All coloring in animal skin & fur comes from a pigment called melanin. In horses this pigment appears in two forms, eumelanin (black) & phaeomelanin (chestnut). All coat colors come from the interaction of these two genes along with that of various modifiers & dilutions.
Black is a dominant gene & a true black will display only black hairs on their body. Although they may carry white markings on their face or legs, black animals have no brown or red hair. While this color can be found in many breeds, black animals do better in colder climates. Most breeds developed around the color come from northern countries.
Quick Black Facts
- Black horses have a black coat & black points
- They may have white markings on face or legs
- Two black parents won’t always produce a black foal
- Black horses tend to have sensitive skin
Although there aren’t different shades of black, there are two types – fading & non-fading.
Most black horses are of the fading black variety (also called barn black) their coat turns a reddish brown color with exposure to sun & sweat. Keeping black animals well-fed, blanketed, out of hot sunlight & washing sweat off immediately helps to preserve their color. Fading blacks are usually born a smoky color & sometimes as light as dark bay or brown.
Also called raven or jet black, non-fading black animals are rarer than their counterparts. There have been various theories about their genetic makeup, but it is unknown what causes some black coats not to fade. Non-fading blacks can be born grey or smokey black, but as they mature their fur often becomes almost blue-black in color.
White Patterns on Black Coats
White patterns can be found across any coat color & black bases makes for spectacular contrasting white patterns.