This mare was born bay.
Traces of her original color can be seen in the cool greys of her points (once black) and the warm greys of her body (once red). Colors Confused with Grey Because grey foals are born dark, they are frequently registered by their base color by owners unaware they will later turn grey (stud book errata are filled with statements like “so-and-so registered bay, now grey”).
For this reason, some obvious greys will actually have papers stating they are black, bay or chestnut.
But once they are a few years old, greys are usually pretty easy to identify.
One color that does cause confusion is roan.
While both grey and roan involve a mixture of white and dark hair, the major differences are location and progression.
White hairs on roans are restricted to the body, leaving the head, mane/tail and legs predominantly dark, as opposed to greys which lighten all over.
Roan is also permanent, whereas grey is progressive.
Roans will remain the color they are born, and not get progressively lighter.
Some iron greys will look roan, especially if they have dark legs and dark manes and tails, but the lighter face is a good tip-off that they are really grey.
Another color that can sometimes be confused with grey is sabino.
Sabino is actually a pinto pattern that varies greatly in appearance.
In some cases where the sabino is very evenly flecked with white, the horse can appear grey (the horse on the cover of The Ultimate Horse Book is a good example of this type of sabino).
Like the roans, the sabinos differ from grey in that they do not progressively lighten.
Another tell-tale sign is the presence of extensive or irregular white markings.
Many times the sabino will have an unusually dark mane, and very white legs, while a grey of the same shade that will tend to have a light mane and relatively dark legs.
Another color confused with grey is true white.
Greys that have completed the greying process do look white, but their dark skin will usually give them a slightly grey or bluish cast, whereas true whites will have a creamy, or pinkish, cast from their underlying pink skin.
Pink skin will also be visible around the muzzle, eyes, ears and genitals of a white horse, while those areas will be greyish-black on grey horses (unless the area was covered by a white marking when the horse was darker).
It can also be hard to spot a grey when the colored areas are small, such as with leopard appaloosas or pintos with a great deal of These two photos show the kinds of things to look for to tell sabinos from greys.
Both of these Shires are sabinos.
The horse on the left has an unusually wide blaze that continues under the jaw.
The irregular mottling where the blaze covers the muzzle is also typical of sabinos.
The horse on the right looks much like an iron (undappled) grey, but the irregular leg markings – especially the knee patch and belly spotting show him to be a sabino instead. white.
Sometimes it isn’t until the horse is greatly aged and all color disappears that the grey gene becomes apparent.
In the same way, grey can obscure patterns and colors that would otherwise be obvious, especially when the horse is at the all-white stage.
This is the reason why some breeds that are predominantly grey (such as Andalusians and Welsh Ponies) occasionally produce “surprises” such as palominos, leopards and pintos.
While there can be some confusion in identifying greys, the biggest problem is caused when registries confuse the issue by calling greys by another name, or by calling something grey that isn’t.
Thoroughbred breeders refer to black-turned-grey as grey, but often call chestnut-turned-grey as “roan”.
Tennessee Walking Horse breeders will often register their blue roan sabinos as “grey”, while Quarter Horse breeders often register their greys a “blue roan” When in doubt, believe the color you see on the horse, and not the name it is given! Painting Greys It’s already been said that greys, particuarly dapple greys, are among the most difficult models to paint.
While the technical aspect of painting a dapple grey is beyond the scope of this article, there are a few things that painters need to be aware of that will help them create more realistic greys.
The first thing to remember about greys is that most of them are actually chestnuts or bays, so most greys will be a warmer, browner shade of grey, even if they are not “rose” greys.
Even black horses tend to be a warm black, with “blue” blacks extremely rare.
Yet many dapple grey models appear unrealistically blue.
A more realistic shade of grey can be achieved by adding a bit of burnt umber to the grays being used, even when the color being portrayed is a true black-turned-grey.
Avoid using colors like Liquitex Concentrated Acrylic French Grey, which is already too blue, straight from the bottle.
For those using Prismacolor pencils for dappling, the French Grey in that line is ideal for realistic grey tones.
Another common problem involves the size, shape and spacing of dappling.
On a single horse, dapples will vary in size and shape This is the type of sabino pattern often mistaken for grey.
The wide white facial markings give a clue to the horse’s true color, as do his high white stockings (which are partially obscured in this picture by his muddy feet). distinct on the forehand and underside of the belly.
In light greys, this area may just have a blotchiness that only vaguely suggests dapples.
The saddle area tends to contain the most vivid, distinct dappling, but the individual dapples are still irregular in shape.
Many areas on greys are not really dappled at all (face, legs, etc.), but have indistinct blotches of light and dark.
A final problem comes with tails that are shaded “backwards”.
In most greys, the end of the tail will grey first, with the hairs at the base of the tail remaining dark the longest.
Occasionally models are painted or haired with a light dock and a darker tip, which is less realistic.
Manes usually grey pretty evenly, without strong areas of dark and light.
That covers greys and greying.
Our next modifiers will be the roan gene and its close cousin, rabicano. Although this gelding’s front feet are quite light, they are not true markings, but part of the greying process.
The coronets – along with the face and the tail tip – are one of the first areas to grey.
In contrast, the hind feet have short socks, as is evident from their shell-colored hooves. depending on the location on the body, yet many models are painted with uniformly round, evenly spaced dapples, much like those found on toy rocking horses.
On real horses, dapples will tend to be small, faint, and more widely spaced on the rump, and larger and less All text and images are © 2005 Lesli Kathman.
This article is part of a series on horse color that originally appeared in The Hobby Horse News, a magazine for the model horse collecting community that is no longer published.
The articles may be copied for personal, non-commercial use.
Individuals may also offer the files for downloading provided they are properly attributed, but inclusion in commercial publications (magazines, newsletters, books) is forbidden unless written permission is obtained from the author.
Read more about Dock : Occasionally models are painted or haired with a light dock….: