Last Updated on April 29, 2022
A grey dapple horse is one of the most beautiful coat colors in the equine world, and these horses are highly sought after! But how do horses get these distinctive markings? Let’s find out!
What Is A Grey Dapple Horse?
A grey dapple horse is one that has a dark grey coat with circles of lighter grey hair. It will also often have a darker grey mane and tail, and dark points on its legs.
Horses are not born with dapple grey coloring. These markings occur as part of the greying process in horses, during which the horse will turn from its natural base coat color to completely grey. Not all grey horses will go through a distinctive dappled phase, and for some horses, this stage will be much longer and more pronounced than others.
How Do Grey Dapple Horses Get Their Markings?
The grey color in horses can be quite a surprise to the owner of a newborn foal, as no horse is ever born with grey coloring! Instead, it will be born with a colored coat, that fades to grey as the horse ages.
All horses are born with color genes, that give their coat its base color. This will be either black, bay, or chestnut. Some horses also inherit color modifier genes, that act on the base color to lighten it or add in white hairs in either patches, spots, or flecks.
The final gene that a horse can inherit is the grey color gene. This is a dominant gene, that overrules all other color genes. However, its effects are not apparent at birth, and the greying effect does not start to happen until later in life.
The grey gene causes the depigmentation of hairs, causing their base color to disappear. This happens gradually and in stages – a horse does not just suddenly turn white overnight! We will see many shades of grey in a horse as it passes through the stages of greying.
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Stages Of Greying In Horses
It is incredible to think that a horse could be born bright chestnut, and by the end of its lifetime, it could be almost white! Let’s take a look at the stages of greying in horses, including when dapple grey markings appear.
Steel Grey/Rose Grey – Grey Dapple Horse
This is the inital stage of greying in horses, when the natural coat color becomes interspersed with grey hairs. A horse with a black base coat will become steel grey, while one with a lighter chestnut coat will become a rose grey. These colors are often confused with roan coloring, but unlike roan, they are not permanent.
When a horse becomes dapple grey, this is called a transitioning pattern. This is the second stage of greying in horses, and not all grey horses will become dappled. Dappled markings normally appear when the horse is 4-12 years old.
These patterns occur when the horse has circles of light grey hair, on the base coat color of steel grey or rose grey. This will happen in stages, and often the hindquarters are the area with the most dapples. Over time, the base coat color will fade, reducing the intensity of the dapples.
White Grey – Grey Dapple Horse
As the base coat color fades completely, the horse will become white grey. Again, this may happen in stages over different areas of the body. For many horses, this can be the end of the greying process, and they will stay this color for the rest of their lives.
Some grey horses will become fleabitten grey either when the start to turn white grey, or later in life. This occurs when flecks of hair in the coat regain their pigmentation, giving a speckled appearance to the coat. Not all grey horses will turn fleabitten grey, and some stay white grey for the remainder of their lives.
Is A Grey Dapple Horse The Same As An Appaloosa?
A grey dapple horse is not the same as an appaloosa, although some people do get them confused. One of the classic markings seen on Appaloosa horses is a spotted coat, which can look very much like a dapple grey horse.
However, there is a key difference between these two types of markings. A spotted Appaloosa horse will be born with its spotty markings, while a dapple grey horse will not develop its dapples until later in life. It is also very unusual for a dappled grey horse to remain this color, and the markings will gradually fade to completely grey.
Grey Dapple Horse Summary
So, as we have learned, a grey dapple horse is one that has a dark grey coat with circles of lighter grey hair. This is part of the greying process in horses, during which the horse will turn from its natural base coat color to completely grey. Not all grey horses will go through a distinctive dappled phase, and for some horses this stage will be much longer and more pronounced than others.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on grey dapple horses! Have you got a grey horse with distinctive dapples on its coat? Or maybe you’re not sure if your foal is going to turn grey or not? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Is A Dapple Grey Horse Rare?
Dappled grey horses are quite rare, and there are two reasons for this. Firstly, not all grey horses will go through a dapple grey stage. Secondly, those that do have dappled grey markings may not stay this color for the rest of their lives.
Do Dapple Grey Horses Stay Grey?
Dapple grey coloring is a stage that horses go through as part of the greying process. A horse may be dapple grey for several years, but over time the coat will gradually fade to completely grey, without any dapples.
What Is A Grey Speckled Horse Called?
A horse with dark speckles on a grey coat is called a fleabitten grey. This coloring is the final stage of the greying process in horses, although not all grey horses become fleabitten grey.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE