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Dun Horse Facts You Might Not Have Known

by Dani Buckley

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When you think about a wild horse, what’s the first thing the comes to mind? Most of our minds wander in the direction of a horse like Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron, or maybe a horse that looks somewhat like him – perhaps a dun with a long mane and tail flowing in the wind. Well, here’s all you need to know about the beautiful dun horse color.

Sports young horse of dun color runs trot in the arena

Dun Coloring

A dun horse rates a solid 10 for flashy and unique. These horses can be identified by their primitive markings such as dark or black zebra-striped legs, a dorsal stripe, black edging around the ears, a black shadow like a mask, and stripes on the withers. The mane and tail are usually the color of their dark edging.

There are two different types of dun horses: a red dun and a classic dun.

Red duns have a base coat color of sorrel and do not have the black points because sorrel is the base color. However, they still have the striping characteristics.

Classic duns have a bay base coat color and these horses can range from a pale tan color to darker tan. Classic duns have all the black points.

Dun horse learning to work without bridle on manege

Genetic Makeup

Where does this stunning dun color come from? Well, if you remember the article on Cremellos, this glance at phenotyping and genetics will be a breeze.

The dun coloring comes from a genetic mutation – a dominant dilution genetic modifier, making the appearance, or phenotype, of the coat seem diluted. This gene only appears on horses with a base coat color of red and black. Where does sorrel and bay base coat colors come from? Sorrel comes from a red base and a bay color comes from black.

Dun horses can be tested to find if they are homozygous for the dun gene. If positive, no matter what color a dun horse is bred to, the foal will be dun.

Dun colored breeds

If a dun horse makes you think of a wild horse, your thoughts aren’t that far-fetched! The wild Asian horses called Przewalski horses are mostly dun. Other horse breeds that are common to be a dun color are American Quarter Horses, Icelandic Ponies, Highland Ponies, and don’t forget Mustangs! (Close to Spirit – he’s a dunskin.)

the new forest national park, hampshire, southern england, uk

Are Dun and Buckskin the same thing?

No, dun and buckskin coloring is not the same thing. A buckskin color is produced by a genetic mutation, but of a single shot of the cream dilution gene on a bay base coat color. The cream gene is also responsible for the Palamino color. A buckskin can have a dorsal stripe and the dark mane and tail. However, duns need all the other characteristics plus the dorsal stripe to actually be a true dun.

It’s so interesting to think that all the different colors of horses can come from a single genetic mutation. Something so small can have such a huge impact on the appearance of a horse, such an impact, you can’t help but fall in love with a dun horse!

Sources: [1], [2]

Fascinating Facts About Dun Horses

About the Author

Dani Buckley is a small-town resident in Montana. She is a veterinary technician manager and mom of eight four-legged kids – 5 dogs, 1 cat, and 2 horses. When she moved back home to Montana, her horses and her dogs moved with her (Carbon and Milo). The pack grew by three when she moved in with her boyfriend, Cody. Altogether there is a German Shepard (Lupay), a Border Collie (Missy), a Blue Heeler (Taz) and her two adorable mutts.

Her horses are her free time passion – Squaw and Tulsa. Dani has owned Squaw for 17 years and this mare has made 2 trips across the country with Dani! Squaw is a retired rodeo and cow horse. Her other mare, Tulsa, is an upcoming ranch horse. The girls have an unmatched personality and bond with Dani. She has been around horses her entire life and rodeoed throughout highschool and beyond. Now, she enjoys riding on the ranch, working cattle and trail riding.


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