What is a Roan Horse?

What is a Roan Horse Social

You may wonder what a roan horse is. In general, “roan” means a mixed colour. A roan horse may have a beautiful coat with white and coloured hairs on its body.

As a horse fancier, I am always interested in the different horse colours for nearly 10 years. And I have done lots of research on various horse types, especially roan horses.

In this article, I will share the colours and genetics of roan horses with you. The breeds of roan horses and other frequent questions would also be mentioned.

Hope this article will help you find your ideal roan horses and answer your questions. Besides, your recommendation and questions are always welcome.

The Most Common Roan Horses

If you are lucky enough to glance at a roan horse on a horse racing field, it may be breathtaking and stunning. The unique coat colour makes it look as if there is snow or powdered sugar on its hair. The roan horses are so coveting and appealing that no wonder you want to own one.

An attractive and even blend of white and coloured hair make most roan horses appear lighter than their base colours. But their heads and legs are almost solid colours. In this way, it is quite easy to identify varied roan horses.

We should notice that roan horses are not a breed or category. They just refer to a group of horses with similar hair features. And roan horses may have different colours and varied breeds. The most common roan horse colours are listed in the following part.

Red Roan Horses (Strawberry Roan Horses)

Red Roan Horses

In general, a red roan horse usually refers to a roan horse with a deep chestnut base coat. And a light chestnut-coloured horse is described as a strawberry roan horse, for its hair looks like the colour of strawberries.

In this way, red roan horses and strawberry roan horses all belong to solid chestnut-coloured horses. Besides, there is a light or dark red-brown coat pattern throughout their entire body, including their lower legs.

Blue Roan Horses

Blue Roan Horses

A blue roan horse usually has a flashy colour, as well as a striking coat pattern. And they may have a hybrid-colour coat with black and white hair, looking like blue.

You may find that the head and lower legs of a blue roan horse are darker with little or no white. By the way, you may find blue roan horses among many horse breeds, such as the American Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, Arabians, and so on.

What’s more, the blue roan horses are relatively rare, thus being regarded as of great value.

Bay Roan Horses

Bay Roan Horses

The coat of a bay roan horse would be a mixture of white hair and bay hair. The hybrid hair makes them appear lighter than the classical bay horses. But its head, mane, lower legs, and tail are often completely black.

It may be hard to identify the bay roan horses and red roan horses. Because the bay hairs may look like red or brown hairs. However, if you are trying to distinguish them, you may pay attention to the points on them. Black points belong to bay roan horses. And red points are placed on red roan horses.

Uncommon Roan Horses

After knowing the common roan horse colours, you may be curious about the uncommon roan horse colours. Since roan horses are quite valuable for their attractive appearances and appealing coats, uncommon roan horses are much more rarer and more expensive. Sometimes, it might be difficult to identify the roan horses with their resembles.

Grey Roan Horses

Grey Roan Horses

As one of the most common colours among horses, the colour of grey horses will become more and more lighten with time going by. In fact, the grey foals might be born of any colour. With age, the colourful foals would become grey and retain none of the colourful patterns when they are mature.

During the process from colourful foal to grey mature, the grey horses would be recognized as the roan horses. It is hard to identify the roan horses and grey horses, especially when it comes to Thoroughbred and Arabian horses.

Dun Roan Horses

Dun Roan Horses

A dun roan horse would have a roan coat and a dun base colour. And the base colour of your dun roan horse may be red, tan, or black. Usually, a dun roan horse may have a light-coloured body with the certain dark colour on other parts.

A dark shaded stripe would run down the black of your dun roan horses. This makes them different from bay roan horses and others.

Rabicano Roan Horses

Rabicano Roan Horses

Rabicano would be recognized as a pattern of white hairs. This roan pattern is easy to recognize. The white hairs of the Rabicano roan horses are interspersed unevenly. This makes them different from the classic roan horses.

In this way, some regions of the Rabicano roan horses are much whiter than others. The hair colour on the flank and belly is lighter, spreading to other parts. Sometimes, the amount of obvious white ticking on the tail would be the only feature of a Rabicano roan horse.

Sabino Roan Horses

Sabino Roan Horses

The feature of Sabino roan horses might be their white spots. There may be some roan in the edges of the white markings. The white hairs would be mixed with coloured ones.

If the white spots are quite tiny or small, a sabino horse may look like a paint horse. If the white spotted areas are relatively large and expanded, a sabino horse may appear to be a roan horse.

Varnish Roan Horses

Varnish Roan Horses

Generally speaking, Vanish roan horses refer to a group of horses whose colour is similar to roan horses. Besides, Vanish roan horses usually have a dark base coat with some spots.

If you have a Varnish roan horse, you may find it looks like a roan horse. However, you may notice that its colour changes with time going by.

The Genetics of Roan Horses

The colour of roan horses is an inherited feature through an autosomal dominant gene. Specifically, the parent horses would pass the roan trait by only one copy of the gene.

If a horse gets the roan gene from one of its parents, it would have a roan pattern coat. If not, the horse would not be the roan horse, even if one of its parents is a roan horse.

Homozygous Roan

The researchers have found that the roan gene could be passed down to the next generation only in the homozygous condition.

The homozygous roan horse refers to a horse with two copies of the same trait in its genetic make-up. In short, the most homozygous roan horses are bred from two roan horses.

Besides, if a horse is homozygous, its every foal would be the roan horse. In this way, it is crucial for you to choose a homozygous roan horse, if you would like to produce foals.

Equine Linkage Group II

A linkage group generally refers to a group form by which genes are passed on to offspring. Equine linkage group II contains a series of genes where you could find the roan genes.

In 1978, the researchers discovered the first linkage between a blood type maker and a tabiano white spotting. And the researchers found another linkage group in 1982. The latter contains three kinds of serum proteins genes and three coat colours. They are roan, chestnut, and tobiano spotting.

Since then, equine linkage II has been determined. And the scientists could identify the specific position of the tobiano allele as well as the chestnut allele.

Roan Horse Genetic Testing

The scientist could do DNA maker testing to see whether a horse has the roan zygosity or not. Roan zygosity is a series of genes that could lead to the roan pattern coat among horses.

You could apply this test to your horse to see if it is a homozygous roan horse. When you are trying to buy a homozygous roan horse, this test is also necessary.

From this test, you could clearly see the genetic pattern of a horse. If a horse gets a double roan gene from both of its parents, the horse would be possible to give birth to roan foals. If a horse doesn’t get the roan gene from either of its parents, it will not produce roan offspring.


Roan horses are famous for their unique and attractive coat colour. And they are welcomed by equestrians and horses fanciers all over the world. The special and appealing coat also makes them more expensive.

It is a good choice for you to own a roan horse and try to produce foals. Roan foals would be much more valuable and bring you a certain fortune.

The most common roan horses are red, blue, and bay roan horses. If you would like to purchase one, roan horse genetic testing would be necessary for your ideal horse. From the genetic test, you may find the homozygous roan horse, which would give birth to roan foals.

Hope this article will help you know more about roan horses. Any questions are welcome. Feel free to contact us.


How Do You Tell If your Horse Is A Roan?

It is quite easy to tell if your horse is a roan. A roan horse usually has hairs with a white surface mixed with its base colour on its body.

In this way, the hair colour on its body would be lighter than the base colour on its legs, heads, and other parts. Besides, The base colour of a roan horse could be any colour.

Which Horse Breeds Are Most Likely To Be Roan?

We should know that roan horses are not a horse breed. Roan horses just have a special coat pattern from a distinct genetic make-up. Thus, roan horses could be seen among varied horse breeds. The following horse breeds are most likely to be roan.

  • Quarter Horse
  • Paint Horse
  • Mustang Horse
  • Tennessee Walking Horse
  • Appaloosa Horse
  • Half-Arabian
  • Shetland Pony
  • Gypsy Cobs
  • Spanish Mustang
  • Icelandic Horse
  • Welsh Pony
  • Miniature Horse

How Many Types of Roan Horses Are There?

From this article, you may notice that there are three types of common roan horses: red, blue, and bay roan horses. Each type of roan horses may include varied horse breeds.

What’s more, there are five uncommon roan horses. Roan horses could have any base colour. But it is hard to distinguish the light coat colour and roan horses.

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