Wargamers Guide to Horse Colours

A long time ago I read a great article about horse colours in one of the Wargaming magazines. I’ve forgotten who wrote it or where it appeared but I’ve remembered the contents. Basically it was an overview of horse colours and markings for a wargaming audience. Just as a refresher for myself I thought I’d write my version of that long lost article. I’m not trying to document all horse colours, just the ones to focus on for wargaming. If you want to know more then check out Wikipedia: Equine Coat Color and Wikipedia: Horse Markings.

The most common horse colours are:

  • Bay
  • Chestnut
  • Gray

Less common but interesting are:

  • Black (rare but distinctive; a dark bay or chestnut can look black)
  • White (rare; most “white” horses are in fact grays)
  • Dun (common in Spain)
  • Roan (included because Cote D’arms do a “Roan” paint)

Note: “Points” refer to the mane, tail, and lower legs.

Bay

Body colour ranges from a light reddish-brown to very dark brown with black points. All bay horses have a black mane, tail and legs (except where overlain by white markings)

Bay

Bay

Bay

Dark Bay or Brown

Chestnut

A reddish body colour with no black. Mane and tail are the same shade or lighter than the body coat.

Chestnut

Chestnut

Chestnut

Dark Chestnut

Chestnut

Chestnut
Copper-red chestnuts are sometimes called Sorrels

Gray

A horse with black skin but white or mixed dark and white hairs. Gray horses can be born any colour, However, bay, chestnut, or black base colours are most often seen, lighten as they age, and eventually most will have either a completely white or “fleabitten” hair coat (i.e. an otherwise fully white-haired horse that develops red hairs flecked throughout the coat). Most “white” horses are actually grays with a fully white hair coat.

Gray

Gray

Gray

Gray that looks White

Gray

Iron Gray

Gray

Fleabitten Gray

Dun

Yellowish or tan coat with primitive markings, sometimes called “dun factors:” a darker-colored mane and tail, a dorsal stripe along the back and occasionally faint horizontal zebra stripings on the upper legs and a possible transverse stripe across the withers. The most common type of dun is called a Dun, also called Bay dun or “zebra” dun. It has a tan or gold body with black mane, tail and primitive markings. Red Duns (from Chestnut) and Blue Duns (from Gray) are also possible.

Dun

Bay Dun

Dun

Red Dun

Dun

Blue Dun

Roan

A colour pattern that causes white hairs to be evenly intermixed within the horse’s body color. Can look like a gray but roans have heads that are either solid-coloured or much darker than their body hair.

Roan

Bay Roan

Roan

Blue Roan

Black

Black is a hair coat colour of horses in which the entire hair coat is black. Black is a relatively uncommon coat colour, and novices frequently mistake dark chestnuts or bays for black.

Black

Black

White

“True white” horses, especially those that carry one of the dominant white (W) genes, are rare. Most horses that are commonly referred to as “white” are actually “gray” horses whose hair coats are completely white.

White

White

Facial Markings

Many horse have white facial markings. Occasionally, when a white marking extends over an eye, that eye may be blue instead of brown. For example, some Bald Face horses, i.e. with a very wide blaze, extending to or past the eyes, also have blue eyes.

Facial Markings

Top row, L-R: Blaze, Stripe, Stripe (or thin blaze) and snip, Irregular blaze, Interrupted
stripe, bald face.
Bottom row, L-R: Faint star, Star, Star and strip, irregular star, snip, lip marking

Leg Markings

Leg markings are usually described by the highest point of the horse’s leg that is covered by white. As a general rule, the horse’s hoof beneath a white marking at the coronary line will also be light-colored (“white”).

?? TODO ?? I seem to recall leg markings appear on both back legs or both front legs or all four legs but not other combinations.

Leg Markings

Top row, L-R: Stocking, Sock or Boot, Fetlock or Sock.
Bottom row, L-R: Pastern, Coronet, Partial Pastern

References

Wikipedia: Equine Coat Color

Wikipedia: Horse Markings

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