Horses come in several stunning shades and patterns, and if you're new to the equine world, it can be overwhelming. When it comes to horses, a bay isn't just a leaf, and pinto is more than a type of bean. We've identified the 14 most common horse colors and patterns you'll find on these stunning creatures, along with explanations and photos of each.
Chestnut is a gorgeous red color that looks just like the nut this color is named after. Most people will refer to a lighter chestnut horse as sorrel, whereas the darker red horses are called chestnut, but sorrel and chestnut are often used interchangeably.
You've definitely seen a bay color horse before. This is the most common color you'll find in horses, and it features a reddish-brown base color with dark points. Their base color can range from light-brown to a much darker shade, but either way, they're bay all day.
The term "points" in horse coloring refers to a darker shade on the tail, mane, legs, and ears.
Dun is one of the oldest horse colors and is fairly easy to pick out. These horses have a tan body with black points and a distinct black stripe down the length of their back. You can find different variations of dun, such as red dun, blue dun, or bay dun. Dun dun duuun!
Buckskin is easily confused with dun because there's only a subtle difference in this coloring. Buckskins have a golden base color with black points rather than being sandier like the dun. But they still have a dark strip down the back. To confuse you further, horses that are a combination of buckskin and dun are referred to as "dunskin."
Black is a stunning horse color that's fairly rare. You can find horses with pure black coats or a black base with white markings like a star or blaze across their forehead, or white "socks." A few horse breeds are only seen in black, like the Friesian. Black beauty, indeed.
The palomino color is well known, and for good reason. This color is downright stunning, with a golden coat and white tail and mane. You can find this horse color in several breeds, like quarter horses, thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, Akhal Teke, and more.
A pure white horse might sound like a myth, and it's close to it. White is the rarest horse color out there. These horses have white hair on their bodies, along with white manes and tails, plus pink, unpigmented skin. There's one breed that's only found in white: the Camarillo White Horse.
A close cousin of the white coloration is cremello, which is an eye-catching pale champagne color with pink skin. You'll find this color in the Akhal Teke breed.
The Akhal Teke is one of the most expensive horse breeds in the world and can sell for as much as $50,000 or more.
Perlino is another color that looks almost identical to cremello, but is genetically different. Perlinos are technically bay horses with a double "cream" gene, whereas cremellos are chestnut horses with double cream. Regardless, it's equally gorgeous.
Roan is a unique color pattern that features little white hairs throughout the coat. You can find red roans that have a red base color with roaning through their coat, or bay roans.
Horses with large patches of color on their coat are called pinto. Usually, they have a darker base coat with white patches, but several other combinations are possible. Just be careful about referring to a pinto horse as a Paint horse because they are different. Paint is a specific horse breed, whereas pinto is a pattern that can be found on many breeds.
Tobiano is a type of pinto pattern where the white patches appear vertically on the body and cross over the horse's back. These horses usually have white legs and a solid-colored chest and head.
Another type of pinto pattern is the overo. With this color pattern, a horse will have small, horizontal patches that usually appear on their face and flanks.
Horses with a spotted pattern across their coats are called leopards, which is very fitting because it looks like they have leopard spots. Some have an entirely spotted body, whereas others just have spots on their rump area. This pattern is often mistakenly called Appaloosa, and even though it is seen most commonly in the Appaloosa horse breed, you can find it in other breeds.
Feel Confident Spotting Horse Colors and Patterns
Along with these 14 common horse colors and patterns, there are several other variations. For example, you could find a bay roan horse or a red dun. However, with the help of this guide, you should know how to identify most horse colors you might find at the barn or wherever you hang out with these majestic animals.