What is a Dun Horse? Breeds, Color Genetics and Facts


The dun gene is one of the oldest and most common genetic found in a dun horse. Various breeds can possess the dun horse gene, all of which will vary in price — just in case you had your eyes on one. A dun horse has well-known markings, which can differentiate the gene from other horse breeds.

A dun horse will be a lighter pigmentation of their base coat, often found to be a yellowish-light-tan color. The markings are distinct–from dorsal stripes on their legs, to “cobweb pattern” stripes on the shoulders, and dark line that goes from forehead to the beginning of their tail.

Dun horses are special because unlike other genes where the pigmentation affects the entire body — a dun still has small areas where their body has not lightened and remains dark. If you’d like to learn more about the dun horse, continue reading!

What is a Dun Horse?

A dun horse is a horse that produces the dun gene — best known for its pigmentation and dorsal stripes. The dun gene can take effect on various breeds and is only reproduced when both horses are dun dominant.

Dun horses’ genetics dilute the base coat color, specifically in red and brown horses — which turns them overall lighter. What can remain either black or red, however, are their distinct markings.

These markings take effect on the legs/knees, forehead to tail, and shoulders. Although a buckskin horse can also share similar markings to a dun, the true difference is the genetics of a dun.

What Breed is a Dun Horse?

When referring to a dun horse, they are not a breed, but a gene. Many horse breeds can carry the dun gene — some including Przewalski’s, Highland Ponies, and Shetland Ponies. The dun gene is a dominant gene that affects a horse’s pigmentation (coat color) as well as its markings.

What is a Line Back Dun Horse?

A line back horse is another term to describe the dun gene. Dun horses have a distinct line that extends from the head to the beginning of the tail — often misphrased as a “line back” horse. The line or dorsal stripe marking on a dun horse is a dark pigment (often black) and is accompanied by other significant markings.

Are Dun Horses Rare?

Dun horses are not rare, they are a common dominant gene that influences the markings and pigmentation of a horse. A dun might be considered rare in comparison to two non-dun dominant horses as they are unable to produce a dun — however, they are not rare.

How Do You Get a Dun Horse?

The only way you can “get” a dun horse is if both horses are dun dominant. Two non-dominant duns can not create a dun horse. If one horse is dun dominant and the other is not, markings and/or pigmentation will remain similar to a traditional dun — however, won’t be as intense.

How Much Does a Dun Horse Cost?

Because the dun gene is fairly common, the price of a dun horse isn’t overly expensive. In fact, the common price range for a dun horse costs between 1500 – 3800 USD. The rarer the breed, however, the more expensive it will become.

This price does not include the maintenance and upkeep of a dun horse. Other factors to consider when calculating cost include:

  • Nutritious food/ quality hay
  • Training
  • Health and wellness
  • Adequate housing
  • And money for a rainy day!

Dun Horse Genetics

A dun horse’s genetics is the reduction gene that influences the color pigmentation of the coat color — primarily with black and red coats. As a result, dun horses remain lighter-colored, whilst other parts of their body continue to have distinct dark pigmented markings.

These markings are called dun markings — and can be seen on their back, head, legs, and shoulders. The most popular gene mutation is the dorsal stripe, which is a dark pigmented line that extends from the head to the base of the tail.

What is a Red Dun Horse?

A red dun horse is a red-colored variation of the dun gene. The coat color is primarily a reddish-orange tone but can vary between a reddy-brown, or a light cream. A red dun horse will also have red markings, instead of the distinct black points that usually distinguish the gene.

A red dun is special as the dun gene takes effects on red and black pigmentation — all of which is almost always diluted from a chestnut base coat. The Maine of a red dun will also remain chestnut-brown colored, which makes them extra beautiful.

Blue Dun Horse Color

The blue dun horse color is a variation of the dun gene — creating a smoky, blue-hued horse. Sometimes a blue dun horse can appear grey colored, and other times, they might appear light brown. But a true blue dun will be exactly that, bluish-grey colored all over and will remain that color all throughout their lifespan.

Dun Horse Facts

Find below some dun horse facts that will certainly knock your riding boots off:

The dun gene can modify any coat color.

This includes yellow duns, red duns, and white duns. In addition, the gene can also take effect on the horses’ characteristics — specifically their individual markings.

Duns are recognized for their dorsal striped back.

True duns have a distinct striped back, also known as the dorsal stripe that’s a dark marking that runs from the main to their tail region.

Zebras and dun horses are similar.

Many people believe that zebras and horses are related, the dun gene included, When you compare the markings of a zebra and dun horse, the two (side-by-side) certainly share similar leg patterns.

Non dun-dominant horses can not reproduce a dun foal.

It might be obvious, but two horses must be both dun-dominant in order to reproduce a true dun foal.

Can a Dun Horse Turn Grey?

A dun horse can not turn grey, however, they certainly might appear grey in color. The blue-dun horse, specifically known as Grullo or Grulla — is a perfect example of that. A dun horse can not turn grey because they remain one color their entire lifespan.

The reason they remain one color and don’t turn grey is that they do not have the grey gene. Horses with an N/N genotype (in short, referred to as Alleles gene) can not turn grey, in such instances as the dun horse.

However, horses with an N/G genotype (or Alleles and Grey gene) can turn grey. Horses with this genotype will turn grey by the time they reach 5 – 7 years old — and can take effect on any base coat, depending on their breed.

What Color Looks Best on a Dun Horse?

Many people, horse riders included, utilize the art of implementing the color-wheel to assist in choosing the best-suited color for their horse. Here are three easy steps to choosing the best color for your dun horse using a color-wheel:

1. What color is your dun horse?

The most common color of a dun horse will be yellowish – reddish. However, yours might be a light cream color. Whatever the weather, establish your dun horse’s color and then take a look at the color wheel.

2. Match your dun horse color with the opposite hue on the color wheel.

If your dun horse is a yellow-orange hue, the opposite color to that will be the primary blue shade. Or if your dun is a red-orange hue, the opposite color will be green shade. Have some fun and play around with the colors on the color wheel.

3. Don’t be afraid to do the complete opposite to step 2.

Instead of using the opposite color on the color wheel, don’t be afraid to use whatever color you’re feeling drawn to! There are no rules to say that a yellow-brown dun horse won’t look good in pink or red — whatever looks best to you, should be your final option.

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