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Black Horse Color

Black Horse ColorBlack Horse Color


Friesian horses are one of the best-known breeds of black-colored horses. Black is a relatively uncommon coat color in horses, though not so unusual as to be considered rare. For a horse to be considered black, it must be completely black except for white markings. A visible difference between a true black and a dark chestnut or bay is seen in the fine hairs around the eyes and muzzle; on a true black these hairs are black, even if the horse is sun-bleached, on other colors, they will be lighter.
A black horse, even with a sun-bleached hair coat will have solid black hairs around the eye.
A dark bay can be distinguished from a black horse by the lighter hairs around the eye. Black is one of the two "base" color genes in horses. The second "base" color gene is the "red" gene, which creates the chestnut color.

In equine coat color genetics, the black hair color is created by the extension (E) gene. This gene is dominant over red and suppresses the base red (e) gene to create an entirely black horse. Other genes may act on top of the E gene to create coat colors such as bay, buckskin, dun and gray. There is a DNA test that can detect the E gene and determine if a horse is homozygous (EE) or heterozygous (Ee) for black color.

There is a theory that there are two types of black, "fading" black and "non-fading" black. Many black horses will get sun-bleached and fade to a dark brownish color if the horse lives outside in bright sunlight on a regular basis. Non-fading black is a blue-black shade that does not fade in the sun. Genetically, the two cannot yet be differentiated, and some claim the difference occurs due to feed and management rather than genetics. The issue is hotly disputed among owners of black horses. However, it is agreed that keeping a very light horse "sheet" on a black horse in the summer will minimize fading, and feeding a well balanced diet rich in fatty acids also helps the hair coat.

Most black foals are usually born a mousy grey or dun color. As their foal coat begins to shed out, their black color will show through. While in some breeds, black foals are born jet black, in most cases, a foal born black is either actually a very dark bay or, if it has one gray parent, is apt to turn gray as it matures. A sun-bleached black horse is still black, even though it may appear to be a dark bay or brown.

Black Horse Color:
Black is the second most recessive color. There aren't really 'shades' of black like other colors, but there are three types: Fading black, non-fading black, and smoky black (not a true black, it is a diluted black). A black horse has either one or two "E" genes, which gives the horse a black body. A black horse can be either "Ee" or "EE". Next, black horses do not have an Agouti gene (restricts black to legs/mane/tail). They are aa.

This combination of genes creates a black horse - genetically Ee or EE.You cannot tell homozygous (EE) and heterozygous (Ee) blacks apart just by looking at the horse. A history of the horse must be researched, or testing done.

Black is easy to breed being the second most recessive color, you just need black parents. Two blacks will create either a black or a chestnut. Homozygous blacks, crossed with chestnuts, will foal brown, black, or bay foals.

A homozygous black will never produce a chestnut, even when bred to a chestnut. Because in order to be a chestnut, the horse must have the ee genes, getting one e gene from each parent. The homozygous black is EE, so it can't pass the necessary e gene off to create a chestnut. Therefore, having a chestnut foal out of or by a black will prove that black to be heterozygous.

There aren't really 'shades' of black, but there are two types: fading and nonfading. Nonfading black is also called raven or jet black. It does not fade, or it fades only under harsh conditions. Jet black horses are usually born charcoal or smokey colored, but rarely are black at birth. Nonfading horses have a metallic, bluish, or iridescent sheen and are born a bluish-black, charcoal, or black color.

Like any other base color, blacks can have white markings, as shown here. However, studies have shown that in general the markings on blacks are smaller than those on other colors.
Fading black horses get reddish-tinged hairs or brown burned areas from sweat or sun. They may also fade seasonally or with poor nutrition. To bring out their best color, fading blacks must be kept out of the sun or blanketed so that their hairs are not bleached. These horses are still blacks, even though during certain times they may look dark brown. They are born a smoky color, or sometimes dark bay or brown.

Some horses may not quite fit either description or may be tough to categorize - such a horse can safely be called just "black".

Seal brown (black body, brown soft parts) is a black horse with the At gene (removes black from soft parts); seal browns are sometimes mistaken for blacks. Very dark buckskins are also mistaken for blacks sometimes. They too can be so dark as to mimic actual black horses under some conditions. However, dark buckskins are born a yellow or pumpkin color, and of course have one Cr containing parent.

There was speculation of a Ed gene, a 'dominant black' gene, which would conceal the effects of the A (agouti) gene... however, this was disproved by French researches who isolated the "a" allele.
There are some horses that are strikingly dark black, but always have just a tiny bit of brown on their muzzle or flanks-- and so they cannot be blacks; instead these are actually the darkest form of brown, called seal brown (or rarely called 'black-brown'). This is a fading black. While he is currently brown colored, he is genetically a black, but he's just out of coat (faded). He's now an interesting, chocolaty-brown color on his back; true color remains on his head and legs. Not all faded black horses fade to this extent.
Another color sometimes mistaken for black is the smoky black. In fact, a smoky black (one cream dilute gene) may be so dark it looks no different than true black. Dilute blacks will always, of course, have one dilute parent. Dilute blacks may also have light eyes and skin when first born, lighter hair in the ears, and may mature to have 'amber' eyes and a slightly smoky 'off-black' color. Some dilute blacks, however, will only be distinguished from true black upon producing a dilute foal when bred to a non-dilute.

Black horses do best in cold climates--- all the breeds developed around this color have come from such areas. The reason is that black absorbs heat, so black horses, while striking, are not a good choice for hard work in hot weather. Their skin also becomes hot and is more sensitive than that of other dark-skinned horses.


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