Top 11 Most Colorful Horse Breeds
Are you fascinated by colorful horses? While only the mythical unicorn will sport a rainbow coat, there are several breeds of horses that have beautiful multi-colored coats with striking color contrasts.
Which horse breeds have the most colorful coats? Many different breeds of horses can have multi-colored patterns in their coats, from splashes of white to small spots on a contrasting base coat color. Eleven of the most consistently colorful horse breeds are:
- Gypsy Vanner
- American Paint Horse
- American Saddlebred
- Spotted Saddle Horse
- American Miniature Horse
- Rocky Mountain Horse
- Black Forest Horse
What I love most about these colorful horse breeds is that each one is unique. Yes, we would say that about any of our horses, but there just is not as much (color) variation among solid-colored horses. Colorful horses are like snowflakes – no two are alike! Keep reading for more information on the coats of these eleven colorful horse breeds.
Colorful Horse Breed Profiles
Colorful Breed #1: Gypsy Vanner
The Gypsy Vanner is a small and friendly draft horse, created as a strong family horse by the Romani travelers. They are known for their even-tempered disposition and their beauty – Gypsy Vanners have long, thick manes and tails and abundant feathering at the feet.
While they can be of any color, Gypsy Vanners are most often found in pinto patterns – particularly that of what was once called “piebald,” splashes of white over a black base coat.
Colorful Breed #2: American Paint Horse
The American Paint Horse is a breed developed in the United States as a colorful western stock horse. Paints are almost always patterned, though purebred solid-colored Paints can be registered under a separate registry as breeding stock.
Paints are most often found with patches of white over a black, bay, or chestnut base coat, however, they can also be found with splashes of white over diluted colors such as palomino, buckskin, cremello, perlino, champagne, roan, and dun.
It is also possible to have a Paint with a base color of gray, though as is the case with solid gray horses, the base coat will eventually fade until the contrast of the white patches is not much of a contrast at all.
Colorful Breed #3: American Saddlebred
The American Saddlebred is a popular riding horse that originated in the United States in the late 1800s. Conformation and presence are important factors according to the breed registration, but coloring is not.
American Saddlebreds can be found in almost any color and often have pinto markings. In fact, the earliest note of the pinto markings in Saddlebreds occurred in a pinto stallion born in 1882. Today, Saddlebreds with color contrasts can be found throughout the country, and some have called the breed the “peacock of the horse world.”
Colorful Breed #4: Spotted Saddle Horse
The Spotted Saddle Horse is a breed developed in Tennessee after the American Civil War. The goal of the breed was to develop a gaited horse with pinto markings. This was accomplished by breeding pinto ponies of Spanish origin to the Morgan and the Standardbred in order to get the desired size.
They then brought in more gaited breeds, including the Tennessee Walking Horse, Missouri Fox Trotter, and Paso Fino. The horses were selectively bred until they had a gaited breed of horse with a beautiful contrast of colors. Spotted Saddle Horses are most commonly found in the overo and tobiano patterns and can be found with white patches on top of a darker base coat.
Colorful Breed #5: Appaloosa
The previous four horses were all noted for their colorful pinto patterns, but pintos are not the only contenders in the world of multi-colored horses. The Appaloosa is another American-born breed that is known for its striking spotted coat.
These spots are visibly different than pinto markings and can be described as small dots throughout the horse’s coat (or at least a portion of the horse’s coat) that are darker than the base color. Appaloosas can be covered in abundant spots, they can be covered in sparse spots, or they can have spots only on the rump (called a “blanket with spots”). They come in virtually any base coat color, and there are six recognized spot patterns that an Appaloosa can have.
Colorful Breed #6: Knabstrupper
The Knabstrupper is another breed of spotted horse, having the same genetic mutation that gives the Appaloosa its dalmatian-like spots. The Knabstrupper is a warmblood breed from Denmark, traced back to a single spotted mare named Flaebehoppen who was “deep red with a white tail and mane, and white flecks… over her whole body and brown spots on her back” (she sounds like she must have been quite a sight!).
While they look remarkably similar to the Appaloosa, they do not seem to share any original blood, though three Appaloosas were introduced to Knabstrupper breeding programs in the 1970s to add new genetics to the breed.
Colorful Breed #7: Mustang
Known as the iconic “wild” (more accurately, feral) horses of the Western United States, the Mustang is a horse that does not have any breed standards and can therefore be of virtually any color or pattern found in a horse.
This is due to the variation in bloodlines among the Mustangs – ranchers historically turned their horses out in the wild or let their horses free when they could not keep them, allowing these feral horses to breed with previously domesticated horses.
Specific herds may have their own unique conformation, size, or color variations depending on the region in which they live. A percentage of Mustangs are rounded up every year by the government and are sold or auctioned off – many can be found in both pinto and spotted patterns.
Colorful Breed #8: American Miniature Horse
A miniature horse is a very small horse that has been bred to maintain the build of a standard-sized horse (as opposed to a pony) but in a diminutive stature.
There are miniature horses found around the world, and the American Miniature Horse is the version developed in the United States. These Miniature Horses stand no taller than 38 inches at the withers, can be found in any color, and can show both pinto and spotted patterns.
Colorful Breed #9: Halflinger
While we have thus far focused on coat color contrasts, there is another beautiful color contrast in the equine world – that of the body against the mane and tail. The next three breeds are known for their remarkable difference in color between their coats and their “hair.” The Halflinger is a European breed of small (but stocky) horse.
Halflingers are only found in a chestnut base coat, which can range from a light sorrel to a dark red. While most chestnuts of other breeds have manes and tails of the same color, Halflingers have white (known as “flaxen”) manes and tails. This results in the beautiful color contrast for which they are so well-known.
Colorful Breed #10: Rocky Mountain Horse
The Rocky Mountain Horse was developed in the Appalachian Mountains in the state of Kentucky (I bet you thought it originated in the Rocky Mountains, though, right?). This horse was originally used as a light draft horse, but today can be found on the trails and in Western disciplines.
Like the Halflinger, the Rocky Mountain Horse has a white or silver mane and tail, though its preferred base coat is actually a rich chocolate color. This combination is quite beautiful and is due to the “silver dapple gene” (which is not a form of dapples at all, but a lightening gene).
Colorful Breed #11: Black Forest Horse
The Black Forest Horse is a rare breed that originated and can be found in the Black Forest of Germany. It is a small draft breed that was once used in agriculture and in logging and has declined significantly with the increase in farm machinery.
Today the breed is considered “endangered,” which is a shame as the horse is both gentle and beautiful. Like the Halflinger, the Black Forest Horse has a beautiful and full flaxen mane and tail over a chestnut base coat (often seen in a darker, “liver” chestnut). The German word for the breed’s coat is “Dunkelfuchs,” which means “dark fox.”
Colorful Horses Can Be Found Around The World
While some of these breeds of horse are endangered or rare, like the Black Forest Horse and the Knabstrupper, others can be found in abundance throughout the world. As an example, the American Paint Horse holds the second-largest breed registry in the country (second only behind the Quarter Horse).
If you’ve spent time around horses, you’ve almost certainly met a few colorful horses yourself – whether it was a horse with flashy pinto markings, striking spotted patterns, or a beautiful contrast between coat and hair.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting many colorful horses, check out more information on the eleven breeds listed here – they are all beautiful, and each has its own unique traits and attributes.