8 Stunning Rare Horse Colors You Need to See (With Pictures)

All horse colors are beautiful but the rare coat colors are extra special.

Do you know any of these extraordinary colors? 

I’ve heard of them all, but some are so rare I’ve never seen them in person.

I’m excited to share the specifics of these colors with you, so let’s get started!

Also Check: Horse Forehead Markings

What Are the Rarest Coat Colors a Horse Can Have?

Horses come in some pretty amazing colors! I love looking at genetics and how these colors come about, though it can get fairly complicated. When breeding horses it’s really fun to try and predict the coat color of the foal based on the parents.

I decided it would be fun to put together a guide of the rarest horse colors. Some are so rare that I’ve never seen it in person myself after over 20 years of working with horses!

The colors I’ll introduce you to are:

  • Silver Dapple and Silver Dapple Pinto
  • Silver Buckskin
  • Brindle
  • Gold Champagne
  • Perlino
  • Creamello
  • Pearl
  • True White

#1 Silver Dapple and Silver Dapple Pinto

Like all rare horse coat colors, silver dapple is the result of a genetic mutation on one or more of the based colors that all horses have. [1]

I’ve included silver dapple and silver dapple pinto into the same category as they are the same bar one difference.

Horses with silver dapple coats can look a bit similar to grey horses when they are younger. However, grey horses gradually get lighter as they age, whereas silver dapple horses don’t

A silver dapple coat must have a base color of black or bay. The gene for this color affects the pigment of the base color, causing silver to run through the regular dark hairs.

This is due to some of the dark hairs losing the ability to hold as much pigmentation.

The main body of the horses stays relatively dark while the mane and tail are a lighter color. A silver dapple pinto is one of the coolest coat colors. At least in my opinion.

These horses are pinto, meaning they have two coat colors in their coat, one of which is white. They have large white patches over their body, which are unique for each individual horse.

The dark patches have the silver dapple effect. What you get is one unique and awesome-looking horse that will turn plenty of heads!

This video shows you examples of some types of silver dapple coat colors. Plus is includes some adorable foals that you just want to cuddle!

#2 Silver Buckskin

A buckskin coat color is fairly unusual in itself. Now add a silver effect, and you have one of the most beautiful colors you’ll ever see on a horse. It’s really rare, so if you see one, you’re lucky! 

I’ve never seen one in the flesh!! To start with buckskin is already a dilute coat color. This means the horse carries a bay agouti gene and a dilute gene that lightens the color. 

There are many shades of buckskin, ranging from almost creme-looking to a darker, earthy-looking yellow. A just a little sidetrack, sorry about this! But it will help make things clearer.

A buckskin is often confused with a dun coat color. I admit this is an easy mistake to admit as they are very similar. However, a buckskin has black color points but does not have primitive markings like a dun. [2]

Now, a silver buckskin has a bay base coat color, a dilution gene that lightens it and, a silver gene. Phew, that’s a lot of genetics going on. The result is a stunning silver sheen on the yellow coat. 

There are five complicated coat color genetic combinations that can result in a buckskin coat. Then add in a silver gene and all these factors line up to result in a silver buckskin.

Check out this absolutely beautiful silver buckskin horse.

Related: Light Bay Horse

#3 Brindle

Brindle horse coat color is a bit odd looking. I find it looks like a horse with large scars or one that is strangely dirty. UC Davis, Veterinary Genetics Laboratory describes brindle as: “vertical striped coat pattern accompanied by abnormal hair texture.” [3]

To get a brindle pattern coat the horse must possess both the N (normal alleles) and the BR1 alleles in their genetic makeup. 

Interestingly, a horse the has BR1/BR1 genes will not actually display a brindle coat. Odd I know! But they can pass the gene onto their offspring.

To have a brindle coat the horse must have a BR1 from one parent and N from the other.

An adorable, formerly wild brindle Mustang. Can you see here stripes?

#4 Champagne

A Quarter Horse is a breed where you’ll most likely find champagne coat colors, though even here it is rare. There are three different shades of champagne horse coats.

The American Quarter Horse Association does a great job of explaining this eye-catching color. Champagne is what is called a ‘dominant modifier’ gene. It can affect any base coat color (bay, black, or red). [4]

If the horse carries these dominant genes, it always affects the coat. Now, to the three shades, which I know you’ll love as much as I do!

Gold Champagne

To have a gold champagne coat the horse must have chestnut base coat colors. This is chestnut. The red tone of the chestnut coat is diluted to a magical golden tone. 

It can also affect the mane and tail so much that they turn almost white. It is easy to mistake gold champagne for palomino.

Check: What Does a Palomino Horse Look Like?

Amber Champagne

To get amber champagne you need two other genetic influences. A black gene base coat and the modifier that creates bay or brown.

Without adding in the dilution of the champagne gene these horses have black leg points, black manes, and tails.

When the champagne modifier is added the black areas of the horse lighten to brown. The shade ends up being a mucky or mousy shade the looks similar to a buckskin but like something is not quite right.

Classic Champagne

For classic champagne, the horse needs a black base coat. The result of champagne dilution is dark tan coat colors that often have brown points.

Here’s a great, really simple explanation of the different types of Champagne coat color.

#5 Perlino

perlino horse

Perlino is the result of combining already rare horse color genetics. First, the horse will have the creme dilution gene.

According to Animal Genetics, the creme dilution gene is what gives you buckskin. palomino, and cremello (another very rare color). [5]

The creme dilution works on a base of a red or black base. So for example, if you have a horse that has a black base and one creme dilution gene, you can get a smoky black coat color.

Ok, hopefully, I’ve made that clear. Now, add a second creme dilution gene on the base coat color. This is called double dilution as the horse carries two of this unusual gene.

To get perlino, you need a bay horse that has the double dilution of creme genes. All double dilute horses will pass a dilute gene to its offspring. If a horse is black and it carries two creme dilutes, the color is smoky creme.

#6 Cremello

I feel it makes the most sense to tell you about cremello horses next. To get a cremello coat color is the same as a perlino except that the base color is red. That is chestnut. 

A chestnut horse with just one cream dilution gene results in a palomino coat. When you have two creme dilution genes on a chestnut coat you get cremello.

cremello horse running on the snow

A cremello is a very light creme color. Their manes and tails are either the same creme flaxen color or white. They also usually have pink skin around their eyes.

Check out this amazing cremello Quarter horse stallion.

#7 Pearl

pearl horse, one of the Rare Horse Colors

Pearl is very similar to champagne. According to UC Davis’ Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, these horses have two copies of the recessive gene Prl (pearl). [6] It looks like this – Prl/Prl.

Therefore, in order for a horse to have a pearl coat it either has to have two pearl parents or receive on Prl gene from each parent if they are carriers.

Because the gene is recessive it is even rarer. But if you’re lucky enough to get a horse with this color, you won’t be disappointed. It is such a beautiful, soft golden shade. I love it! It is not dissimilar to a rich light chestnut coat.

To get you started, check out this video covering basic horse color genetics.

#8 True White

True White horses are extremely rare and don’t have a gray gene. And while beautiful, this isn’t a bad thing. Unlike grey coats that look white as the horse ages, a true white is born white.

Also, unlike grey horses, who have black skin, a true white has pink skin. They are not albino horses, this doesn’t exist in horses.

According to the American Paint Horse Association, there are currently 20 known ‘Dominant White’ genes. [7] It is also important to note that the True White (dominant white) is a coat color pattern as opposed to an always white color.

Not all dominant white horses will have an entirely white body color. Dominant white horses carry one of the genes that produce a pattern of white spots. In rare cases, these horses are born entirely white.

You also much be cautious when breeding horses with these genes as in some combination you can get lethal white syndrome. Foals with this syndrome are either aborted before birth or die shortly after.

A good, ethical breeder will always try to avoid lethal white syndrome, which is one reason true white horses don’t really exist, or if they appear true white, extremely rare.

#8 Chocolate Palomino

chocolate palomino, one of the Rare Horse Colors

A chocolate palomino is just stunning and hard to place at first. They don’t really look like a palomino, in fact, they look, well chocolatey. However, they have the beautiful blonde mane and tail of a regular palomino.

Chocolate palominos have the same main genes as palomino. That is a chestnut (red) base coat with one creme dilution gene. Palomino horse coasts come in a wide range of shades.

The darkest is the chocolate coat, which is very rare.

FAQs

If like me, you are now hooked on horse coat color genetics, this guide has probably brewed up a few questions. Well, maybe a lot of questions!

It’s a huge topic and I can’t answer everything but I’ve put together some common questions and answers for you.

What is the rarest coat color a horse can have?

The rarest coat color a horse can have is white. As I said earlier, this is a good thing, despite their beauty. It is risky to try to breed for white and they have pink skin, which means lots of extra care protecting them from the sun.

Is black a rare horse color?

friesian horse running fast

Black is one of the rarer horse colors, but it is common enough that it doesn’t fit in with a list of the rarest horse colors.
Black is a common horse color in some breeds such as the Friesian horse. Black horses exist in nearly all horse breeds.

What color is sorrel?

Chestnut horse

Sorrel is actually a chestnut horse. They have a chestnut base coat color like all chestnuts. Sorrel is a term used mainly in North America to describe a lighter shade of chestnut.
In Europe, this difference is not noted and there are no sorrel horses, as such. A chestnut is a chestnut, or sometimes if dark, a liver chestnut.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed learning about rare horse colors as much as I love talking about them! As you can see, horses come in many beautiful shades with complicated genetic combinations determining the coat color.

What is your favorite horse color?

References

  • 1. Silver | Dapple (Dilution factor Horse) | generatio.de [Internet]. generatio.de. [cited 2022 Jan 12]. Available from: https://generatio.de/en/guidance/lexicon/silver-dapple-dilution-factor-horse
  • 2. Copeland SM. A Guide to Equine Color Genetics and Coat Color [Internet]. Expert how-to for English Riders. Available from: https://practicalhorsemanmag.com/health-archive/guide-to-equine-color-genetics-coat-color
  • 3. Brindle Coat Texture | Veterinary Genetics Laboratory [Internet]. vgl.ucdavis.edu. [cited 2022 Jan 12]. Available from: https://vgl.ucdavis.edu/test/brindle-1-horse
  • 4. The Unusual Horse Color Called Champagne – AQHA [Internet]. www.aqha.com. [cited 2022 Jan 12]. Available from: https://www.aqha.com/-/the-unusual-horse-color-called-champagne
  • 5. Cream Dilution | Equine Coat Color | Animal Genetics [Internet]. www.animalgenetics.us. [cited 2022 Jan 12]. Available from: https://www.animalgenetics.us/equine/coat_color/Cream.asp
  • 6. Pearl | Veterinary Genetics Laboratory [Internet]. vgl.ucdavis.edu. [cited 2022 Jan 12]. Available from: https://vgl.ucdavis.edu/test/pearl
  • 7. 10 things you need to know about Dominant White [Internet]. APHA. [cited 2022 Jan 12]. Available from: https://apha.com/news/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-dominant-white/
stallion with rare horse colors

What are your favorite rare horse colors? Let us know below!

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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