Chestnut vs. Sorrel

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Chestnut vs. Sorrel

This is a discussion on Chestnut vs. Sorrel within the Horse Colors and Genetics forums, part of the Horse Breeds, Breeding, and Genetics category
  • Chestnut or sorrel horse pictures
  • Sorrel vs. chestnut horse color

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  • 2 Post By smrobs
  • 2 Post By Allison Finch

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    01-20-2012, 12:50 PM
Chestnut vs. Sorrel

I was wondering if someone could explain in some detail the difference between a sorrel and a chestnut. I always kinda thought a chestnut was more orangy and a sorrel was more reddish, but I am taking an intro to equine class this semester and the pictures they have for those colors are similar, as are the descriptions!

Sorrel: body is reddish in color with mane and tail of similar color or flaxen. Legs are same color as body

Chestnut: body color is dark or "brownish red."

Is this a chestnut?

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    01-20-2012, 12:53 PM
Did NOT see the thread below about this Sorry guys!
    01-20-2012, 02:50 PM
Well, since some people seemed to be getting huffy in that thread about there even being a distinction, another thread is a great place to discuss it.

According to registries like the AQHA and APHA, a "sorrel" is the lighter colors that tend more towards coppery or orangey, like the picture that you posted. They will often have a lighter or flaxen colored mane/tail but not always.

A "chestnut" horse is the darker, richer shade, almost a blood color and darker. They will often have manes/tails that either match their coat color or are a shade or two darker. Some even have manes/tails that appear black and make them look similar to bay horses without black legs. Though there are others that also carry the flaxen mane/tail.

Then there are what's called "liver chestnuts". Their body ranges from a very deep, dark red to what may appear to be black, though they are genetically red. Their manes/tails are commonly dark, matching their body color, though sometimes you'll see one that is a flaxen.

Sometimes, if they are dark enough, the only way to know for sure is to have them tested, but there are usually indicators, even on a very dark one. Their legs will get just a little bit lighter the closer you get to their hooves, plus, they will seem to have a reddish tinge to their "black" coat when they are out in bright sunlight.

Northern and littrella like this.
    01-20-2012, 04:44 PM
I give you credit for looking into it and doing more research though. Genetics are very complex.

I took an intro to equine class as well and it's definitely important to look into things more. I learned this when they said the description of a buckskin. It "CANNOT have a dorsal stripe" but they didn't go into any further detail. Like the fact they can appear to have a dorsal stripe but it's just counter shading. I wish they would explain stuff like that.
    01-20-2012, 08:24 PM
That was very helpful, thank you! Yeah I am hoping they explain more in class. We haven't actually had the lecture on colors yet, I was just looking over the slides that they had posted online for it!
    01-21-2012, 02:39 PM
There are genetic/environmental issues that can greatly influence the shade of a "red" horse. I have a registered sorrel AQHA more who is a rich red-orange color....most of the time. When I first got her, she was rust-colored, neglected, skinny, and with a diseased and lice-infested hair coat. Six weeks of feed and grooming later, and she was a rich brown chestnut. Since then, she's been red. This is not her in the photos, but she went from this:

To this:

To this:

In the span of a couple of months. That is her in the last photo, and her color has stablized there.

I also go with AQHA's color distinctions. Red-orange is sorrel, yellow-brown is chestnut. Phenotypic differences only at this point, yes, but worth clarifying.
    01-21-2012, 03:03 PM
Super Moderator
In the English world, Chestnut=sorrel. We just have different types of chestnuts. I've never heard a horse referred to as a sorrel in the English rings.
bumble and Celeste like this.

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