The coat is the set formed by the hairs of the body, the tail and the mane of the horse. It is often interesting and necessary to indicate the color of the eyes and that of the hooves to completely identify a coat.
Nowadays the genes and the biological mechanisms of many coats are known. In turn, new knowledge allows and requires a terminology of coats based on genotypes.
There are several classifications. Each one with conventional auxiliary terms of the type: basic coats, diluted coats, modifiers, white patterns, among others.
In the case of horses, the denomination of basic coat is conventional and used by many authors. Also the basic coats are defined from the color of hairs and mane. In turn, serve as a starting point to explain the rest of coats. In this order of ideas, there are three basic layers: black, brown and red.
This is the name given to the type of coat that results from the action of the dilution genes on the basic coats. The diluted coats have lighter tones than those of the basic coats.
There are five main patterns of spotted coats, often designated as white patterns. The peep, spotted with large areas of two or three colors. Another pattern is the leopard, mottled or freckled. There is the roan, with black, red and white hairs intermingled. It also has the thrush, white with mottled gray areas and finally the rabican or rubican.
There are generic patterns that are based on the distribution of black or darker hairs over the base coats, in localized dilutions or in the particular characteristics of the hairs.
And what happens when the horse is completely white?
The true white horse is a product of the lack of pigmentation genes. Also his skin is pink.
Appearances used to refer to the fur in some countries
The appellatives for the coloration of the coat of the horse vary markedly according to the regions. In general, they include not only names for the base colors, but also for the different combinations.
Some of these appellations are:
Alazán: reddish, light and dark
Colorado: very dark red
Snowy: with many white spots on a uniform color
Dark: black cloak
Zaino: dark chestnut on the back. Something clearer on the brig and on the snout, and black on the face, mane, tail and oars. Winter fur darkens to soft black
Race and coat
Horses are characterised by wide range of coat colour, which in most cases are not a race feature. However, there are certain exceptions where the race is tightly interrelated with a particular coat colour, e.g. haflinger (chestnut coat with pale male and tail), appaloosa (spotted coat), Konik (mouse-grey coat), palomino, Fjord horse (dun coat), Friesian horse (black and chestnut coat [however they are not allowed in breeding], the only possible variety is a small star on a gelding’s head), albino (white coat). Most noble races of warm-blooded horses (e.g. Holsteiner, Arab, folblut, trakehner) occur only in basic coats – bay, black, chestnut and grey.
Correct identification of coat more often than not is very problematic. In such situation it is worth to take a look at the ancestors’ or offspring’s coats. Both the horse’s coat and its varieties remain a crucial element of horses’ characteristics – it is mentioned in all the horse’s documents (e.g. passport), because it helps in identifying them.
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