What Does A Roan Horse Look Like? (Perfect answer)

Roan is a horse coat color pattern characterized by an even mixture of colored and white hairs on the body, while the head and “points”—lower legs, mane, and tail—are mostly solid-colored. Horses with roan coats have white hairs evenly intermingled throughout any other color.

What is the difference between a bay and a roan?

Bay horses have a black color coat base, but based upon their genetic influences, the color shades can vary greatly. Bays often have a reddish sheen, and when affected by the roan gene, the horse looks similar to a red roan. However, a bay roan will have black points, whereas a red roan will have dark red points.

What does a roan look like?

Classic or true roan appears as white hairs intermixed with colored hairs (the base coat) across the horse’s body, leaving only the head and legs untouched and giving the body a silvery appearance. Sometimes, a roan will have a concentration of white hairs above the eyes, making the horse appear to have white eyebrows.

Are roan horses desirable?

Fun Fact: Roan coloured horses are desired by many horse owners, because they are unique in many ways. Unlike other horses that are solid in colour, when a roan has a scar, the hair will grow back solid rather than white or roan.

How do I know if my horse is a blue roan?

A blue roan has a coat that is a 50/50 mix of white and black hairs in their coat. That’s right – a blue roan is not actually an indigo coated horse, but rather one with a dark, black base. This mix of black hairs and white hairs gives the horse a blue-hued appearance, hence the name.

What is the rarest horse color?

Among racehorses, there are many successful colors: bay, chestnut, and brown horses win a lot of races. Pure white is the rarest horse color.

What color is a sorrel horse?

Sorrel is a reddish coat color in a horse lacking any black. It is a term that is usually synonymous with chestnut and one of the most common coat colors in horses. Some regions and breed registries distinguish it from chestnut, defining sorrel as a light, coppery shade, and chestnut as a browner shade.

What kind of a horse is a roan?

Roan is a white patterning coat color trait of intermixed white and colored hairs in the body while the head, lower legs, mane, and tail remain colored. Roan horses are born with the pattern, though it may not be obvious until the foal coat is shed.

What makes a horse roan?

Roan is a horse coat color pattern characterized by an even mixture of colored and white hairs on the body, while the head and “points”—lower legs, mane, and tail—are mostly solid-colored. Horses with roan coats have white hairs evenly intermingled throughout any other color.

How many different kinds of roan horses are there?

While bay roan, blue roan and red roan are the 3 main classifications and most typical shades of roan, roans can come in virtually any base color.

Is roan a dominant gene?

Roan is a dominant gene, so at least one of the parents must be a roan for the trait to be passed on. A horse can carry several modifiers. For example, a horse can have both the dun and roan genes. Roan should not be confused with rabicano or sabino markings, which are caused by different genes.

What is a chestnut roan?

Red Roan or strawberry roan describes true or classic roan on a chestnut base coat. The mane and tail remain red or have only a few white hairs, while the body ranges from nearly chestnut to pinkish. Geneticists prefer the term “chestnut roan,” but this term is not in common use. Bay Roan is true roan on a bay coat.

Is my horse roan or grey?

As mentioned in that article, “Grey” is the gradual lightening of some other overall color of the horse’s coat. “Roan” is a coloration pattern that remains constant throughout the life of the horse. Roan and Grey are completely different descriptors and are not interchangeable.

Can you breed a roan to a roan?

There was a refereed journal article published in 1979 (Hintz and Van Vleck) that suggested that breeding roans to roans to get roan offspring could have lethal consequences. Homozygous roans have two alleles for the roan color, while heterozygous roans only have one allele.

What is dappled grey?

Definition of dapple-gray: gray variegated with spots or patches of a different shade —used especially of horses.

What is a roan?

The Battle of Gray vs. Roan Roans are commonly confused with grays, however horses can exhibit qualities that are both gray and roan in appearance. Gray is one of the most frequent coat colors in horses, and it may be seen in practically all breeds. Over time, the gray coat develops a trait that distinguishes it from other coats: it grows gradually lighter in color. Gray foals can be born in any hue, including roan, and there may be no sign that they will have a gray coat when they are born. Mature grays may lose all or part of their natural coat color, resulting in a “white” coat, although the color of their skin and eyes remain the same as before.

Because a gray may transition from being totally colored to being wholly white throughout the course of its existence, the process of “graying out” might, at times, appear to be very similar to the process of roan.

Dun vs.

Roan) Grullo coloration is produced by the dun gene, also known as the dun factor, when it interacts with a black base coat.

Grullos, in contrast to blue roans, have solid colored hairs that seem bluish owing to low levels of pigment in each hair, rather than black hairs mixed with white hairs as in blue roans.

In the matchup between Rabicano and Roan, The rabicano design is one type of roaning.

Racial roaning in rabicanos frequently results in the formation of white hair rings around the base of the tail, known as a “coon tail,” and in heavily roaned rabicanos, the white hairs may converge to create vertical stripes over the ribs, known as “rib stripes.” Rabicano is a color that may be found in several breeds, although it is not recognized by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).

In most breeds, rabicano horses are distinguished by the color of their base coat.

What Are Roan Horses? the Color They’re Born and Other Facts

Any links on this page that direct you to things on Amazon are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase, I will receive a compensation. Thank you in advance for your assistance — I much appreciate it! My next-door friend adores roan horses, and I have to admit that they have a really beautiful colored coat. However, his horses are all various colors, and this prompted me to ponder what color combinations result in a roan horse. And what are the traditional colors of a roan horse?

It’s common for their heads and points (tails, manes, ear tips, and lower legs) to have some white hair, but it’s not equally distributed and is deeper in color than the rest of their coat.

Roan is a unique color scheme for a coat. True roans are difficult to distinguish from other horse coats that seem similar. There are several methods to distinguish a classic roan from a horse that simply seems to be a roan.

What is a roan horse?

Classic roan colors include blue, crimson, and bay roan, to name a few. Any base coat color can be used in conjunction with intermixed colored and white hairs to create the look of a roan horse; the effect is that of the coat’s silver sheen. Although their heads and tips are solid colored, they have an inverted V form right above the knees that is characteristic of this species. Roan is a term used to describe any horse that has a mixture of white and colored hairs in its coat, which some people believe to be all horses.

The genetics of a classic roan horse.

A “genuine” or “classic” roan, on the other hand, has a certain genetic composition that results in a distinct pattern. When it comes to classic Roan, it is inherited as a single dominant gene, represented by theRn allele. Because of the necessity of this gene, a horse must have had at least one roan parent in order to be considered a real roan. True roan horses’ coats normally lighten and deepen with the seasons, but their coats do not lighten with age, as is the case with grey horses’ coat.

Roan horses darken in the winter

When exposed to low temperatures, roans’ hair grows longer, rougher, and thicker, resulting in a darker appearance. When this occurs, the horse’s base color is represented by the longer, thicker hair, which cloaks the horse’s white hair, which stays short. Because of this, the coat pattern becomes deeper and more colorful, with less white showing through. A horse’s look becomes significantly whiter during the summer weather months, as more of the shorter hairs are visible while the thicker and longer hair of the winter coat sheds, giving the horse a considerably whiter appearance.

I discovered that the true color of the roan horse is most clearly discernible in the early summer months, after the horse has shed its winter coat but before it has been exposed to a great deal of direct sunshine.

What color are roan horses born?

When blue roans are born, they are normally black or a dark smoky grey in color. Roughly speaking, bay roans and red roans are both born with tan legs that eventually turn black. Roan foals are often born with a drab coat that takes a year or more to shed away and develop into the color of their adult counterparts. Their roan coloration, on the other hand, should be seen considerably sooner. When foals reach the age of two months, they begin to roan on their hips and flanks. There is a great deal of relevant information available on the genes that are responsible for the roan coat colors in horses today.

Injuries cause permanent changes to a roan’s coat.

When a roan suffers skin trauma, one of its distinguishing characteristics is that the hair in the affected region regrows in a solid color, without any white. It is known as “corn markings” or “corn spots” in order to describe this part of the body.

Bend-Or spots are spots on the coat of some palominos and chestnut horses that are similar in appearance to each other. The spots are normally dark red to black in color and emerge at random. They are not associated with roans or skin injuries, and they do not cause pain.

Dapples on a roan are unique.

Another distinguishing characteristic of roans is the way their coats dapple. When it comes to horses, dappling is widespread and is believed to be a sign of excellent health. Dappling is a pattern of hair rings in a horse’s coat that are a shade or two darker than the surrounding areas. Dappling is most common in non-roan horses. An exception to this is when you have a roan, when the dappling rings are lighter circles of hair instead. Classic roans do not contain partial pattern roaning, such as varnish, rabicano, or sabino, which are examples of partial pattern roaning.

As a point of clarification, the phrases “classic roan” and “genuine roan” are interchangeable.

Blue roans have a black color base

Blue roan is one of the most stunning hues available. A classic blue roan has a black base color (E/E or E/e) with no Agouti (a/a) and roan (R/R or R/r) genes. It has no Agouti (a/a) and no Agouti (a/a) genes. Black and white hairs are uniformly distributed over the whole body of a classic roan, giving them a blueish tint as a result of the interspersion. Their head, lower legs, mane, and tail, on the other hand, stay completely black. Grey horses and grullo horses are sometimes mistaken for blue roans because of their lighter summer coats and darker winter coats.

What’s the difference between a grullo and a blue roan?

There are certain grullo’s who have a coat that is extremely similar to a roan in appearance, with a blue color and black tips. A grullo’s coat, on the other hand, is composed of solid color hairs that seem blue, and a blue roan is composed of a blend of white and black hairs that appears blue. Aside from that, I published an in-depth post about grulla horses that has a great deal of valuable and intriguing information: What Is a Grulla Colored Quarter Horse and Where Can I Find One? 5 Quick Points to Remember

What’s the difference between a grey and a blue roan?

My buddy owns a horse that he claims is a roan, but to me it appears to be a gray horse. I understand that some roans might seem quite similar to others, but how can he be certain that it is a roan? When white hair is intertwined with a horse’s base color, the result is a color pattern known as roan. The horse’s head and extremities are normally the horse’s foundation color. As a horse grows older, its foundation color becomes lighter and lighter in tone. Unlike roan foals, grey foals can be born in any color, including chestnut, bay, brown, and black.

Grey is not a genetically determined color; rather, it is a color modifier that causes a progressive loss of pigmentation in colors over the course of time.

There are no dominant genes in the roan or the grey breeds; in other words, it takes two roans to make one grey, just as it takes two greys to make one grey. Betty Wills contributed to this article.

Red roan horses have a chestnut color base

a horse with a chestnut foundation equine color that has been impacted by the roan gene is referred to as a red roan. This gene results in an equal blend of white hair interspersed with red hair all over the horse’s body (chestnut is sometimes referred to as sorrel). Strawberry roans are another name for this kind of horse. Incorrectly, red roans are frequently referred to as bay roans, which is an inaccurate phrase to use because a bay roan has black points rather than red points. Submitted by Vassil

Bay roans have black points

Bay roan horses are generated by the bay color scheme being modified by a roan gene to produce authentic roan horses. Depending on the base shade of bay, the specific shade will vary; nevertheless, as with all genuine roans, the mane, tail, and lower legs will retain their original color, and the body will be equally interspersed with white hair. Generally speaking, bay horses have a black color coat foundation, but the tints of that coat can vary widely depending on their hereditary factors.

In contrast, bay roans will have black points, while red roans will have dark red points, indicating that they are of the same breed.


Colours of roan sheep include bay, red, and blue, which are the most prevalent. Roans may be found in any base color, although those with light-colored coats are difficult to recognize since the white hairs do not show out as much as those with darker coats.

How do you tell if your horse is a roan?

Roan horses have coats that contain white hairs interspersed with the horse’s basic color, giving the horse a roan appearance. At the same time, other areas of their bodies, such as their heads, lower legs, and manes, retain their solid colors. Roans are typically born with these markings, although it may be difficult to tell which one is which until the foal’s hair falls off and reveals its actual nature.

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Related Articles

  • Does the color of Chestnut horses and Sorrel horses have anything in common? Thoroughbred Horses Registered in the United States: What Colors Are Allowed
  • What exactly is a dun horse?

The Roan Quarter Horse Color

The sound of a roar may be heard from a mile away. The roan is a popular mount because it is traditionally a lovely silver hue with a dark head and legs.

What color is a roan horse?

In humans, the roan gene generates a color pattern of white over any base color, however it is easier to discern on darker hues owing to the contrast. In animals, the gene produces a color pattern of white over any base color. Classic or genuine roan is characterized by the presence of white hairs interspersed with colored hairs (the base coat) over the horse’s body, with just the head and legs remaining unaffected, giving the horse a silvery look on the outside. The horse’s white hairs may be concentrated over the eyes, giving the appearance that the horse has white eyebrows on occasion.

  • A red roan horse is a sorrel or chestnut horse that has the roan gene. A blue roan is a black horse with roaning on its back. A bay with roaning is referred to as a bay roan. Each and every other color can be affected by the roan gene, however light hues like as palomino make the roaning difficult to detect

For registration reasons, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) accepts these horses as having their base color and noting that they have the roan gene. Because roan is a dominant gene, the trait must be inherited from at least one of the parents in order for it to be passed on. A horse is capable of transporting a number of modifications. In the case of a horse, it is possible for it to carry both dun and roan genes. Roan should not be confused with the marks created by the genes rabicano or sabino, which are caused by distinct genes.

Aside from that, any parts of a roan’s hair that is scraped away will come back as the horse’s basic color, however in the other patterns, the hair would normally grow back white.

Typically, gray hairs will appear quickly around the eyes and muzzle, as well as on the backs of the ears, as well as all over the body of a foal that is in the early stages of becoming gray.

Having both gray and roan parents increases the chances of a gray horse becoming a roan horse. He will start out his life as a roan and eventually become gray as he gets older.

Red Roan

A red roan’s color genetics are identical to those of a sorrel or a chestnut roan. Except for the expression of the roan gene, which is inherited from at least one parent, there is no difference between the two. Red roans have a consistent blend of red and white hairs all over their body, as well as a red head and legs, which distinguish them from other species. They may have a body and tail that are crimson or flaxen in color.

Blue Roan

If at least one of the parents possesses the roan gene, the blue roan can be produced by the roan gene that affects a black horse. In terms of color genetics, blue roan is genetically equivalent to black and, to a lesser extent, to brown. A small number of blue roans may possess the cream dilution gene, resulting in color genetics that are comparable to buckskins. Blue roans have a homogeneous blend of black and white hairs, and their heads and legs are darker than the rest of their body. It is possible to find a few red hairs in the mixture.

Bay Roan

As with the red roan, the bay roan is caused by the roan gene, which affects the bay horse. With the exception of this, the color genetics of bay roan are similar to those of a bay. At least one parent must be known to contain the roan gene, and the black points must have been inherited from at least one parent who is either black or has black points in order for the roan gene to be present. Generally speaking, bay roans have a homogeneous blend of white and red hairs over a big area of their body, with a darker head and a lighter body.


In appearance, rabicano is sometimes confused with roan coloration because it has white flecking instead of the black and white flecking found in roan. However, it is a separate gene that causes the rabicano markings to arise. rabicano refers to a distinctive collection of white markings on a horse’s body that often affects the base of the tail, flanks, and belly. In its most basic form, it will just have white icing at the base of the tail, which is referred to as a coon or skunk tail because of the striped look.

  1. In its most severe version, a rabicano can resemble a real roan in appearance and behavior.
  2. It will also have vertical stripes of white on the barrel, which are referred to as rib barring.
  3. Sabino is another another gene that has a roan impact on the flanks and the body of the animal.
  4. Although not always done so, Sabino does usually always entail face white with a spot of white on the chin and white socks on the legs, in addition to the body roaning, and this is almost always done in public.

For example, it is conceivable for a horse to be both rabicano and sabino at the same time by carrying two or more genes. Rabicano is not an official AQHA color, but it is a marking that can be indicated on a horse’s registration certificate if it has the marking.

Roan Color Facts

  • A real roan is born with a sturdy core. When he sheds his first foal coat, the roan coloring will be revealed. It doesn’t alter or get lighter as he gets older
  • When a roan is hurt, his wounds will heal in the color of his base coat. Sorrel (red) hair, for example, will sprout from a scar left by a red roan. A sorrel horse that has been harmed, on the other hand, would most likely develop white hair. Although it is a common misconception that homozygous roans are born dead, research has demonstrated the existence of such horses. In 2017, roans accounted for 12 percent of all horses registered with the AQHA.

Famous Roan American Quarter Horses

A few of notable roan horse lineages are represented by the 1935 stallion Red Man (a son of Joe Hancock) and the 1957 stallion Blue Valentine, who are both renowned for their prowess in the rodeo corral. Others include the 1984 red roan stallion Zippos Mr Good Bar, who sired the 2000 red roan mare Vital Signs Are Good and has left his mark on a large number of entrants in the western pleasure arena with his unusual coloring. Another example is the 1980 blue roan mare Royal Blue Boon, whose descendants were instrumental in revolutionizing the cutting industry.

Zippos Mr Good Bar Vital Signs Are Good
(Credit: courtesy of the American Quarter Horse Hall of FameMuseum)

To learn more about the many coat color possibilities and the genetics behind them, read our e-book American Quarter Horse Coat Color Genetics .

Horses come in a wide variety of forms, sizes, and colors, with blue roan being one of the most eye-catching coat kinds available. However, what exactly is blue roan? How do you tell the difference between genuine roan and “imposters”? And what breeds of horses are capable of displaying this color? We’ll address these and other questions as we provide you with a list of the top ten blue roan horse breeds.

What is a “roan” horse?

Let’s start by discussing what the term “roan” actually implies. Pigments used to tint horses’ coats include black and red – with “red” being a reddish-brown hue – as well as other pigments. Chestnut (red hairs alone), black (black hairs only), and bay are the three base coat colors produced by the combination of these two hues (a mixture of the two). The presence of white hairs, which are hairs that have no pigment, is still another option. In the simplest terms, it is a combination of the two pigments, the three basic coat colors, and the white hairs that results in all of the many coat colors and patterns that can be seen in horses.

The result of this mixture is referred to as “roan,” and there are three primary types:

  • In the case of red roani, the base coat is made up of chestnut and white hairs
  • In the case of bay roani, it is made up of a bay foundation coat and white hairs. As previously stated, bay roan was traditionally regarded a sort of red roan
  • Nevertheless, blue roan is the combination of a black base coat with white hairs
  • Blue roan is a very recent category. Despite this being the formal definition of the phrase, it is also occasionally employed in order to describe any roan coat that has a blueish cast to it.

Roan coats are present from birth, but the color of the coat may not become noticeable until after the horse has lost its first coat, which is known as the foal coat. True roans are distinguished by the fact that their color does not fade as the horse grows older. It may, however, vary throughout the year due to the fact that the length of the horse’s coat changes as the seasons change.

Which breeds can produce true blue roans?

A list of some of the most prevalent horse breeds that you are likely to come across that are capable of generating a blue-roan coat is provided below for your convenience.

1. American quarter horse

This breed is renowned for its ability to sprint at great speeds over short distances — the name of the breed derives from its ability to run the quarter mile in under a minute. This breed of horse is available in practically every hue, including blue roan – but sorrel is the most prevalent color (a brownish red that is usually considered a type of chestnut in other breeds).

In addition to being used for racing, these horses are frequently seen competing in rodeos and western riding competitions. In addition to ranch labor, they are occasionally employed in equestrian disciplines like as show jumping and dressage as well as for hunting and trail riding.

2. Percheron

Percherons are typically gray or black in color, although they can also be found as roans, including blue roans. It is believed that this breed of huge draught horse originated in the Huisne river valley in western France, which was part of the province historically known as Perche, therefore the name “Perche.” Their forefathers were developed as battle horses, but they were eventually adapted for other purposes like as hauling stagecoaches and doing agricultural tasks. During the First World War, they were also utilized as pack animals for the troops.

Among other things, they are used to pull trams at the Disneyland Resort in Paris.

3. Brabant and Belgian

Brabants and Belgians are large, robust, and muscular draught horse breeds that rank among the strongest of all draught horse breeds. Even though Brabants were developed in the Belgian province of the same name, the horses commonly referred to as “Belgians” are really a closely related but distinct North American breed. Belgian horses have surpassed all other types of draught horses in the United States in recent years. Belgians in the United States are, on average, somewhat smaller than their European counterparts, according to statistics.

It is a breed that is well-known for its pulling ability, and they are also popular as show horses and pleasure riders.

4. Welsh pony and cob

Small horses that originated in the highlands of Wales in the United Kingdom, Welsh ponies and cobs are now found around the world. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they always have tiny heads and huge eyes, sloping shoulders, short backs, and powerful hindquarters. They are well-known for their amazing stamina, pleasant temperament, and easy demeanor, and this, along with their small stature, makes them a favorite mount for children to ride and learn on. They are available in a variety of hues, with the most popular being black, gray, chestnut, and bay.

For registration purposes, any solid color is permissible; however, tobiano or coats with extremely complex patterning are not permitted to be registered.

5. Paso fino

In the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, the paso fino is a breed of gaited horse that was produced from the horses of Spanish explorers and colonists who arrived in the 16th century. The paso fino is derived from these horses. They are an attractive and adaptable horse that can be used for a variety of activities, but they are particularly popular for trail riding. The terrain of Puerto Rico necessitated the use of a sure-footed, robust, and trustworthy horse, and the paso fino was the result of several generations of breeding with this objective in mind.

While the most prevalent colors are bay, chestnut, brown, and black, the roan gene is found in the breed, and blue roan paso finos are also known to exist. Despite the fact that they are little horses, Paso Finos are well-known for their smooth gaits as well as their capacity to carry a large load.

6. Breton

The Breton, which is actually two separate breeds, is a tiny but stocky and powerful draught horse that originated in Brittany, in the northwest of France, and is now found around the world. Compared to the Trait Breton, the Postier Breton is somewhat lighter and more nimble, but the Trait Breton is heavier and was more commonly employed for agricultural labor. Chestnut is the most frequent coat color, and it includes variations such as flaxen chestnut and chestnut roan. Blue roans, on the other hand, may be bred, despite the fact that they are less frequent.

However, currently, they are mostly raised for their meat rather than their fur.

7. Mustang

Mustangs are derived from the horses that were introduced to the Americas by the Spanish explorers and colonists. This implies that they are officially considered “feral” creatures, despite the fact that they are frequently – and incorrectly – described to as “wild.” Mustangs exhibit a wide range of features depending on the community they are found in since they are free-ranging. Thus, every hue is conceivable, even blue roan, and any pattern is feasible.

8. Standardbred

The standardbred horse is a kind of North American horse that is primarily bred for harness racing. Because of their strong frame and placid disposition, they are extremely popular for pleasure riding and horse events as well as for breeding. Standardbred horses are well-known for being a straightforward breed to train. The most prevalent colors for this horse are bay, brown, and black, although other colors like as chestnut, gray, and roan – including blue roan – are also available. This horse may be found in many different hues.

He was sent to the United States, where his great-grandson, Hambletonian 10, was selected as the breed’s founding sire.

9. Tennessee walking horse

Likewise, the Tennessee walking horse is a type of gaited horse, similar to the paso fino. For which it is most known, it can move in a distinctive four-beat running-walking pattern that it has developed. It is a popular horse for pleasure riding because of its smooth pace, as well as its calm demeanor and kind attitude. It can also be found in competitions in both western and English sports, depending on the discipline. The most popular colors are bay, black, and chestnut, although there are also gray and roan examples – including blue roans – to be found on the market.

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10. American saddlebred

It is believed that the American saddlebred horse originated during the American Civil War, when it was heavily employed in the war effort. This kind of horse is another gaited breed, and they are highly regarded for their gentle but energetic personality.

In today’s world, they are popular horses for pleasure riding, and they may also be seen competing in a variety of other disciplines. The first registration of breeds took place in 1891. Any hue is acceptable – and roans of any color, even blue roans, are possible.

What isn’t a roan?

To the untrained eye, roan horses appear to be different from other horses because of their color. Several other varieties of coat, on the other hand, can generate roan-like characteristics. Although this phenomena is referred to as “roaning,” horses that exhibit roaning are not regarded to be actual roans. As we have seen, real roans have coats that are made up of a mixture of colorful and white hairs that are uniformly distributed over their entire bodies (except the head and the points). The design above the knee is also an inverted “V,” which is not found on other coat styles.

A list of some of the coat patterns and colors that are most frequently mistaken for pure roan when they are actually something else can be found below the fold.


Gray is one of the coat kinds that is sometimes confused for roan, although the two are not the same coloration. One significant distinction is that, although roan horses may get lighter or darker during the year as the seasons change, gray horses become increasingly lighter throughout their lifetimes as they grow older. The gray color of an adult horse can be difficult to detect when a foal is born, but as the horse grows older, the gray color becomes more noticeable owing to the growth of increasing volumes of white hair on the horse’s mane and tail.

A few gray horses will eventually lose all of the colored hairs from their coats, resulting in a coat that is virtually totally white in appearance.


Despite the fact that blue dun (also known as “grullo”) is easily confused with blue roan, the two coat varieties are created by two separate genes. The grullo color is generated by modest quantities of pigments occurring in each hair rather than the interspersing of black and white hairs across the body, which would otherwise cause the color to appear. A grullo is distinguished by the fact that all of the hairs in its coat are the same color.


When a horse’s coat is roan, it has a pattern that is not consistent across the horse’s body. Rabicano is a sort of roaning coloring that varies from genuine roaning in that, while white hairs are mixed with colored hairs in certain spots, the pattern is not uniform throughout the horse’s body. If you look closely in rabicano horses, the patterning is most prominent near the base of the tail and may also be seen as a striped pattern across the horse’s ribs.


“Sabinos” is the term used to describe the white patches that can be found on a horse’s coat.

These white spots can occasionally be accompanied by a pattern made up of a mixture of white and colored hairs, although the pattern is only visible where the spots are and not all over the horse’s body.

Varnish roan

As a variation on the leopard complex pattern, varnish roan can be mistaken for the more common real roan in appearance. Like real roan, this coat type is characterized as an all-over combination of colored and white hairs, although it is not genetically related to true roan in terms of appearance. In order to distinguish between the two, look for what are known as “varnish markings,” which are darker patches with fewer white hairs that form in places around the bone. These varnish markings never emerge in authentic roans because they are too dark.

A beautiful, striking coat color

The hue blue roan is one of the most unique and appealing of horse coat colors, and it may be seen in a wide variety of horse breeds. Although there are numerous other coat varieties that seem similar to a genuine blue roan horse, if you learn how to distinguish between them, you should have no trouble identifying a true blue roan horse.

Blue Roan Horse Color Genetics with Photos and Descriptions

The beauty of roan horses cannot be overstated. The appearance generated by placing coats on their bodies that are equal parts colorful fur and white fur is breathtaking. Roans are available in a variety of hues, including red, blue, and, more recently, bay roans, which cover the deeper brown roans that were previously put within the red roans category but are now considered separate species. Each coat variant is different and one-of-a-kind, with the blue roan coat being the most easily distinguished.

The animal was exported from the United States to Germany.

What Exactly Is a Blue Roan Horse?

A blue roan’s coat is made up of a 50/50 mixture of white and black hairs, which gives it its color. You read it correctly. A blue roan is not exactly an indigo-coated horse, but rather one with a dark, black base color. The combination of black and white hairs gives the horse a blue-hued look, which is how the name came about. If you look closely at the mane, tail, head, and lower legs of a roan horse, you will see that the white hairs are either less noticeable or completely missing. The background coat color of a blue roan, on the other hand, is invariably black.

Frequently, the word “roan” is applied incorrectly to horses that do not truly have roans, but rather have patterns that are interpreted as “roaning.” Most of these horses are sabino (which is a paint gene) or gray in coloration.


Blue Roan vs. Red Roan

The most obvious distinction between the two hues is, of course, that blue roans appear blueish and red roans appear reddish in appearance. While blue roans are born with a black undercoat, red roans might be born with a coat that is chestnut, bay, or anywhere in the middle of the spectrum.

In the past, the phrase “strawberry” was used to designate to roan that was pinkish in hue. The foundation coats of these werehorses are typically chestnut or sorrel in color.

“True” Blue Roans

A true blue Roan half Arabian / half quarter horse that has been DNA-tested and proven to be Roan rather than gray. An Arabian Bay mare, with a Buckskin Roan father — Photograph by the authorA pure blue roan is just an Arabian Bay mare with a black coat. True roans are defined as classic, and they do not include patrials or patterns such as varnish, rabicano, or sabino, which are considered to be modern. This indicates that the horse has an equal distribution of white and black hairs over their whole body (excluding the legs and face).

True roans are genetically separate from the other patterned roans in that they have a specific pattern on their backs.

Consider the genetic composition of a roan horse in order to have a better understanding of the situation.

Roan Coat Color Genetics

A roan coat is determined by coat color genetics. The roan gene itself is a dominant trait (Rn)and the foal of two non-roan parents, even if they have a bloodline of roans behind them, cannot have the roan trait present in them. There are many unique roan variations but, most stock horse registries recognize three distinct types for registration purposes. These are Blue Roan, Bay Roan, and Red Roan. Roan on a Chestnut Horse is a Red or Strawberry Roan – AQHA Mare – Photo by the Author All horses are born with a red or black base.

Agouti is kind of a funny word if you haven’t heard it before so let me explain.

Agouti has no effect on red-based horses (like chestnuts) (like chestnuts).

Remember that all genes come in pairs.

Base Color Black Gene Agouti Gene Roan Variation
Black EE or Ee aa Blue Roan
Bay EE or Ee AA or Aa Bay Roan
Chestnut ee AA, Aa or aa Red Roan

Genes that are dominantly inherited cannot be passed down over generations. As previously stated, two non-roan parent horses are unable to generate a roan offspring. However, there are situations when it may appear as though a roan coat has jumped many generations in age. Sometimes it turns out that one parent was indeed slightly roaned, but the coloring was quite subtle; other times, their true roan nature was concealed by an excessive amount of white marks, giving the appearance that they were not truly roaned.

Roan Imposters

However, there are certain horse coat colors that appear to resemble roan, but appearances may be misleading.

Here are the four most often encountered. Despite the fact that this pintoBLM mustang appears to have roaning across her neck and withers, she does not possess the roan gene. The author took the photograph.

Sabino(also called Sabino Roan)

It has been observed that some sabino horses express their coat color in a way that gives the appearance of being roan. The sabino gene can be expressed at low levels, such that you are unaware that it is present, or at high levels, such that it is extremely evident that it is present. Something to keep in mind is that an overly expressive sabino may resemble an actual hoot. Among truth, this is rather prevalent in purebred Arabian horses when the roan gene does not exist, as is the case with several draft horses.

These marks sometimes have borders that are severely roaned, and as a result, they are sometimes wrongly classed as roans.


Rabicano is a pattern that is similar to rabicano. Instead of having an even mix of white hairs all over their main body, rabicano has white hairs that are more crowded near the base of the tail and on the flanks, which distinguishes them from real roans. The base of the tail has horizontal white hair stripes that may be seen. Rabicano patterns may be found in a wide variety of breeds, and Arabians that are genuinely rabicano are sometimes misidentified as roan in appearance. Also common in Thoroughbreds is the presence of this disease.


This Varnish Roan Appaloosa does not have the roan gene in its genetic make-up! The author took the photograph. A varnish roan can be found in breeds that have traits of the appaloosa. This is a form of leopard complex coat color that is an all-over combination of white and colorful hairs, and it is one of the most common. Patches of skin that are tightly connected to the skeleton, such as those on the face or on the legs, do not produce as much white hair in a varnish roan appaloosa as other patches of skin.

A varnish roan can be distinguished from a real roan by the presence of leopard complex traits, such as striped hooves or mottled skin around the eyes and the bridge of their nose.


When gray horses are foals, and even in their early years, they might frequently appear to be roan in color rather than gray in color. As previously stated, the Jockey Club habitually registers horses as “Gray or Roan” when they are not. A gray horse, like a roan, must be raised by a gray parent. Gray is another another hue that is dominant and does not pass from generation to generation. So, if your foal seems to be roan and has at least one parent that is gray, additional examination is necessary to determine the cause.

To Complicate Matters

To further complicate matters, any of the four “roan imposters” described above can occur in conjunction with the roan gene, resulting in a total of eight possible combinations. As a result, a horse might be roan and then turn gray.

As an example, a horse might be varnish appaloosa or roan in color. To be more specific, it is theoretically feasible to have a horse that possesses all of the aforementioned genes. This is just one of the many reasons why horse coat color genetics is such an interesting subject to study!

Exceptions to the Roan Parent Rule

In regards to the roan parent regulation, I’d want to make a short point. It is safe to presume that a roan horse will have at least one roan parent in order to exist. It is usually expressed in some form when Roan is present, and a horse that possesses it may cross it without being hampered. The foal is gray at birth, registered as gray, but begins to produce roan offspring when bred to another gray foal. This is known as a gray syndrome. This nearly often indicates that the gray horse is also roan in color.

I say almost always because there is a very slight chance that a single roan horse may be generated from a non-roan parent by DNA mutation, which is why I say nearly always.

Keep in mind that you are more likely to win the lottery and be hit by lightning on the same day than you are to have a foal born with a random gene mutation that results in the foal being roan despite the fact that the foal’s parents were not roans.

How to Get A Blue Roan Horse

Purchasing a blue roan horse is the most straightforward method of obtaining one. After that, if you want to attempt breeding your mare or stallion in order to produce a blue roan foal, there are a few factors you should consider in order to improve your chances. Any foal born to a pair of parents that are homozygous for agouti (AA) has zero possibility of being born a true blue roan foal. One of the first things you should do is test your own horse for the presence of red and black. This will assist you in selecting a partner that will provide the highest potential probability for the birth of a blue roan foal.

The test is simple and simply asks you to mail in a sample of your hair.

This ensures that the foal will have a black foundation and will carry a roan.

This is dependent on whether or not either horse have any additional color-modifying genes.

Blue Roan Horse Breeds

True roans may be produced by a number of different breeds of dogs. Many European draft breeds, including as the Brabant, the Italian Heavy Draft, the Rhenish-German Cold-Blood, and others, fall into this category. Aside from paint horses, Paso Finos, the Quarter Horse, the Standardbred horse, the Mustang, and the Tennessee Walking horse, Blue Roan horses are also quite common in North American breeds such as the Paint horse, the Paso Fino, the Quarter Horse, the Standardbred horse, the Mustang, and the Tennessee Walking horse.

  • Welsh ponies, Gypsy cobs, Shetland ponies, and a variety of other breeds are known to have roans.
  • Although some breeds may not have the roan gene at all, it is important to remember that some do.
  • While some individuals are born with coats that resemble roans, they are not in fact roans.
  • One of the most well-known roan horses is Red Man, who was born in 1935, and the stallion Blue Valentine, who was born in 1957 and rose to prominence on the rodeo circuit.

Royal Blue Boon, a legendary 1980 blue roan, was the first in a long series of world-class cutting horses to be bred and trained in the United States.

Are Roan Horses Gray?

To put it bluntly, no way! Neither roans nor grays are the same as each other. Occasionally, though, roans are confused for grays. Due to the fact that horses may display aspects of both colors, this is an understandable mistake. However, what distinguishes gray coats, which are widespread in practically all breeds, from blue roans is that a gray coat gradually becomes lighter and lighter in hue over time. Gray horses can be born in any hue and gradually fade to gray, even if there is no evidence that they have a gray coat at the time of birth.

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The coat, on the other hand, begins to gray.

Adult grays can have coats that are completely devoid of their original color – or even appear to have a “white” appearance – but their eye and skin colors stay the same.

While the coats continue to gray out, they can sometimes take on a roan-like look in the middle of the process, contributing to the perception error.

Final Thoughts

Blue roans are exceptionally attractive horses. The fact that they are a little bit of an optical illusion of white on black, as well, just adds to their uniqueness. True blue roans are black horses that have the roan gene bred into them. It is the mix of pristine white on solid black that distinguishes them and makes them one of the most widely sought-after roan varieties available today.

Roan Horses – Colors, Genetics & Breeds

*This post may include affiliate links, which means that I may get a compensation if you make a purchase after clicking on one of the links I give (at no extra cost to you). Because I am an Amazon Associate, I receive money when people make eligible purchases. Please see mydisclaimer for more information on this subject. Roan horses are highly sought after in the equine world because they are breath-taking and undeniably beautiful. It appears like they have been perpetually sprinkled with snow or powdered sugar due to their distinctive coloration!

Roans are not a distinct breed in and of themselves, as some people may assume.

What is a Roan Horse?

roan horses have a distinctive roan coat pattern, which is a uniform and aesthetically pleasing combination of white and colored hair inside an animal’s coat that is visually attractive.

The majority of a horse’s coat seems significantly lighter than its basic color as a result of this characteristic color pattern on its coat. The head and lower section of the legs of a roan horse are normally painted in a single color, with the exception of the tail. (source)

What is a Classic Roan Pattern?

The traditional roan pattern is the pattern that is most frequently mentioned when a horse is referred to as a roan. Classic roan horses, also known as real roans, are genetically distinct from horses with other roan-mimicking patterns, according to genetic analysis. Apart from being genetically distinct, the classic roan pattern is also aesthetically distinct from other roan patterns in terms of appearance. In the roan-patterned region, the white, unpigmented hairs are distributed uniformly across the area.

Roan Coat Color Genetics

The traditional roan coat coloring is inherited by an autosomal dominant gene, which is found in both males and females. It appears to be complicated, yet it is not quite as complicated as it appears. Putting it another way, it simply implies that the roan trait is handed on from one generation to the next and that only one copy of the gene is required for the characteristic to manifest itself. (source) In the event that a horse receives the roan gene from at least one of its parents, the horse’s coat will be patterned in the roan pattern.


Testing for Roan Zygosity

Due to the fact that the exact genetic mutation has not been scientifically found, there is currently no test that can be used to specifically detect that gene. The roan zygosity, or the sequence of genes known to result in roan coloration, may be determined through DNA marker testing on a horse’s genome. The Roan Zygosity Test is the name of this test, and it costs around $40 each test. Check read our page on DNA testing available for horses to get a list of laboratories that can perform the roan test for more information.

A horse that did not receive the roan genetic marker from either of its parents would have no possibility of having roan-colored children in its lifetime.

Roan Zygosity Test Results

It is believed that there are only three genetic options when it comes to the color of roan horses, as determined by the University of California Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab:

Result Explanation Roan Coloration Chance of Roan Offspring
N/N Horse does not have any roan genetic markers. No display of classic roan color pattern. Zero
N/Rn Horse inherited 1 copy of the roan genetic marker. Definite display of classic roan color pattern. About 50%
Rn/Rn Horse inherited 2 copies of the roan genetic marker, 1 from each parent. Definite display of classic roan color pattern. Very high chance.

Common Variations of Classic Roan Colors

It is important to note that all roan horses retain their natural horse foundation colors, with the roan pattern merely dispersed throughout them. Three unique classic roan variations are most often recognized by horse registries, and they are as follows: Listed below are the most often encountered variants of the real roan pattern feature.

Red/Strawberry Roan

Red roan is a name used to designate roan horses with a rich chestnut-based coat, which is characteristic of the breed. Strawberry roan is a name used to describe lighter chestnut-colored horses who have a roan pattern on their coats that makes them look more strawberry red. Solid chestnut colored horses can have a light to dark reddish-brown coat pattern across their entire body, including their lower legs, even though they are a solid chestnut hue.

In order to understand the termred roan, it is necessary to understand that it was formerly used to describe to bay-colored roan horses, but bay roans were finally given their own category.

Bay Roan

This mare is a bay roan American Quarter Horse that, throughout the summer, has less expression than the majority of roan horses. It is possible to have the pattern of the roan on your horse, but have a bay colored base coat instead. A solid bay horse has a coat that ranges from light to dark reddish-brown in color, similar to that of a chestnut horse. When compared to chestnut horses, a bay may be distinguished by its conspicuously solid black lower legs as well as its black mane and tail. Bay horses, as well as bay roans, have black skin under most of their hair, unless the skin is hidden by a white marking on their face, which is the case in some cases.

Blue Roan

Blue roan horses have a coat that seems to be bluish-tinted, although their base coat is actually black in color. The roan coloring gives the horses a bluer appearance than they would otherwise have had if they were just gray or black, hence the given name of blueroan. You should be aware that blue roans’ coats can initially seem solid when they are born, but if they contain the roan pattern gene, their coats can eventually develop into the roan pattern.

Uncommon Variations of Roan Colors

It is conceivable to stumble across a palomino roan, despite the fact that they are quite rare. A palomino horse has a beautiful golden coat with a white or yellowish-white mane and tail, and it is a stunning sight to see. When it comes to genetics, the light golden color is caused by an inherited cream dilution gene, which is responsible for the light golden hue. (source) When a palomino gene mutation is paired with a roan gene mutation, the outcome is a stunning palomino roan.

Buckskin Roan

They have tan colored bodies with black lower legs, manes, and tails, which distinguishes them from other horses. The cream dilution gene was found in a bay colored horse, which resulted in the colour. White will be equally scattered throughout the remainder of their bodies. Buckskin roans will have black legs, a black mane and tail, as well as tan or golden hair with white evenly distributed throughout the rest of their bodies. (source)

Dun Roan

Dun roans are roan-colored horses that have a dun foundation color as their predominant hue. Duns may be found in a variety of colors, including red, brown, and black. Horses with dun coloring have a lighter, more diluted body color with deeper shading on their legs, manes, and tails than horses with other coloring. They have a distinct deeper tinted stripe running down their backs, which distinguishes them from bays and other horse colors that may be dun-like in appearance. (source)

Roan x Paint

Paint horses can have roan color variants as well as other color variations! Paints with roan coloring can be made in a variety of colours, including bay, sorrel, chestnut, black, dun, black, and palomino, as well as other roan colors.

If your paint horse has roan coloring, you may notice big swaths of white mixed in with colorful parts that exhibit the roan pattern. Remember that paints can be solid with no white, yet they still have paint horse DNA in them. (source)

Other Roan-like Patterns

Unfortunately, there are certain roan-like patterns that are frequently mistaken for actual roans in the wild. Even more perplexing is the fact that these patterns are referred to as roaning despite the fact that they are not conventional roan patterns. Listed below are a few of the most typical roan-mimicking designs that you may see.

Grulla ‘Roan’

Grulla, often known as grullo, is a horse color that is classified as part of the dun horse color family. Grulla horses are similar in appearance to duns, with lighter bodies and darker legs, manes, and tails. Duns with a black base, often known as blue duns, are also referred to as grulla roans in some circles. They do not have equally scattered white hairs like traditional roans do; instead, they have intermittent shades of mouse-gray colored hairs intermingled with their base hue, which gives them their unique appearance.

They are technically not roans since they lack the genetic markers that distinguish roans from other breeds.

This is not true.


When it comes to roaning patterns, the rabicano pattern, which is also known as white ticking, is one of the most easily recognized. It differs significantly from the standard roan pattern in that the white scattered hairs are not uniformly distributed across the pattern. As a result, some sections of the horse’s body seem significantly whiter than others. A lighter pattern may also be seen on the horse’s flanks and belly, with the pattern spreading out to other sections of the horse’s body. In addition, there is a considerable quantity of white ticking near the base of the horse’s tail, which is sometimes the sole indication that a horse has the rabicano pattern on its coat.


Sabino patterned horses are distinguished by the presence of white spots on their bodies. Roaning can be seen at the borders of the white marks, where the white hairs are mixed in with the colored hairs, indicating that they are not completely white. Some horse aficionados believe that sabino horses have a real roan gene, however this is not the case; they do not. If the sabino pattern is only weakly exhibited, it may appear to be little more than a typical paint horse in appearance. When expressed exponentially, a sabino horse might appear to be quite similar to a conventional roan horse.


Despite the fact that varnish roans have a similar appearance to classic roans, their color will vary over time, unlike real roans. Unlike classic roans, varnish roans can have regions of solid color as well as white roaning on the horse’s legs and head, which is not the case with traditional roans. Horses with varnish roan coats will have an increased quantity of white hairs throughout their coats as they get older.

Furthermore, V arnish roans are not genetically connected to traditional roan horses. Instead, they are a variety of leopard complex patterns found in breeds like as the Noriker, the Appaloosa, and the Knabstrupper horse, among others. (source)

Coat Color Changes

Horses with typical roan patterns are prone to subtle variations throughout the year as the seasons change, especially in the winter. As a result of changing weather conditions, horses can develop heavier coats of hair throughout the winter months, which can result in a visible lightening or darkening of the color of any horse, particularly roans. During the spring and summer, they will revert to their typical roan colour.

Injured Areas

The traditional roan coloring will not fade with time. For a variety of causes, particular sections of a roan’s coat will change from time to time. When a roan horse gets scratched or sustains a trauma that causes hair loss, the horse’s hair may come back in a solid color rather than the regular roan pattern in some instances. Corn markings are a term used to describe these patches or places. Additionally, these patches have been observed to form in locations that did not appear to have had an injury.

The “Lethal Roan” Myth

Breeding two creatures that have the same gene that have different colorings, such as the merle coloration in dogs, can result in a “lethal” or deadly combination when the two animals have the same gene. Researchers in the late 1970s were under the impression that pairing a classic roan horse with another classic roan horse would result in a fatal combination. They were wrong. They are concerned that it is causing embryos to cease growing too early in the development process. Today, however, the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, opposes that notion and asserts that it is untrue.

19 Horse Breeds with Roan Prevalence

Not every horse breed is capable of producing roan color variants, nor is every breed known to do so. Despite the fact that certain Arabians and Thoroughbreds exhibit the traditional roan pattern, no scientific evidence has been found to support this pattern. Breeds with a high incidence of the classic roan pattern include the ones listed below.

  • Quarter Horse
  • Paint Horse
  • Mustang Horse
  • Tennessee Walking Horse
  • Appaloosa Horse
  • Half-Arabian
  • Shetland Pony
  • Gypsy Cobs
  • Spanish Mustang
  • Icelandic Horse
  • Welsh Pony
  • Miniature Horse
  • Paso Fino
  • Peruvian Paso
  • Belgian
  • Brabant
  • Ardennes
  • Standardbred
  • Trait du Nord
  • Quarter Horse
  • Half

Final Thoughts

There is no disputing that roan horses are aesthetically pleasing, to the point where they are frequently regarded as remarkable among horse enthusiasts. Not every horse with a roaning pattern is a classic roan, but there are simple techniques to distinguish between the two types of horses. A close visual assessment of a horse’s coat, in addition to a test, is frequently sufficient. True roan horses will have an even distribution of white hairs throughout their colorful coat, with the exception of their heads and legs, which will be sparsely covered.

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