July 23, 2010
“Rabicano” is a little-known term for a fairly common white marking in horses.
By Andrea Caudill
Commonly called “ticking,” “coon tail” or “skunk tail,” and appearing as white flecking, rabicano (rah-bih-KAH-no) is commonly mistaken for a roan coloration, but it is a marking caused by a different gene.
Rabicano is a specific set of white markings that usually affect the base of the tail, flank and belly of a horse. In its most minimal form, it will show only white frosting at the base of the tail, often called a coon or skunk tail because of the striped appearance. A medium expression will have the white tail base, plus white hairs interspersed over the horse’s flanks, creating a roan appearance.
In its most extreme manifestation, a rabicano can appear almost like a true roan. It will carry the coon tail and have roaning on the body, concentrated on the flanks and under the elbows, and also have vertical strips of white on the barrel called rib barring.
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Rabicano can be confused with another white pattern called sabino. Sabino is another gene that causes a roan effect over the flanks and body. The easiest way to tell the difference is to remember that rabicano always affects the base of the tail, while sabino does not. Sabino does, however, almost always involve facial white with a spot of white on the chin and white socks on the legs, in addition to the body roaning. It is possible for the horse to carry multiple genes, for example, to be both rabicano and sabino.
Quick Color Facts
- Rabicano horses are not roans. A true roan horse’s white extends evenly over all parts of its body except for its head and legs, which remain solid. Rabicano markings, at their most extensive, can appear almost like a roan but always show a “coon tail.”
- If a horse has rabicano markings, it should be registered as its base color. The white markings should be noted in the marking section as “roan hair” or “scattered white hair.”
- The 1953 stallion Go Man Go, registered as a roan, was a sorrel with rabicano markings. Legendary western performance stallion Smart Chic Olena, born in 1985, is also a sorrel with rabicano markings.
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