The Colors of the Wind (Part One)

Often to people new to the wild horse world, colors can be confusing. Since color is such an important part of IDing horses, I thought I’d try my hand at creating brief descriptions. Different HMAs have different common colors, but I am going to use the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range as my muse. Most colors are present in any HMA, and I will give a couple of examples of each color, so people have an idea about how to tell the difference between similar shades. This list will also be sorted by the most common colors, to more rare colors. I will also add a separate blog post with more specific terms about white markings so this post, hopefully, doesn’t get too long.

Classic Dun: Since dun is a pattern, not a color I am labeling it as classic dun for now. However, for quick field identification, dun is the more common name. Not to be confused with buckskin, duns are bay horses affected by the dun allele. Meaning, although the horse retains dark points, the bay base coat lightens to a golden tan. Duns also have thick dorsal stripes, zebra leg stripes, and other primitive markings such as shoulder baring, two-toned mane and tails.

Autumn and Nighthawk are examples of classic duns (although Nighthawk ended up being dun roan.)

Autumn and Nighthawk are examples of classic duns (although Nighthawk ended up being dun roan.)

This is an example of how winter coats can impact the way a horse looks.

This is an example of how winter coats can impact the way a horse looks.

Seneca has a thick dorsel stripe.

Seneca has a thick dorsal stripe.

Grulla/grullo: Since Grullo is a Spanish word; the color depends on the color of the horse. Similarly to dun, it is a black horse with a dun allele. They appear slate grey in color, and have the same primitive markings as duns.

Perhaps the cutest grulla in the Pryors, Felicity is on the lighter side.

Perhaps the cutest grulla in the Pryors, Felicity is on the lighter side.

Felspar has a good example of a dorsel stripe.

Felspar has a good example of a dorsal stripe.

Oregon's a dark grulla.

Oregon’s a dark grulla.

Red, yellow, apricot, etc duns: Since dun can be any color, I’m making a slight digression in my list from most common to least common. Since these would all be shades of chestnut, the idea is similar to dun and grullo sans dark points. The primitive markings will show up as the base coat, with the body either being a more red, yellow, or orange shade of dun depending on the shade. Since they are rare in the Pryors, the differences are not as imperative to know, but having some background can still be beneficial.

This is a photo of brothers Hidalgo and Jalisco to compare colors. Hidalgo (Front) is red dun, and Jalisco is classic dun.

This is a photo of brothers Hidalgo and Jalisco to compare colors. Hidalgo (Front) is red dun, and Jalisco is classic dun.

Nova is another exqample of red dun.

Nova is another example of red dun.

Bay: A simplified definition of bay is black with red highlights. It can be harder to tell with darker bays, but all bays have dark points. For me, the easiest way to tell the difference between a bay and dark chestnut, for example, is to look at their ears. If they are not lined in black than it is not a bay.

Sante Fe is a very pretty shade of bay.

Santa Fe is a very pretty shade of bay.

Although Morning Star is dark bay, he is a great example of a horse that has red highlights.

Although Morning Star is dark bay, he is a great example of a horse that has red highlights.

Hickok is a little darker than red bay.

Hickok is a little darker than red bay.

Waif (left) and Corona are great examples of light and dark bay.

Waif (left) and Corona are great examples of light and dark bay.

Black: You’d think it would be a relatively straight forward color, but sometimes it can be confused for dark bay. The best way I try to tell the difference is where highlights are. Usually, if the horse is dark bay, they have red highlights around their nose, ears, and flank. If the horse is a faded black, their highlights would be more concentrated around the muzzle and it might be more of a mealy grey color depending on the age of the horse. However, there are other means of IDing a horse that I will go over in a different blog post, so it can be ok to use black or bay interchangeably if one is unsure of the color.

Galaxy is a very handsome black stallion.

Galaxy is a very handsome black stallion.

Galena is another example of a true black horse.

Galena is another example of a true black horse.

Palomino: Like chestnut, palomino is becoming more common in the Pryors. It can be confused with light sorrel, but a palomino horse has no red in its coat. Instead, palomino horses are shades of cream. It can range from an almost white looking horse, to deep gold, as in the case of sooty palominos.

Cloud's sister, Mariah, is a really lovely shade of palomino that looks golden in the evening sun.

Cloud’s sister, Mariah, is a really lovely shade of palomino that looks golden in the evening sun.

Echo is a light shade of palomino.

Echo is a light shade of palomino.

As a sooty palomino, Bolder doesn't get his nickname smolder for no reason.

As a sooty palomino, Bolder doesn’t get his nickname smolder for no reason.

Chestnuts: Chestnuts are also becoming more common and can be similar to bays or palominos. Like bays, they have red in their coats, but lack black points on their legs and ears. They can range in shade to light red to almost black. That’s why I try to see how distinct black points on ears are to help make judgments on color.

Navajo ended up sheding out to be a darker shade of chestnut.

Navajo ended up shedding out to be a darker shade of chestnut.

Modonna was a distinct shade of chestnut.

Madonna was a distinct shade of chestnut.

Oceana is another shade of chestnut.

Oceana is another shade of chestnut.

Buckskin: Variations in buckskin are becoming a little more common, but they are still one of the least represented colors in the Pryors. To summarize, buckskin horses are palomino with dark points. Like palomino, buckskin can range from almost white to dark sooty variations.

Jewel is an example of a classic buckskin.

Jewel is an example of a classic buckskin.

I happen to think Dove has a really face, so I don't have any really fantastic photos of her body, but she's and example of a sooty buckskin.

I happen to think Dove has a really face, so I don’t have any really fantastic photos of her body, but she’s and example of a sooty buckskin.

Roan: I’ll go into more detail for my next blog post, but like dun, roan is a pattern not a color. It is a pattern of white hairs mixed with the hairs on the body that can be present on any horse. For IDing in the field, roan is often used as a color, such as red or blue roan.

Red Raven is one of my favorite red roan stallions in the Pryors.

Red Raven is one of my favorite red roan stallions in the Pryors.

Indigo Kid is an example of a blue roan horse.

Indigo Kid is an example of a blue roan horse.

Well, reader congratulations, you’ve made it through this first post. Hopefully I didn’t make it too confusing, but if I did here’s my go to source if I want a quick reminder about the differences in color. My next blog post will go over different white markings that can help distinguish horses of the same color apart.

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