What Does a Dun Horse Look Like?

What Does a Dun Horse Look Like?

A dun horse is more than a buckskin with a dorsal stripe. Explore the differences and the dun variations of red run, classic dun and grullo.

dun horse foal leg stripes

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The Przewalski (pronounced per-zih-vahl-skee) horse, the only true wild horse in existence, is found in Asia. Most of these horses, along with many ancient breeds, have primitive markings associated with the dun gene.

The color called “classic dun” is a golden tan color with black points, a black dorsal stripe and leg barring (stripes that run horizontally across the horse’s knees and or hocks).

The Difference Between a Buckskin and a Dun Horse

The color recognized as dun is often confused with buckskin because the colors’ phenotypes appear very similar; many people differentiate the two by describing a dun as “a buckskin with a dorsal stripe.” However, they are genetically different. Buckskins are bay horses with a single dose of the cream dilution.

The dun gene is a dominant modifier and can appear on both black- and red-based horses. It affects the shade of the horse’s coat and adds the dun characteristics: a dorsal stripe, zebra stripes on the legs, striping over the withers, dark tips on the ears and darker coloration on the lower legs. These traits are a package deal – a dorsal stripe does not make a dun.

two grullo horses

The dun gene produces a dorsal stripe, zebra stripes on the legs, striping over the withers, dark tips on the ears and darker coloration on the lower legs. (Credit: Brent Corbett)

Variations of the Dun Color in American Quarter Horses

Red Dun

A sorrel horse that receives the dun modifier is called a red dun. This horse will appear in shades from pale red to light tan, but never has black points. Its mane and tail can range from cream to dark red. It will show some or all of the dun characteristics.

Classic Dun

A bay horse with the dun modifier becomes the classic dun. Its body color ranges from very pale yellow to very dark.

Grullo

A black horse with the dun modifier is known as a grullo (grew-yo). This color is a silvery, smoky or mousy color. Each of the hairs is the silvery color; it is not a mix of individually colored light and dark hairs. These horses will also have the dun characteristics.

two grullo horses

Grullo horses (Credit: Dana Hoffman)

 

It is possible for a horse to carry multiple genes, such as both the dun and cream dilution.

"Dunalino" and "Dunskin"

The 1940 stallion Hollywood Gold, registered as a dun, was genetically a “dunalino” (dun plus palomino). Thus he passed on both the dun and cream genes to his offspring. His famous great-grandson, Hollywood Dun It, registered as a dun, was genetically a “dunskin” (dun plus buckskin).

Hollywood Dun It

Hollywood Dun It (Credit: courtesy of American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame)