. The silver snowflake dappled banner and the trial paint. Anyone know there I could get my hands on them please email me :cowgirl_Nikki_07(at)

  40. Belinda says:

    The top foal is a Gypsy Vanner. I would call her a black sabino, but I guess in Vanners it is called a “blagdon”. Here are pics of her as an adult. I see , some blood marks, some brindle, a “pintaloosa”, a tobiano zebra cross, that dapple gray Vanner….I have seen that horse referred to as a “snowflake silver dapple”.

  41. shea says:

    there are brindles in there, dapple vanner. zebra crosses. black sabinos. and pintaloosa

  42. Cheyenne says:

    1. This foal appears to be some kind of cold-blooded zebroid hybrid, maybe half gypsy banner or clydesdale and half plains zebra.
    2. This one is a young gray pinto horse with tobiano markings, around four years old, going through the dapple-gray stage.
    3. This horse is a bay brindle.
    4. This foal’s exceptional markings are likely caused by an extreme expression of the frame overo pattern, a type of pinto.
    5. This is another brindle horse, likely an older gray who hasn’t lost pigment in the brindle stripes.
    6. This foal is a chimera. He has two sets of DNA fused together in a single animal. Most of its body is genetically bay, but its shoulder is genetically black.
    7. This horse has what’s known as a bloody shoulder marking. It’s a poorly understood marking that causes splotchy patches of red on a gray horse. It’s about seven years old because it still has a dark mane and legs. In a few years, it will turn all white with just the reddish patch remaining.
    8. This horse is another chimera, like the aforementioned foal.
    9. The pattern on this bay horse is peculiar but appears to be some form of reverse brindle.
    10. This bay thoroughbred has birdcatcher spots.
    11. This Andalusian is an older grey, about eight years old. He will turn all white in a few years.
    12. This yearling is a bay pintoloosa, a tobiano pinto who also carries the leopard complex gene that causes appaloosa spotting.
    13. This is Eclyse. She’s a pinto zorse, a zebra horse hybrid. One of her parents passed down the tobiano gene to her.
    14. This last horse is a roan, possibly a black horse carrying the silver dapple gene.

  43. Olivia says:

    I don’t know what the color of Arwyn’s horse is. But it changing coat colors reminds me of Alexandrite-it’s a gemstone that changes color under different lighting. I would call this color “Alexandrite”.

  44. Vicky says:

    1. Zebra stripes – zebra x draft hybrid
    2. Reverse Dapple Grey
    3. Reverse Brindle
    4. Ghost – an appaloosa pattern
    5. Brindle again (silver)
    6. Chymera (when twin eggs merge)
    7. Bloody shoulder grey
    8. Chymera again
    9. Chymera again
    10. Birdcatcher spots
    11. Grey
    12. Pintaloosa (paint x appaloosa)
    13. Same as 1. Zebra x Horse so Zebra Stripes
    14. Strawberry Roan

  45. anonymous says:

    #2 dark dapple grey tobiano
    #3 brindle dark bay
    #5 brindle grey
    #6 mosaic chestnut
    #7 blood shoulder
    #8 mosaic chestnut
    #9 reverse brindle dark bay
    #10 Tetrarch spots
    #11 white grey, but the mane and tail haven’t turned into white yet
    #12 pintaloosa
    #13 a zorse (= a cross between a horse and a zebra)
    #14 silver dapple black roan

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