How does the gray color work? - The Horse Forum
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 6 Old 12-10-2010, 12:17 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 253
• Horses: 0
How does the gray color work?

So...I'm a little ignorant about gray horses.
I had a flea bitten gray arab mare who I got at an auction who was very very light. I later found out online she was registered..and at one point had a star and snip...but she was so faded you couldn't see them any more at that point. A 4-H leader told me that grays lighten up alot as they age.
So...would that mean that all "gray" horses start out with dappling dark color as youngsters, and get flea bitten as they age? And fade to white in old age? By what age are face markings TYPICALLY no longer visible?

I just bought a supposedly 14 year old feedlot horse who I haven't met yet, and from the pic I saw he's got a dark mane and tail but lighter body.
The AMAZINGLY awesome nice lady who runs tge rescue went to get him and says he has a very distinctive blaze. She also says he has some dappling. I'm wondering...if he's still got some dappling, and still has a distinctive blaze...does it sound like he's probably younger than 14?
Posted via Mobile Device
poultrygirl is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 6 Old 12-10-2010, 12:29 AM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 22,258
• Horses: 0
Gray horses will all lighten in different times. I have known some gray horses that were almost completely white by the time they were 7 or 8 and I have known others who were still a dark steel gray with dapples up into their late teens.

Typically, a gray horse will be born one color (non-gray) and that color will be overtaken by the gray modifier. Also, not all gray horses will get fleabites. Some just fade out to white with no other color mixed in. My mustang was papered as a buckskin when he was captured as a yearling but now, he's as gray as he can be. He will end up having a few fleabites but since they are yellow, they are hard to see. The fleabites that a horse gets are also usually the color that they were born. I don't know what causes them.

Gray horse with no fleabites

Horse that is fleabitten to the extreme

Then there are others who are never dappled at all.

But, they all do fade out closer to white as they age, some just white out faster than others.
smrobs is offline  
post #3 of 6 Old 12-10-2010, 01:28 AM
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Nevada City
Posts: 1,613
• Horses: 2
Grey horses go through phases as they lighten up. They are born a solid color, and can either have a white mane and tail, or dark mane and tail. Usually with a dark mane and tail they take longer to lighten up, and very rarely you get a grey horse that is born light, and by the first shedding of the foal coat is completely grey. My mare will most likely always have a black mane, and black and white tail (her mom still at 12 years old has a darker mane and tail), but a lot of grey horses end up completely greying out, including the mane and tail. As smorbs said, not all horses end up getting flea bites, the horse actually has to have the gene modifier for it, and from what I've read, if the grey parent(s) isn't flea bitten, then the baby won't end up being flea bitten. Also, some horses don't ever grey out completely, and instead retain an almost varnished appearance with some parts staying darker. Grey is definitely a unique color to study.
dressagebelle is offline  
post #4 of 6 Old 12-13-2010, 04:40 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: New River, Az
Posts: 2,472
• Horses: 0
Grey is a modifier on top of the horses color. So a grey horse starts out whatever color the horse would be if he didn't have grey. Bay, chestnut, palomino, you name it. Greys are often born an adult shade... meaning, a bay with grey will be born looking like a bay, where a bay without grey is born brown on body and light colored legs. This isn't always the case though.

Grey effects the color producing vells, melanocytes. It causes hyperproduction at first, so at first a horse darkens. Because of this, once a horse starts to grey, its impossible to determine the base color, as even a palomino will look like its black greying out. Often, not always, they move to a dapple grey phase. From there they continue to lighten throughout life, but how fast is an individual horse thing. Some get fleabites, some don't.

Theory is homozygous greys grey out faster, and heterozygous greys are the ones that fleabite. Even this theory says usually, not always ;)
CheyAut is offline  
post #5 of 6 Old 12-15-2010, 03:02 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Australia (NSW)
Posts: 693
• Horses: 1
Greys change at different rates but all will get lighter as they age, some get flea bites, some don't. Here is 2 horses owned by my friend, both are 7-8 years old
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Holly in the round yard.jpg (89.8 KB, 353 views)
File Type: jpg misty's head2.jpg (51.7 KB, 344 views)

Boxer Diligent, loyal, strong
boxer is offline  
post #6 of 6 Old 12-15-2010, 03:14 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Maryland
Posts: 1,348
• Horses: 4
Here's a site that explains it really basically and it's accurate and easy to understand.

Horse Color Genetics that YOU can understand* Genetics is a scientific theory
Supermane is offline  

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the The Horse Forum forums, you must first register.

Already have a Horse Forum account?
Members are allowed only one account per person at the Horse Forum, so if you've made an account here in the past you'll need to continue using that account. Please do not create a new account or you may lose access to the Horse Forum. If you need help recovering your existing account, please Contact Us. We'll be glad to help!

New to the Horse Forum?
Please choose a username you will be satisfied with using for the duration of your membership at the Horse Forum. We do not change members' usernames upon request because that would make it difficult for everyone to keep track of who is who on the forum. For that reason, please do not incorporate your horse's name into your username so that you are not stuck with a username related to a horse you may no longer have some day, or use any other username you may no longer identify with or care for in the future.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Old Thread Warning
This thread is more than 90 days old. When a thread is this old, it is often better to start a new thread rather than post to it. However, If you feel you have something of value to add to this particular thread, you can do so by checking the box below before submitting your post.

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Is she going to go gray pinto? equiniphile Horse Colors and Genetics 9 12-05-2010 10:06 AM
I think he's a gray!!! trailhorserider Horse Breeding 22 10-25-2010 10:03 PM
Who says that gray horses are all work? Wallaby Horse Pictures 20 05-31-2010 10:16 AM
work, work, work! Poor pony :( justsambam08 Horse Pictures 6 04-18-2010 01:07 AM
Bay with Some Gray Hairs? rocky pony Horse Grooming 13 03-31-2010 02:16 PM

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome