How To Tell What Color Your Foal Will Be?

Last Updated on December 27, 2022

If you are breeding a foal, it is likely that you carefully chose the parents to pass on certain desirable traits to your new equine. But what if you want a certain coat color – is it possible to tell what color your foal will be?

Choosing a dam and sire for your new foal is a tricky process, and it is unlikely that you would pick them based on coat color alone. But if you are hoping to breed a foal that is a certain color, there are ways to try and predict what color it will be!

What Determines The Coat Color Of A Foal?

The color of a foal’s coat is part of its genetic makeup, passed on from its parents. The sire will pass on his coat color genes, and the dam will do the same.

So, you might assume that if you bred two horses of the same color together, the foal would turn out the same color as its parents. However, this is not always the case!

The reason for this is that each horse has a pair of color genes, passed on from its parents. So a horse might have two of the same color genes or two different ones!

And when it comes to genes, they are not all as potent as each other. Genes are classed as either dominant or recessive. Each parent can pass on either a dominant or a recessive coat color gene to the foal. The dominant gene will always be exhibited unless the parents both pass on a recessive gene.

So, if the parents of your foal are both black and each has a pair of black color genes, it is guaranteed that your foal will be black. However, if they are both black but each has one black and one chestnut color gene, then your foal may turn out to be chestnut.

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What Are The Different Horse Coat Colors?

If you walk into any horse barn you will see a huge range of different coat colors and markings! Around sixty horse coat colors have been identified, as well as many different markings on the body. To understand how to tell what color your foal will be, we must first learn how all these wonderful colors are created.

There are actually only two basic coat color genes in horses – black and red. This will give you the color of the base coat of the horse. However, there are other genetic influences at play, which will give a myriad of variations on these basic colors.

The black gene gives us a horse with a black base coat color. The horse could be entirely black or have black points such as the mane, tail, and legs. The extent of the black coloring is determined by a secondary gene called the agouti gene.

Another genetic influence comes from genes that dilute the coat color. This gives us a huge range of different colors, that are all initially based on the black or red gene. For example, the beautiful palamino coloring is actually a diluted variation of the red gene.

The final complicating factor we have is the grey color gene! This is very dominant and will override other color genes. You will often find that a grey horse is born black, bay, or chestnut, and will turn grey as it ages.

horse color calculator

What Is A Horse Color Cross Chart?

A simple way to figure out the possible coat colors of your foal is to use a horse color cross chart. This method takes the color of the sire and the dam and predicts the possible colors that the foal could be.

Whilst this method can give you a vague idea, it does not tell you the likelihood of each color occurring. It also does not take into account factors such as the grey gene. The chart does not allow for distinctive markings such as spots or white patches.

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How To Use A Color Cross Chart For Horses?

To use a color cross chart to predict the color of your foal, you first need to know the color of the parents. The color cross chart only allows for a certain range of colors. You may need to pick the closest to your sire or dam if it is not listed.

You find the color of your dam on one axis of the chart, and the sire on the other. These are then cross-referenced to give you a range of color options for your foal.

For example, if you have a bay stallion and chestnut mare, the chart tells us that the foal could be chestnut, bay, or black.



Can You Use A Horse Color Calculator To Tell What Color Your Foal Will Be?

A more advanced way to predict what color your foal will be is to use a horse color calculator. To get the best results from this method it helps if you know as much as possible about the coloring and genetic makeup of the parents.

Firstly, we will try to predict the color of the offspring of two black horses. The calculator will tell you that it is 93.75% likely to be black, and 6.25% that it will be red – either chestnut or sorrel. This is a fairly simple and easy-to-predict calculation, but life is not normally this straightforward!

If, for example, one of the parents was a bay horse, and the other a palamino, there are a lot of possibilities! The foal is most likely to be either bay or buckskin. There is also a chance that it could be chestnut, palamino, or black.

To improve the accuracy of this calculator, it allows you to add genetic information about the sire and dam. For the above example, we might know that both parents have dominant genes. We can then calculate that there is a 50/50 chance that the foal will be either silver bay or silver buckskin.

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When Do Foals Change Color?

If you’ve got a new foal, you’ll no doubt be anxious and excited to see what color it is going to be! But while your newborn foal may be fluffy and adorable, you might still have to wait a little while to find out exactly what color it is going to be.

The reason for this is that not all foals are born with the same coloring they will have as adults. So, your newborn foal may look very different from how it will appear when it is an adult. This can occur with a variety of coat colors, but the most striking example is with adult grey horses, who are nearly always born with much darker coat colors.

The coat of a foal will start to change color when it molts its fur for the first time, at around three or four months of age. During these first few months of the foal’s life, the fur is very susceptible to sun damage, so it may become much lighter in color. However, when it starts to shed its foal coat, the hairs will be replaced and the color will change.

One key difference in the appearance of a foal vs the adult coat is in the leg hairs. Foals tend to have light, silvery hairs on their legs, which often make it hard to visualize any leg markings. They also sometimes have primitive markings, such as zebra stripes on the rear of the legs.

If you have a new foal, it can be fun to take photographs of them at certain points during the year to see how the coat changes as they grow older. When your horse is an adult it can be fascinating to compare how much they have changed during the first few years of life!

What Color are Grulla Foals Born?

The term grulla is used to describe a specific set of color genes that results in a distinctive coloring of the adult horse. However, when a foal is born it may not be possible to tell exactly what color it is going to be!

The grulla coloring occurs when a horse has a black base coat color and inherits the dun coat color dilution gene. This lightens the base coat color to give the horse a beautiful silvery-grey color, with a black mane, tail, and legs. This combination of genes is quite rare, with less than 1% of quarter horses registered each year identified as grulla.

It can be quite hard to tell if a foal is going to be grulla, as it will be born with slightly different coloring. These foals are normally silvery-grey but with a brown tint to the coat, and a black mane and tail. Like most foals, the legs of a grulla will be lighter until the first molt, when they will turn black.

Dun markings are not always apparent at birth, making it even harder to tell if your foal is a grulla. The dorsal stripe and leg barring may not be visible until after the first molt. Many dun foals have cute ‘eyebrow’ markings which set them apart from foals with similar colorings, such as buckskin.


So, as we have learned, it is possible to work out the probability of your foal turning out a certain color! However, unless you are 100% sure of the genetic makeup of the parents, it is unlikely that you will be able to be sure of the color until the foal is born.

We’d love to hear what you think – have you seen a foal that is a completely different color from its parents? Maybe your horse has very unusual coat markings? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!

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