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.





Beau Knight, black arabian gelding. owner: Tami Dance
This Arabian gelding is most likely a nonfading or jet black. Note the metallic sheen on his shoulder.

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.

Owned by SUSAN SMITH of Praire Creek Arabians .
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').

Bums Shadow Dancer, TWH gelding. Owned by DAVID GRUENBERG
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.


Doc, AQHA gelding owned by LINDA FIORDELISE
Look at the very blue sheen on this horse! He is most likely a true jet (raven, nonfading) black.

Ulrik, Friesian stallion. Owned by Holly Zech. Website
The Friesian breed is almost exclusively black; in fact, it is the only color recognized by registries. A very, very rare Chestnut will sometimes occur-- this only happens when both parents are not homozygous blacks. Most friesians are homozygous, and can never sire a chestnut foal. Silver has also rarely occured in the Friesian.



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