Roan Horse: Everything You Need to Know About This Coat Color Pattern

So what exactly is a roan horse?  "Roan" refers to a horse coat color pattern characterized by an even mixture of colored and white hairs on the body, while the head and "points" (mane, tail, and legs) are mostly solid-colored. 

Many gray horses are mistaken for a roan horse. The roan gene is dominantly-inherited and found in many horse breeds. Here's a short video by Top Animals TV explaining this unique coat pattern. tells us,

"The roan gene produces a color pattern of white over any base color, although it is easiest to see on darker colors due to the contrast. Classic or true roan appears as white hairs intermixed with colored hairs (the base coat) across the horse's body, leaving only the head and legs untouched and giving the body a silvery appearance."

These horses' coat color can range from bay roan, red roan, blue roan, strawberry roan, to chestnut and a solid roan pattern. There are three most common roan colors.

1. Blue Roan

Blue roan is any roan with a dark underlying coat that gives it a bluish cast. However, "blue roan" is a roan with a black base color.

2. Red Roans (AKA Strawberry Roans) explains,

"Red roan" used to include both chestnut and bay roans. In 1999, the American Paint Horse Association changed its coat color descriptions: roans with a chestnut background coat are registered "red roan" while "bay roan" is its own category. The American Quarter Horse Association followed suit in 2003. Previously, the term strawberry roan described the pinkish color of a light chestnut or sorrel roan."

3. Bay Roans (Three different shades possible!)

Bay roan replaced red roan as the term for a roan with a bay base color.

After researching articles to write this story, we also talked to some horse experts that shared a few grooming tips and below is a product they are loving!

Grooming Kit

The brushes are high quality, and comfortable to use. There are seven pieces including a mane and tail brush and hoof pick. Available for $39.95. 

Here are some cool color facts (white eyebrows!) from,

  • Despite the popular myth that says homozygous roans are born dead, research has proven the existence of such horses. (see Instagram as there is plenty of proof of various roan coats)
  • No wonder it's confusing for horse breeders when talking about roan offspring! A true roan is born solid. When he sheds his first foal coat, it will show the roan coloring. It does not change or lighten as he ages.
  • Occasionally, a roan will have a concentration of white hairs above the eyes, making the horse appear to have white eyebrows! Show us pictures of this if you have them!

The University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's genetics services have developed a DNA test that uses genetic markers to indirectly determine the number of Rn or rn alleles a horse has and the mutation responsible for true roan coat color patterns has not been identified but has been assigned to equine chromosome 3 in the KIT sequence.

A roan zygosity test is reliable for the American Quarter Horse and American Paint Horse.

Have you seen a Roan Horse at a horse show or a stable? Maybe you own a Roan Horse! Please let us know in the comments below. 

WATCH NOW: Wide Open Pets Visits Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society