Key Differences Between Dun and Buckskin Horses Uncovered!

f you’ve been grappling with the difference between dun and buckskin horses, look no further!

As an equestrian with years of hands-on experience and extensive research, I can confidently guide you through this often muddled terrain.

Research and observation show that despite seeming alike, dun and buckskin horses have unique color patterns and traits due to their distinct genetics.

Stick with me as we unravel these intricacies, ensuring you’ll be an expert in distinguishing between duns and buckskins by the end of our journey!

Key Takeaways

  • Dun and buckskin horses, while similar in color, have distinctive markings that set them apart. 
  • The texture of a dun’s coat can be more coarse due to these primitive markings compared to the smoother coat of a buckskin.
  • While the health concerns and costs associated with owning duns and buckskins can vary, the decision should be based on multiple factors, including breeding traits, grooming needs, and training requirements.

What is the Difference Between a Dun and a Buckskin?

Here’s a breakdown of these 2 majestic horse breeds!

Buckskin Horses

Buckskin horses have a deep-seated history that dates back to ancient times.

They were highly esteemed by Native American tribes and later by cowboys in the American West for their toughness, endurance, and agility.

This rich heritage contributes to their present-day popularity and value.

Appearance and Characteristics

More specifically, the Buckskin horse is a visual delight with its yellowish-tan color palette contrasted by a stark black mane and tail.

buckskin horse

This unique blend of colors ranges from golden to tan, accentuating their black points – such as the mane, tail, and legs.

Genetic Makeup and Breeding Habits

Fascinating research by researchers from the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory explains,

The cream gene is responsible for a number of horse coat colors including palomino, buckskin, and cremello. [1]”

Buckskins result from intricate color genetics, usually from crossbreeding between two differently colored horses.

This breed, known for its calm temperament, can pass on this trait to its offspring, making them an attractive choice for breeding.

Coat Care and Showmanship

Thanks to the minimal grooming efforts, the buckskin coat is incredibly low-maintenance – a breeze to care for and nurture.

These horses are versatile competitors, participating in various disciplines, including dressage, jumping, eventing, and Western pleasure classes.

Value and Companionship

While prices may vary depending on the breed, buckskins consistently offer incredible companionship – keepers for life.

A dependable and aesthetically pleasing partner, these horses are a worthy choice for equestrians (and anyone) with a heart of gold.

Check out this video for more fun facts:

Dun Horses

Legacy and Lineage

Dun horses, too, have a fascinating heritage.

Their signature primitive markings harken back to their wild ancestors, making each dun horse a living tribute to the lineage of equines.

This breed’s hardiness and resilience, honed over centuries of natural selection, make them an intriguing choice for equestrians and breeders.

These historical insights enhance our understanding of dun and buckskin horses, adding depth and intrigue to these exceptional breeds.

Appearance and Primitive Markings

Dun horses contrast with buckskins, featuring deep brown or black coats highlighted with light-colored primitive markings.

dun horse

The buckskin’s genetic cause for a paler color and lighter coat does not impact the dun, which tends to have more pronounced markings such as shoulder and dorsal stripes.

If you’re interested in understanding more about specific horse breeds, don’t forget to check out our detailed article on “What Does a Buckskin Horse Look Like,” too.

Here’s a beautiful dun horse:

Genetics and Aging Process

In a Nature Genetics article, Imsland, McGowan, and team investigated the genetic basis of horses’ unique Dun camouflage color.

The Dun coat color phenotype in horses is characterized by pigmentary dilution affecting most of the body hair, leaving areas with undiluted pigment in a variable pattern, with the most common feature being a dark dorsal stripe.”[2]

A compelling aspect of dun horses lies in their color genetics, with an incredible – if not fascinating – potential for the base coat to progressively gray as the horse ages.

Breed Standards and Coat Care

Understanding breed standards and conformation traits is crucial when considering a dun horse.

Their coats, while striking, require careful attention to keep them healthy and shiny.

Selection and Meeting Expectations

Despite genetic complexities in color patterns, understanding differences between duns and buckskins aids in informed horse selection.

This knowledge equips you to select a horse that aligns with your needs and expectations.

For a rich visual experience, here’s a neat comparison table to show all these clever differences and variants between the 2 breeds!

 Buckskin HorsesDun Horses
Legacy and LineageDeep-seated history dating back to ancient timesFascinating heritage and primitive markings
AppearanceYellowish-tan coat with black mane and tailDeep brown or black coat with light-colored primitive markings
Genetic MakeupResult of intricate color genetics and crossbreedingColor genetics with the potential for the base coat to gray with age
TemperamentKnown for calm temperamentHardy and resilient due to natural selection
Coat CareLow-maintenance grooming requiredRequires careful attention to keep the coat healthy and shiny
VersatilityParticipates in various disciplinesThe intriguing choice for equestrians and breeders
Value and CompanionshipOffers incredible companionshipProvides depth and intrigue as a partner
Selection and ExpectationsAn attractive choice for breeding, aesthetically pleasingRequires understanding of breed standards and coat care

Want more peculiar differences? Check out this video!


In the fascinating world of horse color genetics, one quickly realizes that distinguishing between different horse colors, such as dun and buckskin, isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.

Several factors at play can make these distinctions quite challenging.

Dealing with Countershading and Primitive Markings

The complication starts with some characteristics you might use to distinguish between dun and buckskin not being reliable.

For instance, many horses that are not genetically dun still possess a dorsal stripe on their backs, a phenomenon often called ‘countershading.’

However, these dorsal stripes often differ from the true primitive markings of dun horses in that they don’t extend fully into the tail and aren’t as sharp.

Remember that most non-genetically dun horses, although they may have a dorsal stripe, typically lack other primitive markings such as leg barring.

Navigating the Non-Dun 1 (nd1) Gene

To add another layer of complexity, a variation of the dun gene known as ‘non-dun 1’ (nd1) can cause primitive markings to appear on an otherwise undiluted or slightly diluted coat.

Despite this gene being a relatively recent discovery in genetic studies, the nd1 gene isn’t new and has already been found in various breeds.

Understanding this variant is important as it can cause horses to display dun-like characteristics even if they aren’t dun.

Grasping the Concept of Dual Genetics

To further complicate matters, horses can also carry both the dun and the cream genes simultaneously, creating an even wider array of possible color combinations.

For example, a buckskin horse carrying the dun gene is often called a ‘dunskin,’ and a palomino horse with the dun gene is termed a ‘dunalino.’

Understanding these terminologies and genetic possibilities is crucial in correctly identifying horse colors.

The challenges and complications in distinguishing between dun and buckskin horses underscore the need for an in-depth understanding of horse color genetics.

Although these complications might seem daunting, they add to the rich diversity and beauty of the equine world.

Frequently Asked Questions

#1 What color is a dun?

Dun horses are known for their unique coloring, varying from a light yellowish-tan to a darker brown.
In addition, they have breeding characteristics that make them ideal show ring contenders.

#2 What color is a buckskin?

Buckskin horses are a beautiful breed with unique coat colors. They typically have a golden-tan or yellowish-tan body with black points, such as the mane, tail, and legs.

#3 What is the difference in the texture of a dun and a buckskin?

There are some key differences when it comes to the texture of a dun and a buckskin.
The Dun has more primitive markings that are often quite coarse compared to the smoother coat of the Buckskin.

#4 Are duns and buckskins more prone to certain health issues?

There are a few things to consider when it comes to the health of duns and buckskins.
Breeding rarity is important for both breeds, as they should come from healthy lines tested for genetic disorders.

#5 Are duns and buckskins more expensive than other horse breeds?

Yes, but it depends on a variety of factors:
Duns and Buckskins have different breeding traits, conformation differences, training requirements, grooming needs, and feed requirements which all factor into the cost of owning one of these horses.


You now understand the difference between a dun and a buckskin.

The key thing to remember is that while they have similar colors, the dun’s body color is created by dilution genes rather than a cream gene like in the buckskin.

Depending on the breed of horse, there may be additional complications when it comes to identifying a dun or buckskin, making it best to consult with an experienced professional if you’re unsure.

With that said, you should now better understand how these two coat colors differ from one another.

buckskin walking in the field


1. Cream | Veterinary Genetics Laboratory [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jun 1]. Available from:

2. Imsland F, McGowan K, Rubin C-J, Henegar C, Sundström E, Berglund J, et al. Regulatory mutations in TBX3 disrupt asymmetric hair pigmentation that underlies Dun camouflage color in horses. Nature Genetics. 2015;48:152–8.

Siun L
Siun L

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.
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