Dapple Grey Horses: Facts, Breeds, Origins, and Colors

Interesting Facts About Dapple Grey Horses

Dapple grey horses are favored in many disciplines; their unique and catching coat color makes them stand out from the competition. How common are dapple grey horses? Why does their coat color look like this? 

Dapple grey horses have a grey coat color with lighter hair created patterns across their bodies. The dapple pattern usually visually appears as star shapes or circles. While this coloring isn’t found in every horse breed, it is more popular in Andalusians, Percherons, Thoroughbreds, Lippizans, Connemaras, and Welsh Ponies.

Grey tends to be a more common coat color in horses; however, not every grey horse will have dapples. Age, genetics, and health play an important role in determining whether your horse will be a dapple grey. To learn more interesting facts about dapple grey horses, read on!

Defining Features of Dapple Grey Horses

We all know that there are some goofy specifications for horse coloring. Sometimes, you may think a horse is a palomino, but it ends up being a dun! The good news is that it is easier to recognize a grey horse! Here’s what you need to know:

A Dapple Grey Horse Must Have a Dominant Grey Gene

Other horse colors that often get mistaken for grey include blue roan, grullo, silver buckskin, and cremello. While these horses may look grey, they aren’t genetically true grey horses. A truly grey horse will have a dominant grey gene. This gene will dilute and dominate any other color gene the horse gets from the other parent. 

Even if the horse is born with the base color gene for bay, black, or chestnut, the dominant grey gene will still cause the horse to become grey. 

A Dapple Grey Horse Will Eventually Be Fully Grey in Color

Did you know that grey horses change color?! Dappled grey horses are usually born a different color than grey; they can be born with chestnut, bay, black, or even buckskin coat coloring. As they age, their darker coats will begin to get lighter hairs until, eventually, they will be completely grey. 

Many grey horses have a “dapple” phase. As they trade their darker coat for a lighter grey coat, they will appear dappled. This is seen more in younger grey horses, ranging in age from two to seven years old. Once a grey horse has reached their prime, its coat will appear light solid grey. 

Grey horses change color over time thanks to the dominant grey gene. The dominant grey gene will dilute the base color gene and cause the horse’s color to fade from its original birth color.

Dapple Grey Horses Have Dark Skin

People often confuse grey horses for white horses and white horses for grey horses. In appearance, the way you can tell the difference is by the color of the horse’s skin. A truly white horse will have light skin, usually pink in color. This can give white horses an almost reddish hue. 

Grey horses will have dark skin, usually black or grey. Even a grey horse that appears with whiter hair will have dark skin underneath. Look at the points of a horse to notice any signs of dark skin; oftentimes, a grey horse will have a darker muzzle and have darker skin show around its eyes.  Even looking at the point of the ears or the genitals can help you indicate whether a horse has dark or light skin.

Different Types of Dapples

When it comes to a dapple grey horse, your horse may have dapples in their coat for numerous reasons. Oftentimes with greys, the dapples you see in their coat are the result of their hair coat becoming lighter and fading to grey. The coat doesn’t change color all at once; instead, it tends to do it in patches. Hence, the dapple look.

Even after your horse has whited out, you may see a different type of dapple in their coats. Dapples can also be a sign of good health in a horse. A shiny coat with proper nutrition can cause a horse to develop faint dapples across their body. 

Color Stages of Grey Horses

When I bought my young grey thoroughbred mare, Pepper, she looked much different than she does now, 12 years later and in her senior years. She was a dark grey with beautiful dapples on her flank and a dark mane and tail. Now, she has a solid white-looking coat with a matching mane and tail! So, what are the different color stages of grey horses?


At birth, a grey horse will not look grey at all! You may think you’ve gotten a bay, chestnut, black, or even buckskin or palomino horse. In the beginning, it may be difficult to determine whether you have a genetically true grey horse. Only time will tell what color your horse will be. 

Are palominos born the same color at birth? Learn more about palomino horses by visiting my article Palomino Horses – Colors, Price, Facts, & Origins.


As the horse begins to age, lighter hairs will begin to spread over its coat. In yearlings, you may notice lighter hairs appearing around the horse’s muzzle, eyes, and legs. As your horse approaches the age of two, it will turn a steel grey color. At this point in the process, their coat looks more solid than dapple-y.

2 – 7 Years Old

Between the age of two and seven, a grey horse is going to become its most dappled. In this timeframe, the horse’s color will change most drastically. In the beginning, dapples will be found all over the horse’s body. As it ages and gets closer to seven, the majority of the coat will whiten out and lose its dapples. The last area of the horse’s body to usually lose the dapples is the hindquarters and the hind legs.

Teen/Senior Years

By the time a grey horse reaches its early teen year, it will appear to have a mostly white coat. It may still have dark points around its nose, ears, legs, and eyes. When a grey horse reaches its senior years, there will be barely any traces of dark hair left on the body. Instead, an older grey horse will have a light coat and a light mane and tail. You can use these visual indicators to determine what age range a grey horse may be in.

Dappled Grey Horse Breeds

While grey horses can be members of many different breeds, there are a few breeds that exclude this coloring. Friesians, Haflingers, Belgians, and Fjords are all horse breeds that require their members to have specific coloring, excluding grey colors. Believe it or not, but you can find grey Appaloosas and grey Paint Horses. 

Here is a list of the horse breeds that most commonly produce dapple grey horses:

  • Andalusion
  • Arabians
  • Connemaras
  • Fell Ponies
  • Holsteiner
  • Irish Droughts
  • Irish Sport Horses
  • Lipizzan
  • Lustino
  • Percheron
  • Thoroughbred
  • Welsh Ponies


Many of the members found in these breeds are grey horses. The grey coloring does occur in other breeds, but not as frequently. This would include:

  • American Paint Horses
  • Appaloosas
  • Mustangs
  • Missouri Foxtrotters
  • Quarter Horses
  • Shetland Ponies
  • Shires
  • Tennessee Walkers


This means there are a lot of horses that change color over the course of their lives! Next time you see a grey horse, take time to ask about its breed and see if it falls in one of these lists!

Are Dapple Grey Horses Expensive?

In reality, dapple grey horses are a populous part of the horse world; they aren’t hard to find! That being said, you may find a dapple grey horse for sale in any price range. Of course, the pedigree, breed, and amount of training the horse has had will play a big role in how much the horse is worth.

A grey well-trained Holsteiner or Andalusian may go for more than a grey Percheron or Arabian. The first breeds oftentimes have the ability and talent to compete at upper levels. The breed you are looking to purchase will play a big role in the price you can expect.

Lastly, the demand and price of a dapple grey horse can increase based on the riding discipline. I know from experience that Hunters and Equitation favor grey horses. There’s nothing like a dapple grey horse that’s just been nicely groomed with its mane freshly plaited! A grey horse in these competitions is a classy way to stand out from the majority of bay horse competitors. 

If you want to know the most expensive horse breeds, visit my article Top 15 Most Expensive Horse Breeds in the World.

Dappled Grey Horses in History


Many people in America probably don’t realize that they’ve seen Blueskin before. If you look at any painting of George Washington, chances are he is either on a chestnut or a grey horse. Blueskin was a dapple grey Arabian X that General Washington rode throughout the Revolutionary War. Due to his breeding, Blueskin had great endurance and was able to carry his rider for great distances.

The first president of the United States was an avid equestrian, and many men he served alongside remember him for his keen ability to communicate with his horses. 


If you haven’t heard the story of Snowman, just know it’s the ultimate underdog story. Superman was a mixed draft breed that was bought for $80 just as he was being shipped to slaughter. He would go on to become one of the most successful show jumpers in history. If you want to know more, there is a great documentary that takes you through Snowman’s journey; Harry & Snowman.


Want to learn more about the different horse colors and markings? Visit my article 21 Common Horse Colors, Markings, & Patterns With Pictures.


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