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Pictorial Guide to Horse Colors Part 5

This guide is written to help identify horse colors. It does not explain the genetics behind the colors. If you would like to know more about the genetics of these colors please visit Dilutions in horses. If you would like to view more examples of Silver horses please visit the Silver Gallery.

Silver in Horses

Silver in horses affects areas that would otherwise be black, changing the color from black to gray or brown. It has it’s greatest effect on a horse’s mane and tail. In horses that are heavily affected the mane and tail can be almost completely white or silver. If the horse also has feathers (the hairs on the horse's pastern), the feathers will be affected to the same extent as the mane and tail. Because silver only affects black pigment, Chestnut horses and the red body of Silver Bays will not be changed.

Silver can at times be difficult to recognize however, silver foals are often born with very light or white eyelashes and flaxen manes and tails. Silver can cause striped hooves and mottled skin although these characteristics are not universal. The expression of silver can vary drastically across breeds and individual animals. Generally it is highly expressed in breeds such as the Rocky Mountain horse, Miniatures, and Gypsy Horses. It tends to express minimally in stock horse breeds such as Quarter Horses, American Paint horses and Appaloosas. Some horses of the stock horse breeds who have tested positive for silver look more like they have a sun bleached mane than the typical silver mane and tail expression we see in other breeds. (Silver is still a rarity in the stock horse breeds however, so unless your horse is descended from known silver lines don’t hopefully think your horse is silver just because it has a bleached mane and tail.)

Silver is associated with eye problems. Although the vast majority of silver horses are not affected, it is best to be aware of the association so that proper vet checks can be conducted before purchase.

Silver is sometimes referred to as Silver Dapple because it often (but not always) is present with heavy dappling. Other terms used in association with silver are Chocolate and Taffy. The use of the term Chocolate is the most common among Gaited breeds in the Eastern United States while Taffy is often used in Australia.
striped hoof caused by silver

A striped hoof caused by silver

silver foal eyelashes

Light eyelashes of a silver black foal

heavy dappling on a silver black

A silver black with heavy dappling

a silver bay gypsy horse with feathers

A Gypsy Cob Filly with lots of feather

a very minimal silver

A very minimal tested (Ee aa Zz crcr) Silver black silver Miniature gelding

Silver Bay

Silver Bay horses will have brown or gray points (at times barely visible) and a mane and tail that can vary from bleached looking to completely white. Many times silver bay horses are mistaken for flaxen chestnut, especially as foals. Silver bay foals rarely have leg points therefore, pedigree and white eyelashes are clues to distinguishing silver bay from flaxen chestnut foals

silver bay

A rare silver bay Gypsy Cob colt. He has been color tested as EE Aa nZ - homozygous black, heterozygous bay, and heterozygous silver. Photo courtesy of Vines Gypsy Horses

Silver bay draft type horse

A Silver Bay Draft Type Horse

Silver bay foal

A Silver Bay Foal tested Ee AA NZ

Silver Brown

Silver brown horses will be similar to silver bay but darker with more brown or gray coloration on the body. Some of the darkest may look Silver Black but have reddish noses and flanks.

brown silver

Bar U Champ Binder (1981 - 2009) was the first 'silver' confirmed and recognized by AQHA

silver brown

A silver brown pony notice the lighter nose coloration

silver brown quarter horse

A grandson of Bar U Champ Binder at 3 years old. He is DNA tested as EE/AA/NZ

Silver Black

A silver black will be a fairly uniform gray or brown with a mane and tail that can vary from a bleached appearance to completely silver or white. Some silver blacks go through amazing color changes. Some will be so extreme as to look palomino in their faded foal coats only to shed off a more normal silver black color. To see more on this color change visit Silver Fox Album.

silver black foal

A silver black foal. Notice the light eyelashes

silver black horse

A silver black Miniature

silver black Icelandic horse

A Silver Black Icelandic horse

Silver Chestnut

Silver Chestnut is not technically a color as silver does not modify chestnut. It is used rather to designate a chestnut horse who also carries the silver gene.

silver chestnut

A silver chesnut

Gray Silver

It is interesting to note that when gray and silver are both present the affected horse will gray very rapidly. They are often completely white by the time they are yearlings and their have been reports of grays with silver being born completely white (as caused by gray not a white pattern).

gray silver

Chywoon Rusty's Applause 28" AMHA stallion, Silver Black Tobiano with gray as a yearling. An example of how fast a silver with gray will gray.