Last Updated on February 13, 2022
When it comes to identifying the color of a horse, there are many factors to take into consideration. Classifying horses with unusual coat patterns is very difficult, and grey sabino horse colors are no exception!
Let’s find out more about sabino horses and discover if you can get a grey sabino horse.
What Are Sabino Horses?
Sabino is the name used to describe a specific type of white pattern on certain horses. Sabino is a color or pattern of markings and not a breed of horse. Many breeds have sabino markings, although they are more common in some breeds of horses.
Breed of horse that has a high number of sabino-marked horses includes the American Paint horse, the Morgan horse, Hackney, Miniature Horse, and pinto breed registries.
Many breed societies do not allow the registration of horses with sabino coloring, as it is classed as pinto coloring. Registries such as Thoroughbred and Arabian only permit solid-colored horses to be registered.
Read more about Horse Canter Vs Gallop – What Is The Difference?
What Does The Sabino Horse Color Look Like?
The number of white markings on a sabino horse will vary, from minimal white splashes to a fully white coat. You may also see roaning – white flecks of hair – and speckled white patterns. This might sound quite vague, but there are some consistencies that are seen in most sabino horses.
Firstly, the white hair will normally be present on the legs and face, even in horses with minimal white coloring. In a horse with more white coloring, these patches will extend up the legs and onto the belly. In a nearly white sabino horse, you will see colored hair only on the highest points – the ears, back, and head of the tail.
The best way to think of a sabino is one where the white runs upwards from the ground – imagine the horse has splashed through a puddle of white paint!
One key feature of sabino horses is that they often have a distinctive white stripe that runs up the back of the forelegs, or front of the hind legs, towards the belly. These are termed lightning strikes and are not normally seen on non-sabino horses.
Can You Get A Grey Sabino Horse?
The white markings on a sabino horse are created by a white spotting pattern gene called Sabino 1. This acts on the base coat color of a horse, adding splashes of white over areas of the face, legs, and body.
The base coat color of a sabino horse can be any color, as the gene responsible for the white patterns is a modifier gene. The horse can have a base coat color of black, bay, chestnut, palomino, cremello, and so on.
However, there is one unusual variation here, and that is a grey sabino horse! The reason for this is that when a horse is grey, this is because of a gene that removes pigmentation from the hair. The foal will be born with its base coat color intact, along with any changes due to modifier genes. Over time, the colored areas of the coat will turn to grey, until the whole horse is grey.
The result will be a horse that appears white or grey over its entire body. However, on closer inspection, you will notice that there are differences in the skin coloration. The areas of skin that had white hair due to Sabino 1 will have pink skin, whilst the areas of skin that were once colored will have dark skin.
You might also see differences in the colors and shading of grey in these two areas. As grey horses age, they go through a range of coat color changes, which is when we see dappled or flea-bitten grey colors. These can appear on the areas that were once colored, but not the areas that were white from birth.
One common area of confusion is when a sabino horse has roan-like coloring, which people mistake for grey. This is characterized as white flecks of hair evenly distributed in the colored areas of the horse’s coat. This is a common feature in sabino horses and occurs as a result of Sabino 1 rather than a true roan coloring.
The difference between roan and grey is that a roan horse will not change color during its lifetime. The foal will be born with white flecks and these stay the same throughout its life. A grey horse will be born with solid colored patches, but these gradually turn grey as the hair loses its pigmentation.
You can also get a sabino horse that is almost completely white, due to the strong effect of the Sabino 1 modifier. Again, the horse will be born this color, rather than fading to grey as it ages. The skin will be pink under the white hair, in contrast to the dark skin of a horse that is truly grey
Is A Sabino A Paint Horse?
A horse with sabino coloring is not necessarily a Paint horse, as many other breeds and types of horse can carry the Sabino 1 gene. However, Paint horses are a breed that has a high incidence of sabino patterning, and this distinctive coloring is common in this breed.
Paint horses also exhibit many other types of white spotting patterns, such as tobiano and splashed white mutations. They can also carry dominant white mutations, as well as roan coat patterning.
The reason why Paint horses are so popular is precisely because of this unusual and varied coat patterning! When you breed a Paint foal, you never quite know what you are going to get, and the fun is in the surprise!
Grey Sabino Horse Summary
So, as we have learned, a grey sabino horse is one that is born with sabino coloring but also inherits the grey color gene. This means that the colored patches of hair lose pigment over time, eventually turning grey then white. Grey sabino horse coloring is often confused with roan speckling, which is a common feature of sabino horses.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about the gray sabino horse color! Have you ever seen one of these unusual horses? Or perhaps you think that your horse might be a grey sabino? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
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