April 17, 2009
The dun horse coloration is more than a dorsal stripe.
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.
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.