Grey Horses: 15 Things You Should Know

There is no doubt that grey horses are stunning beauties. They are exceptional because of their interesting color coats.

Can you imagine a horse changing its color from time to time as it gets older? It is, definitely, not the usual horse that you can see.

Grey horses’ shades get lighter and lighter, giving them different looks as they age, making them enchanting as they stimulate people’s curiosity.

Are grey horses rare given their unique characteristics? What is their color when they are born? Are they quite different compared to other horses?

Are Grey Horses Rare?

Grey horses are not so rare; it is actually quite common in some breeds.

You might wonder why you see different shades of grey horses on your friend’s farm. Some are dapple grey, steel grey, rose grey, and flea-bitten grey.

Even the horse with porcelain white hair that is so majestic is called a grey horse by your friend.

You see, these are grey horses with dominant grey genes. As these genes are powerful, a horse can be grey even if it only has one grey gene from its parents.

Out of 10 horses, one is carrying the grey genes. Grey is commonly spotted on Arabians, Andalusians, Percherons, Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, and Welsh Ponies.

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grey-horses

Are Grey Horses Born Grey?

Grey horses are not born grey but of base colors such as bay, black, or chestnut.

When it comes to horses, grey is not a color but a color modifier.

It may quite confuse you, but horses only have three base colors (bay, black, chestnut) that are transformed to achieve other grey shades and eventually, white.

They will be born with their real colors that will fade as they grow up. Foals are usually hyperpigmented after birth that one may not possibly think they will white-out later.

Are Grey Horses Born Black?

Yes, grey horses can be born black.

Grey horses have intense colors during their younger days.

As one of the primary colors of horses, black can be the birth color of your grey foal; which is its true shade, genetically.

A grey foal could be born with a deep, jet-black color that will make you wonder if it, indeed, has grey genes.

How Can You Tell If A Foal Is A Grey?

A foal is grey if it has grey hair around its eyes and deep black legs.

By just looking at a foal, you can tell if you got yourself a grey one or not. Even if it has a highly pigmented coat, if your foal is grey, the hair throughout the sides of its eyes should be grey.

A grey foal should have very dark-colored legs also.

However, observing the physical features of your foal may not be particularly reliable in telling whether it is a true grey or not.

Knowing the base colors of a foal’s parents will make you come up with a more educated assumption of what color it will have as it grows old.

Is Grey A Dominant Color In Horses?

Grey is not a color but a modifier. The grey genes are dominant over other colors.

The grey gene is highly dominant that you can expect every generation of a grey horse to have grey offspring.

If you have a grey horse and a chestnut horse, there is a favorable chance that their offspring will be grey. Their foals are heterozygous since only one parent is grey.

Unlike recessive chestnut genes, requiring both chestnut parents to have chestnut foals, you will have a grey horse even if only one parent is grey.

Having both grey parents makes a horse homozygous as it carries two grey genes. Homozygous grey horses are always producing grey foals that fade out faster with almost no spots. Naturally, two grey genes are stronger compared to only one.

If you want to make sure that you will breed a grey horse that will be completely white, you should look for Arabians and Lipizzans grey horses as these are the usual bearers of homozygous grey genes.

Does A Grey Horse Have To Have A Grey Parent?

Yes. For a horse to be grey, it should have a grey parent.

A horse would be grey if only it carries a grey gene.

Since grey is not a color and is not caused by the breed, you will only get yourself a grey horse if it has a grey gene inherited from its parents.

A horse will be grey even if just one of its parents is grey. Since horses are not capable of holding recessive genes, having one grey parent is enough to have grey offspring.

If a horse only has one gray parent, it is heterozygous and shall fade out its color upon reaching its sixth to eight years. If both parents are grey, giving a horse two copies of grey genes, then it is homozygous.

Two copies of grey genes will make the depigmentation process of a grey horse faster which usually just takes four years to have a completely white coat.

Do Grey Horses Always Turn White?

Grey horses always turn white when they age because of their grey genes; however, some will not be completely white and will still have dark patches.

A grey foal will gradually change its color as it grows older until it becomes white. The hair follicles of grey horses lose the capability to produce melanin, which is the pigment responsible for colors, as they mature.

A heterozygote grey horse will still have some pigmentation on its coat as it reached its maturity age. This is caused by the process called flea-bitten where a reverse in depigmentation takes place. This somewhat returns the base color of the grey horse through sports or freckles.

Meanwhile, a homozygote grey horse will grow to be porcelain white since it is carrying two copies of grey genes.

As for the skin, there will be no changes and will still be dark as it resumes to form melanin.

Are Grey Horses Faster or Slower?

Grey horses can either be faster or slower just like other normal colored horses.

Grey horses are one of the most eye-catching creatures inside the race track. Their unique shades make them stand out among their black, bay, and chestnut competitors. It may be one of the reasons why people love to bet on them.

Setting aside their coat color, grey horses run just the same as other horses. Their speed, attitude, and competency inside the race track are greatly contributed by their training, food, supplements, living conditions, and the kind of care given to them.

In the past, grey horses are not so famous in racing as they are known to develop diseases caused by their grey genes.

But, it is already a different story today as these grey animals have proven themselves to be tough and healthy contenders, winning in various racing competitions.

Do Grey Horses Smell Different?

Grey horses smell different from other horses that likewise have a distinct smell also.

Every horse has its own, unique smell. Horses do not emanate the same scent as their different living conditions greatly contribute to the way they smell.

The odor of a horse, in general regardless of colors, depends on gender, diet, training or exercise, grooming, nature of work, and living area. The smell of your horse is also affected by the season or time of the year.

Can A Horse Turn Grey?

A horse can turn grey only if it has grey genes.

You can only call a horse grey if it carries even just one grey gene.

A bay foal will change its color from dark brown to rose grey to flea-bitten grey or white-grey as it reaches adulthood.

Interestingly, you can calculate the age of a horse based on how grey (dark, medium, light) its coat is. The darker the coat means that the horse is still young. Lighter grey can give you an assumption that the grey horse is an adult already.

Why Do Horses Turn Grey?

Horses turn grey due to defects in the pigment cells.

The grey genes of grey horses eliminate the pigment from their hairs. These modifiers are blocking the capability of hair follicles to develop melanin which is responsible for coat color.

Other horses will also experience losing their hair pigments as they become old but not as fast as the grey horses. It is because the grey modifiers are speeding up the greying process.

It is also important to note that the greying process differs among horses and their breeds.

How Much Do Dapple Grey Horses Cost?

A Dapple Grey horse costs around $4,000 to $29,000.

The price of a Dapple Grey horse, likewise other horses, is affected by various factors such as age, bloodline, competition history, overall health, training received, and behavior.

Do Grey Horses Make A Sound?

Just like any other horse, grey horses do make a sound.

Horses are very vocal creatures. Aside from the love to communicate through body movements, they also like to make meaningful noises to express their emotions.

As a horse owner or trainer, you should be familiar with the sounds that your grey horse or any other horse makes to understand their needs better.

The four common vocal expressions of a horse are whining, nicking, snorting, and squealing.

Do Grey Horses Being Ridden?

Grey horses are being ridden and are commonly racehorses.

Grey horses are one of the common horses that you see on the racetrack today.

Gone are the days when they are not considered to race as they are prone to diseases caused by their depigmentation.

One side effect of the greying process of grey is the development of skin cancer called melanoma. Roughly 85% of grey horses are expected to acquire melanoma as they reach 15 years old.

Fortunately, breeders had overcome their negative thoughts about this condition and are now more focused on the potential and strength of grey horses in the race track.

Can Chestnut Horses Turn Grey?

Chestnut horses can turn grey if they have a grey gene from a grey parent.

Chestnut is one of the base colors of horses; thus, a grey horse can be born with this color.

A horse with grey and chestnut parents is expected to turn grey and fade out when it grows up since the grey gene is dominant over other colors.

It will be born with a highly pigmented chestnut color, slowly become rose grey, until it turns white. But since only one of its parents has a grey gene, it will not be porcelain white as some freckles or spots on its coat will retain.

References:

Aronson, L. (2002, April 24). What’s my horse saying? Interpreting horse sounds. Expert how-to for English Riders. https://practicalhorsemanmag.com/health-archive/understand-horse-communication-11362

Center for Animal Genetics. (2021, February 24). Grey. CAG – Center for Animal Genetics. https://www.centerforanimalgenetics.com/services/horse-genetic-testing/phenotype-testing-for-horses/grey/

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