If you’ve ever wondered about dapple gray horses and why it looks like that, we’ve got the answer for you!
There is no doubt that a gray horse with dapples is striking in appearance and stands out amongst a crowd of bays.
To find out more about the stunning horse coat color read on.
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Dappled Gray Horse
A dappled gray horse is one of the most beautiful. Even though gray horses are not unusual, the silver look created by the dapples gives an almost magical impression.
What Makes a Horse Gray?
The color gray, including dapples, is the result of certain genetics. Research found that all horses that carry this gene can trace their origins to one horse that lived 2,000 years ago.
The gene responsible for creating a gray coat is ‘G’. ‘G’ is a dominant gene, the falls into the category of dilution, not color genes. It overrides other color genetics, but all gray horses have a base color, influenced by the less dominant gene.
What Color Are Gray Foals?
Grays foals are not born gray, or with dapples. They are born one of any color, which is their base color. This can be black, bay, chestnut, or even dun. Early on, even on the day of birth, it is evident that the foal’s true color is gray as it has goggles of silver hair circling its eyes and around its muzzle.
As soon as the foal is born, the dilution gene will begin taking effect. It gradually lightens the coat as the horse ages, until it eventually becomes white.
To produce a gray horse, at least one parent must be gray. If you breed a black horse to a gray horse, you have a fifty percent chance of a gray foal. If you breed a gray mare to a gray stallion, the foal will always be gray.
It is not possible to get a gray horse unless at least one parent is gray. A gray horse will have black skin, not pink as you find under white markings such as leg socks.
What is a Dapple Gray Horse?
As the horse ages, it will get lighter each year. During this process is when you see spectacular silver dapples through the coat. Dapples are rings of different sizes and of darker hair that you see on the coat.
Dappling will change throughout the year, depending on the season.
This is called bloom dappling. You can also have dappling on a gray horse that is influenced by genetics. This is called true dapples.
Not all gray horses get dapples. Also, as the horse ages, the dapples will become less and less prominent. Some grey horses have small specs of brown hair, this will be the most visible when the horse has fully greyed out to a white coat and is called flea-bitten.
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Dappled Gray Horse Breeds
Some breeds consist of horses with predominantly gray coats. However, there is no breed that produces gray coats 100 percent of the time. Next, we will introduce you to horse breeds where gray is the most common color.
The Lipizzaner is one of the most famous breeds where you will see most horses with gray coats. This wonderful breed has a fascinating history going back hundreds of years.
Originating in Slovakia, the Lipizzaner gets its name from the first stud farm dedicated to the breed in Lipica, which started breeding in the 1700s.
The stud farm was started by Charles II Archduke of Inner Austria.
Due to a series of natural disasters and wars, the stud farm was relocated a number of times. World War II caused particular devastation to the breed.
The stud farm was left with just eleven horses after most were taken by Germany.
The evacuation of the Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna in 1945 is one of the most famous stories about this breed.
At the start of the year, Vienna was under increased risk of bombing, and by the Spring, the hungry Soviet Army was getting too close for comfort.
A decision was made to move the horses. Colonel Alois Podhajsky of the Spanish Riding School and the US Army, under the command of George S. Patton, coordinated the escape of the horses from Vienna.
The story of this amazing evacuation was made by Disney into a movie, ‘Miracle of the White Stallions’, in 1963.
Thanks to the dedication of many people over the years, the Lipizzaner and the Spanish Riding School Survived.
Due to selective breeding, the majority of Lipizzaner horses are gray, though the rare one is still black or chestnut. Because of the extreme desire to produce gray horses, the coat dilution gene is strong in the breed, with many of these horses turning fully white by the age of six.
The Percheron is a French draft horse breed from the Perche region of France.
Percherons started life as a heavy, farm and transport horse. They are enormous weighing 1,800 to 2,600 pounds and standing up to 19 hands tall.
Despite its height and muscular body, the Percheron is a gentle, calm horse. They are the most commonly found draft horse breed in the United States. There is a difference between modern American and French Percherons.
In the US, the majority of Percherons have a dapple gray coat, whereas the studbook in France will only accept into its registry horses with a black coat.
In addition to gray, the breed also comes in chestnut, black, and roan.
Today, there are at least 3,400 registered Percherons in the United States, but the number is likely higher as unregistered horses are not accounted for.
The Andalusian originated in Spain and is one of the world’s oldest horse breeds.
It started out as a formidable warhorse. The Andalusian is athletic with a compact body and impressive gaits.
It is a very versatile breed that expresses great presence and sporting abilities. At the same time, they are intelligent, trainable, and have excellent temperaments.
The Andalusian can come in a variety of colors, but a preference for gray coats led to selective breeding. Today, as many as eighty percent of Andalusians are gray, many displaying a dapple coat at points during the greying out process.
You will also see, though rarer, an Andalusian with a bay, chestnut, black, or even palomino or dun coat. The Andalusian is a popular choice for dressage riders, with many of the breeds reaching the highest levels in the sport.
Dappled Gray Horse
If you want a horse just because it is dapple gray, it is important to know that the horse will not always look like that.
From the age of two to six is when you will see the most impressive dapples.
Some horses will still have dapples after the age of six, but they will fade and may only appear on the haunches and hind legs.
In addition to the three breeds we covered, where the majority of horses are gray, several other breeds also produce gray coats, but it is not dominant.
You will also find gray horses in the following breeds
- Irish Sports Horse
- Connemara Pony
- Dutch Warmblood horse breeds
- Irish Draught
- Camargue Horse
- Welsh Pony
We’ve answered some commonly asked questions here about dapple gray horses.
DO ALL DAPPLE GREY HORSES EVENTUALLY TURN WHITE?
Yes, all gray horses, with or without dapples, will turn white as they age.
HOW OLD BEFORE A HORSE TURNS GREY AND DAPPLED?
There is no hard and fast rule for when a horse turns gray and dappled. As soon as a gray foal is born, it will start to lighten. Some horses turn white more quickly than others. Most are completely white by the age of 12. Dapples are the most prominent between the ages of 2 and 6.
IS A FOAL BORN WITH DAPPLES?
No, a foal of any color is not born with dapples. A gray foal is born with its base color, which is black, bay, chestnut, dun, or any other shade. Dapples will not appear until the horse is at least a year old.
We hope you found this article helpful in understanding a dapple gray horse. You are probably surprised to learn that these horses continually lighten as they age and turn white! It is also pretty amazing that they are not born gray.
It’s hard to imagine that flashy chestnut foal with four white socks and a blaze will change to a completely different color!
If you have any questions about gray horses, let us know!
- Henry, Miles. What Is a Dapple Gray Horse? Breeds, Facts, and Color. 2020, horseracingsense.com/dapple-gray-horses-facts-and-color/. Accessed 21 July 2021.
- Kacey. “16 Dapple Grey Horse Facts with Beautiful Pictures | Breeds List | Resources.” Sparkles Rainbows and Unicorns, www.sparklesrainbowsandunicorns.com/dapple-grey-horse/. Accessed 21 July 2021.
- “What Is a Percheron Horse? Pictures & Fun Facts.” Equine Helper | Horseback Riding, Training, & Care, 20 Apr. 2021, equinehelper.com/what-is-a-percheron-horse/. Accessed 21 July 2021.
What do you think of these dapple gray horses? Aren’t they beautiful? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.