Why Are Barns Red?

Picture the quintessential country barn: it’s red, isn’t it? But why? Maria Wachter’s done some digging to answer that question.


When I think of a barn, I always envision it being red. Do you know the reason why? Me neither — until now.

Many, may years ago (way before the invention of places like Home Depot), farmers needed a way to keep mildew and mold from growing on the barn. Since they didn’t have store-bought primers, paints or sealers, they had to get creative.

Many farmers would use linseed oil to seal their barns. Linseed oil is an orange-colored oil derived from flax seeds (just another reason to love flax as a horseman!). Farmers would add ferrous oxide… also known as rust. Rust kills fungi and mosses, and is also very effective as a sealant. With the color mixture of flax seed oil and rust you get — yep, red!

Nowadays, people just go to Home Depot and spend lots of money to paint their barns red to honor the age-old tradition of the distinctive color.

So, Horse Nation, you can now justify keeping your rusty old truck as an icon of tradition and an important ingredient to old-school barn paint. Go riding!