"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Horse of a Different Color

Sorrel. Appaloosa. Grulla. Gray. Bay. Palomino. Dun. Chestnut. Roan. Claybank. Buckskin. Paint.

If you’ve ever read a book set in the West, or a book about horses anywhere, you’ve probably come across some of these terms. You might know what they mean. You might not. You might be curious about it. You might not give a hoot.

As a writer of western fiction, I care because I generally always have a horse or two in my books. Most of the time, I don’t put names on them unless they have a major role in the story; i.e., Flicka or Trigger. But if you give your horses a color, like buckskin, strawberry roan, or bay, it will make that animal unique and memorable, no matter how minor his role.

That said, I’ve compiled a run-down on a few of the terms used for the color of horses. These are by no means inclusive. There are many combinations.

Sorrel or Chestnut: Reddish brown, sometimes with a coppery hue. A wide range of shades. Mane, tail, and legs the same color as the body, but can be lighter. There can be some white markings toward the hooves. Variations: Liver chestnut (darkest shade); dusty chestnut (light, dusty appearance).

Appaloosa: Spotted. Usually dark, round, or egg-shaped spots on a white “blanket” over the loin and hips. They can have black spots all over. Hooves striped vertically black and white. Eyes encircled by white. (This is a breed, not just a color.)

Grulla: Mouse-colored, blue or soft gray. Black mane, tail, and legs.

Gray: Grays are born with dark skin but the color changes. They can be various shades from dark to nearly white, dappled, or flea-bitten (tiny flecks of black or brown).

Bay: Deep rich brown with black mane, tail, and legs.

Palomino: Golden colored with white mane and tail. Can range from light to dark golden.

Dun: Varying drab shades, slightly brownish-dray or grayish-yellow coat with black mane and tail. A black dorsal stripe (down the middle of the back). Variation: copper dun.

Roan: A mixture of white hair and one other color. Mane and tails are usually the base color but can also have white interspersed. Variations: strawberry or red roan (red/white hair); blue roan (black/white hair)

Claybank: A diluted copper dun.

Buckskin: The body is similar to tanned deerhide, yellowish-brown. Black mane, tail, lower legs. Dorsal stripe.

Paint: White with large patches of brown, black, chestnut, or any other color. Legs are usually white. Manes will follow the color pattern on the neck.

"Black Horse" Image Courtesy of Tina Phillips (FreeDigitalPhotos.Net)


Will Edwinson said...

Hi Linda:

I was familiar with most of the colors except Claybank, Grulla, and Dun. I had a bay mare when I was a kid. Cantankerous old nag.

Growing up in a small farming community, there were a number of horses of different colors. Dad had a work horse that I suppose would come close to the Grulla. He was a blue-grey. Dad named him Steel. He, too, was a bit on the ornery side. He didn't like anyone invading his space; especially in the rear. I found that out the hard way one day when I was about eight years old. I got a little too close to his back side. Next thing I knew, Dad was picking me up off the ground. I think I had been out cold.

I had a cousin who had a Buckskin, and there were other horses in the valley of the other various colors.
Then of course, the kids' matinee idols Roy Rogers and Gene Autry rode a palamino and a strawberry roan, respectively. Hopalong Cassidy rode a white.:)

It was an interesting post. Brought back a few memories.

B.J. Anderson said...

I thought I knew all the colors! I didn't know about the Claybank or Grulla ones though. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Great post. I didn't know the true names of all the different colors. I love all horses no matter what the color. Thanks for the info.
Sue Anne

Sherrerryy Roseb said...

Great post, Linda, in fact I want a copy of it. I still remember when Patti Sherlock sent in a book to an editor in NY with an Appaloosa in it. The editor said he looked up info on horses, and there was no mention of Appaloosas. So there weren't any such animal. Gee, there gos our state horse and somebody better tell the Indians!

Sherry R.