A Roan by any Other Name

Flashy and popular, roans come in every shade from red to black to yellow.

Flashy and popular, roans come in every shade from red to black to yellow.

Vital Signs Are Good, a 2000 red roan mare, is by the red roan stallion Zippos Mr Good Bar, who is known for his roan progeny.

By Andrea Caudill in America’s Horse

You can spot one from a mile away. Classically a stunning silver color with a dark head and legs, the roan is a popular mount.

The roan gene produces a color pattern of white over any base color, although it is easiest to see on darker colors due to the contrast. 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. On occasion, the roaning can appear only over the croup and hip area (this is referred to as “minimal expression”).

A sorrel or chestnut horse with the roan gene is known as a red roan. A bay with roaning is a bay roan, while a black horse with roaning is a blue roan. All other colors can also carry the roan gene, although light colors like palomino make the roaning difficult to see. For registration purposes, AQHA recognizes these horses as their base color and notes that they carry the roan 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.

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Roan should not be confused with rabicano or sabino markings, which are caused by different genes. Roan typically envelops the horse’s whole body, leaving only the head and legs unaffected. In addition, areas of a roan’s hair that are scraped away will grow back as the horse’s base color; in the other patterns, generally speaking, the hair will grow back white.

The winter coat is different in that the base coat color will grow longer, but not the roan hair, while a rabicano will appear the same in the summer and winter. Foals in the early stages of going gray will usually have gray hairs immediately surrounding the eyes and muzzle and on the backs of the ears, as well as on the body. It is possible for a roan horse to also be gray if he has gray and roan parents. He will begin life as a roan and then gray out as he ages.

Roll It!

Owner Bobby Brooks introduces you to “Blue Jeans,” the horse used in the recent Hanna Montana movie.

Color Facts

  • A true roan is born solid. When he sheds his first foal coat, it will show the roan coloring. It does not change or lighten as he ages.
  • When injured, a roan’s scars will heal in its base color. For example, a red roan’s scar will grow in sorrel (red) hair. An injured sorrel horse, on the other hand, would most likely grow in white hair.
  • Popular lines of roan horses include the 1935 stallions Red Man (a son of Joe Hancock) and 1957 stallion Blue Valentine, famous for their mastery of the rodeo pen; 1984 red roan stallion Zippos Mr Good Bar, who stamped the distinctive color on many entries in the western pleasure ring; and 1980 blue roan mare Royal Blue Boon, whose progeny revolutionized the cutting world.
  • Despite popular myth that says homozygous roans are born dead, research has proven the existence of such horses.
  • In 2007, 7 percent of the horses registered with AQHA were roans.

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10 thoughts on “A Roan by any Other Name”

  1. I have a mare by Zippos Mr Goodbar out of a Dynamic Deluxe mare. Even though the article states roan is dominant, this mare is a DARK bay. Even has the black skull outline on her face. Go figure, wanted a bay roan and got a dark bay. But that is ok – I just LOVE her and her bay color.

  2. My second quarter horse was a bay roan foaled in 1970 whose registered name was A Streak. During the 70’s no one wanted the “wierd” colored horses and they were frowned on for showing. The AQHA had him registered as a red roan. It took some time before anyone recognized the difference between a red roan and a bay roan. During his lifetime I only saw two other horses his color — now people breed for color and everyone wants color.

  3. I LOVE my red roan also. He is of the Hancock bloodlines. He is 10 years old now, when he was younger he was quite “bronchy” (never with me on him) and STILL can be very bucky when he feels like it. He jumps straight up off the ground and bucks with both his front & back legs while twisting ! I have been told that Hancock Roans can be typically ” bronchy”. Has anyone else had similar experiences with their Roans or Hancok bred Roans ??

  4. What is the other blood in your red roan? OR is he Hancock top and bottom? We have found from raising HAncock Blue Roan Horses, they break out extremely gentle, and it is very rare to see one buck. The roan hancocks that we have experienced had another bloodline that caused the buck.
    Joe

  5. I love my roans! BUT… I think that AQHA should have not just bay, black, and red roan on the registration papers but buckskin and palamino as well. My roans are 2 buckskins and 1 palamino and its not hard to tell they are roans at all. It gets confusing when I have my mares at the breeders barn and he has a registration paper saying buckskin and I have a roan horse. One mare is a darker buckskin and looks like a “blue roan” as Ive been told a thousand times.

  6. I love my hancock, blue valentine, & driftwood blue roan! In reguards to Suzie R. – I have also noticed “bronchy” behavior with my roan. He is 2 1/2 and bucks and snorts with anything new! My vet said hancock horses are typically like this.

  7. I own a hancock blue roan, Sangers Homespun Blue, (A.K.A Charlie Blue), bread by Joe Fanning (see comment above), and he could be the gentlest horse on earth. NEVER throws a buck. His disposition is phenomenal. His sire is Blue Homespun Rowdy and his Dam is IA Starlet.

  8. I also have a horse out of Blue Homespun Rowdy, his name is Bodis Blue Rowdy. Bred by Emitt Williams in Senatobia, Mississippi. He has never even offered to buck, and I’m glad because as big and stout as he is 15.3 hands and 1300 lbs, it would be a wreck! He is just like a big pet, calm and gentle. He is probably the most willing horse I have ever ridden. He had his teenager years when he was 6-7 but when he turned 8 he became so much more mature and you can do anything with him. I pasture roped a 2000 lb 6 year old bull and dragged him to the trailer. Blue never bocked at all, he was just all horsepower! You can’t wear him out, he has the muscle and bone to take it. I can go on a half a day trailride in the Ozark Mountains and that night head 20 steers on him. He is bullet proof. Hancock Horses are the best hands down.

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