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Equine Ranch – Horse Color Basics

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To help any newcomers to Equine Ranch to register your horse I’ll give some basic references to know the main colors by their genes.

The first thing you should check are the Agouti (A+,Aa)  and Red Factor (E+, e) genes. “E+” adds eumelanin, which means BLACK parts on a horse. “A+” keeps the eumelanin (black) only on mouth, legs and mane/tail, these are referred as “points”. Please, take in consideration that Equine Ranch has many shades of a coat color so if you have further questions, check the main “What color is my horse” thread.

You could also use this link as reference but is not entirely accurate with the registration list on Equine Ranch.


Aa/Aa allows the presence of eumelanin on all the coat. Black can be obtained with the following combinations.

  • Aa/Aa, E+/e
  • Aa/Aa, E+/E+
  • K*, A+/Aa, E+/E+

*K is a “hidden” gene that allows a horse to be black based even if it has a A+ gene. A horse can be Aa/Aa AND also have K.


Chestnuts lack E+ dominant gene which means the horse will NOT have any dark points.

  • Aa/Aa, e/e
  • A+/Aa, e/e
  • A+/A+, e/e

Here, the A+ or Aa gene are irrelevant because the horse doesn’t have any eumelanin to show.  The presence of e/e will suppress the expression of K.


Bay can be obtained with any of the following combinations.

  • A+/Aa,  E+/e
  • A+/Aa, E+/E+
  • A+/A+, E+/e
  • A+/A+, E+/E+

Bays have usually two colors: a darker tone on the points (mouth, feet, mane or tail) and one solid color for the rest of the body.


After you have confirmed the above, you should check the rest of your horse’s genes for dilutions.

Grey (G) – If your horse has the G gene it automatically becomes just “Gray”, even if it shows other colors or dilutions.  This is very important to note. Black/Bay/Chestnut + GREY = GREY.  Quite easy.

Dun (homozygous/heterozygous)- This makes stripes on their legs and a line on their back.  On the DNA it can be shown as Heterozygous (D/d) or Homozygous (D/D or d/d). You should be able to tell the difference right away if its Homozygous D/D by the mere fact that it shows strips.

  • Black + Dun = Grulla
  • Bay + Dun =  “Classic”  Dun or Zebra Dun
  • Chestnut + Dun = Red Dun

Cream (Cr) – This makes the horse’s color more light (Cr/crcr). If it has Cr/Cr it will show even more (twice as much Cream! lol).

  • Black + Cream =  Smoky Black …  + Cream = Smoky Cream
  • Bay + Cream = Buckskin… + Cream = Perlino
  • Chestnut + Cream = Palomino… + Cream = Cremello

Pearl (prl) – From the DNA Guide: “In its homozygous form, this mutation will alter Chestnut horses to a gold color with freckled pink skin. (…) Combined with heterozygous cream (Cr/crcr), this mutation creates a phenotype that is indistinguishable from homozygous cream (Cr/Cr). It dilutes the skin to pink, coat to off white, and eyes to blue.” In short, prl can work as an extra “Cr”.

  • Black and Bay + Pearl = Pearl
  • Chestnut + Pearl = Apricot

Champagne (Ch) – From the DNA Guide: “Lightens eumelanin to a lilac/chocolate color, and phaeomelanin to a buff/gold color in the adult coat.”

  • Black + Champagne = Classic Champagne
  • Bay + Champagne = Amber Champagne / Sable Champagne
  • Chestnut + Champagne = Gold Champagne

Silver (Z) – Silver affects mainly the black points and specially the main and tail turning them a lighter color.

  • Black + Silver = Black Silver
  • Bay + Silver = Bay Silver
  • Chestnut + Silver = Doesn’t apply as it doesn’t has black points to lighten.

If you have more than one dilution then things start to get trickier. Usually the name of the new color is a combination of the previous two.  For example: Bucksin + Dun = Dunskin.

For spots you should check the differences between tobiano, Appaloosa and overo, etc.

Here’s is an old thread with several color names and combinations that you can check. The images are old but you can still look at their DNA for reference.

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