Roans: you can spot one from a distance right away. Classically a beautiful silver color with a dark head and legs, the roan is a favorite among horse lovers. Here is what you need to know about roan horses, including what breeds they are.
Roan refers to a horse coat color pattern that is characterized by an even mixture of white and colored hairs on the body, while the head and “points” – mane, lower legs, and tail – are solid colored in most cases. This color pattern is a simple dominant trait that can occur in a variety of horse breeds, including North American breeds, such as the Quarter Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse, and Spanish Mustang, as well as European draft breeds such as the Brabant, Italian Heavy Draft, and Trait Du Nord. According to the American Paint Horse Association, red roan horses are roans that have a chestnut background coat.
What Breed is a Roan Horse?
Roan horses have white hair evenly intermingled throughout any other base color, although it’s easiest to identify on darker color due to the contrast. The roan color pattern is dominantly inherited and is found in a wide variety of horse breeds.
Classic roan or true roan is common in European draft breeds such as the Rhenish-German Cold-Blood, Brabant, Italian Heavy Draft, Trait Du Nord, and Ardennes. It also regularly occurs in North American breeds like the Tennessee Walking Horse, Quarter Horse, Standardbred, Paint Horse, Spanish Mustang, Paso Fino, and Peruvian Paso.
British ponies such as New Forest ponies, Dale Ponies, Gypsy Cobs, Welsh Ponies, Shetland Ponies, and Connemara ponies may be roan. Some roan American Saddlebreds and Trakehners are known. The Hokkaido Pony hailing from Japan may also be roan.
True roan has not been satisfactorily identified inThoroughbreds and Arabians. That said, these two breeds have individual horses with roan-like coats, and they’re sometimes registered as “roan.”
Are Roan Horses Born Roan?
A true roan color occurs at birth. However, the soft first coat of a newborn foal may not show the white hairs well. It’s only after this first coat is shed that the roan coloring becomes visible, with a solid colored head, mane, lower legs, and tail.
Do Roan Horses Get Lighter with Age?
Roan horses do not become progressively lighter in color as they age, as gray horses do, but some may get darker with age. Roan coats do change seasonally, but the head, mane, lower legs, and tail will always remain colored. In the winter, roan horses darken as their hair becomes longer and thicker. As a result, it cloaks the white hair which remains short.
The opposite occurs in summer when more of the short light-colored hairs are exposed because the long, thick hair of the winter coat sheds, resulting in a much lighter appearance of the horse. As a roan horse’s coat is extensively exposed to sunlight, it once again becomes difficult to identify its real color.
Roan Horse Genetics
Roan is a dominant trait that is symbolized by the Rn allele. Roaning cannot be found in the offspring of two non-roan parents, even if they’re descendants of roan ancestors. The three primary base colors are red (chestnut “e” gene), black (“E” gene), and bay (Black “E” gene) + Agouti (“A” gene) which when paired with the roan gene bring about red or strawberry, blue, and bay roans, respectively.
Homozygous roans possess the genotype Rn/Rn and produce 100% roan offspring. Homozygous roans and their heterozygous (Rn/rn) counterparts are identical in appearance.
Dominantly-inherited traits cannot skip generations, which cancels out the possibility of two non-roan parents having a roan offspring. In cases where it seems like roan has skipped generations, it’s usually discovered that one of the parents is slightly roaned.
A roan offspring can also be born from two seemingly non-roan parents if the roan pattern is masked by extensive gray or white markings. In other cases, a seemingly roan offspring is not a true roan at all, but Sabino, rabicano, or influenced by another genetic factor.
Facts About Roan Horses
- A unique characteristic of a roan horse is evident when they damage their skin – even a very minor cut, scrape, or brand – where the coat grows back solid-colored without any white hairs. These areas of solid-colored coat are known as “corn marks” or “corn spots.”
- Another distinctive roan characteristic is reverse dappling. Dappling is common in horses and is considered an indication of good health. In a non-roan horse, dappling is rings of hair that occur in a horse’s coat in a slightly darker color. In a roan, the opposite is true – the dappling rings are lighter circles of hair.
- Despite the belief that horses with the homozygous roan gene are born dead, extensive research has proven the existence of such horses.
- Roan is inherited as a dominant gene, but the specific mutation is yet to be identified, so there is no straightforward test for the gene.
What is a Red Roan Horse?
This is a horse that has a base equine color of chestnut that is affected by the roan gene. The presence of the roan gene results in an even mixture of white hair intermingled with red hair over the horse’s body.
What’s the Difference Between a Red Roan and a Strawberry Roan?
The term red roan previously included both bay and chestnut roans. In 1999, the American Paint Horse Association changed the descriptions: roans that have a chestnut base coat are now registered as “red roan”, while “bay roan” is a separate category. In 2003, the American Quarter Horse Association followed suit. The term “strawberry roan” was previously used to describe the pinkish coat color of a light sorrel or chestnut roan.
How Much Do Red Roan Horses Cost?
The cost of red roan horses varies widely depending on factors such as age, health, and breeding. Buying this particular type of horse can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $60,000.
How to Breed a Red Roan Horse?
When it comes to breeding a roan horse, establishing the horse’s base color is key – a red roan is genetically a sorrel, a bay roan is genetically a bay, and a blue roan is genetically black. Once you establish this, use a color-cross chart to predict the outcomes. For example, two red roan parents will have red roan offspring.
Red Roan Horse vs. Bay Roan
The main difference between red roans and bay roans is the base color; a red roan has a chestnut color coat base whereas a bay horse has a black base. Bays can often have a reddish sheen, and when affected by the roan gene, the horse bears a resemblance to a red roan. However, a bay roan will have black points, whereas a red one will have dark red points.
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