Dun Your Time

The dun horse coloration is more than a dorsal stripe.

The dun horse coloration is more than a dorsal stripe.

A sorrel horse with the dun modifier is called a red dun. Journal photo

By Andrea Caudill in America’s Horse

The Przewalski (pronounced per-zih-vahl-skee) horse, the only true wild horse in existence, is found in Asia. Most of these horses, along with many ancient breeds, have primitive markings associated with the dun gene.

The color called “classic dun” is a golden tan color with black points, a black dorsal stripe and leg barring (stripes that run horizontally across the horse’s knees and or hocks).

The color recognized as dun is often confused with buckskin because the colors’ phenotypes appear very similar; many people differentiate the two by describing a dun as “a buckskin with a dorsal stripe.”

However, they are genetically different.

As explained in Cream of the Crop, buckskins are bay horses with a single dose of the cream dilution.

The dun gene is a dominant modifier and can appear on both black- and red-based horses. It affects the shade of the horse’s coat and adds the dun characteristics: a dorsal stripe, zebra stripes on the legs, striping over the withers, dark tips on the ears and darker coloration on the lower legs. These traits are a package deal – a dorsal stripe does not make a dun.

Though it sounds tough to identify all the traits associated with horse coat colors, you can make the picture clear with AQHA’s FREE Horse Color and Markings Chart. This valuable reference chart gives you more examples of all approved AQHA colors.

A sorrel horse that receives the dun modifier is called a red dun. This horse will appear in shades from pale red to light tan, but never has black points. Its mane and tail can range from cream to dark red. It will show some or all of the dun characteristics.

A bay horse with the dun modifier becomes the classic dun. Its body color ranges from very pale yellow to very dark.

A black horse with the dun modifier is known as a grullo (grew-yo). This color is a silvery, smoky or mousy color. Each of the hairs is the silvery color; it is not a mix of individually colored light and dark hairs. These horses will also have the dun characteristics.

It is possible for a horse to carry multiple genes, such as both the dun and cream dilution.

Color Fact:
The 1940 stallion Hollywood Gold, registered as a dun, was genetically a “dunalino” (dun plus palomino). Thus he passed on both the dun and cream genes to his offspring. His famous great-grandson, Hollywood Dun It, registered as a dun, was genetically a “dunskin” (dun plus buckskin).

Now that you know some of the genetics behind color, learn to identify each coat in person. Become a horse coat color expert with AQHA’s FREE Horse Color Chart. Read detailed descriptions and full-color examples of all 17 AQHA-recognized colors.

18 thoughts on “Dun Your Time”

  1. My late mare was what was called a liver chestnut. Sometimes she could be mistaken for a Bay. My question would be as to where her coloration fits in the scheme?

  2. Hi Nancy, I checked with Andrea Caudill, author of the AQHA Colors series, and here is what she had to say:

    Dear Nancy:

    A liver chestnut is genetically the same as any normally-shaded sorrel or chestnut despite appearing dark, and it is not uncommon for chestnuts to have darker brown points, which might resemble bay. However, a bay horse will have true black points on its legs, ears, mane and tail. If your mare’s points are not true black, then she is probably just a liver chestnut.

    You might also want to take a look at our previous posts on AQHA colors…



    Thanks for reading!
    Andrea Caudill

  3. Thanks for the info. about Hollywood Gold. I own one of his great grand daughters and she is registered as a red dun. Her grandfather, Hollywood JAC 86 is a red dun and her father, Hollywood 86 is a Palomino. Does the sire throw the dominate gene for color? I always found it interesting how HW Gold being a palomino was throwing all these different colors. His lineage is very diverse. I will be sure to read learn-how-horse-get-their-colors.

  4. I have one for you. My mare was a dun, her dam a sabino bay type color, her sire a red dun, she was bred to a gray, whose dam was a
    chestnut, and his sire was a gray, she had a bay colt and a dun
    colt, the dun has bars on all 4 legs, a dorsel stripe, just a
    snip of white on his nose. His name is IM KEEN ON CASH, yes he is
    great g-son of Dash For Cash. His colors baffle me, he has darkened on his withers/shoulders area under his neck/throat area
    with black, I’d like to know if he could turn gray/dun or grulla
    later, he is 2yrs.

  5. i have a arabian that’s white and a mare that is a ovaro mare with half and half(throughbreed andquarter horse) so what would be the markings

  6. i also have a (white welsh mountain pony) and a (i hve 17 hand rare arab chestnut he is rare cause of his size)

  7. Andrea, another nice article. I own a bay dun, a buckskin and a duna lino, so this article was of special interest to me and my students. One question, you state the classic dun color has a black dorsal stripe. Is it true black or can it be just very dark brown also? My Registered QH bay dun is reddish gold, with black points with shoulder and leg barring, but his dorsal stripe is very dark brown. His papers state he is a Dun. Would you call him a Classic Dun or just dun. My students and I would like to know. We truly enjoy your articles and have learned so much. Thanks!

  8. Hi. My colt seams to be red dun with roaning. Is it probable he will produce duns and roan foal in future?

  9. I have a grandson of Hollywood Dun It, (actually goes back to Hollywood Gold twice) that is registered palomino. He has very defined leg barring, darker face, darker ear tips, darker hair in the middle of the mane & tail like a dunalino, but no dorsal stripe. His sire has identical coloration.

  10. I have a Red Dun are the was breed to a black and white tobiano stallion any ideas what she might throw as in color

  11. I’ve got a dunalino foal with a gray mother. I heard that there is a fifty percent chance my foal turns gray later. Do you know what will happen to the dunstripe on his back and in his mane and tail? Right now he looks like a chocolate Palomino with a pale dunstripe on his back. His mane and tail are mixed but mainly cream colored as is the inside of the ears with a darker edge. I don’t know what the basic color of the mother was but his father is a Dunalino too, just more golden brown and not chocolate. I heard that he could turn completely gray including the dun characteristics???

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