There are few sights more breathtaking and stunning to see than a blue roan horse.
A beautiful animal with a coat that appears almost blue, there is little wonder that in times gone by, they were once considered mythical animals.
While horses can come in many colors and with many different markings, it is impossible to find a real blue horse. However, the blue roan is arguably one of the rarest roan colors, and it is certainly very unique-looking.
What is a blue roan horse?
A blue roan is a horse coat color that gives a “blue” appearance. The horse has a black base color with a roan pattern, which is a mixture of white hairs evenly mixed across the body. The head is darker in color, and the mane, tail, and points of the horse remain a solid black.
What is a roan horse?
Roan horses can come in different colors but they all have the same roaning pattern. Roan by itself is not a breed or coat color but a coat pattern. Roan coat patterns have white flecks of hair interspersed throughout the coat, giving an almost frosty look. The mane, tail, points of the horse and head remain a solid color, while the rest of the body has the white strands throughout.
The color of the roan horse will depend on the base coat color but it is possible to have other genes mixed in. The well known roan horse colors are bay roan, blue roan and red roan (also known as strawberry roan.)
Red roans are the most common out of the roan colors.
Blue Roan Horse Breeds
As blue roan is a coloring and not a breed, there are many breeds of horses that can be blue roan.
Blue Roan Quarter Horse
Blue roan is more common in some breeds than others and is found most often in many breeds that originated in North America, particularly in the American Quarter Horse.
Bred for their power and endurance and famous for their abilities on working ranches and in rodeos and on the barrel racing circuits.
There have been several blue roan horses over the years, some of which have proved exceptionally talented at their jobs and gone on to be prolific breeders, passing on those traits (and the color at times) to their offspring.
The blue roan is a recognized color of the quarter horse by the American Quarter Horse Association.
Used predominately in harness racing, the Standardbred is another breed which has the blue roan color, although it is not seen as frequently as in the American Quarter Horse.
The Standardbred is a breed that was developed in North America, although it’s origins go back to Thoroughbreds, Morgan, and Hackney horses so it’s possible that the blue roan gene evolved from those early influences.
A mostly calm breed of horse, the Standardbred makes for a good riding horse with plenty of athletic ability, although some retraining may be required if the horse had raced before beginning it’s ridden career.
Nakota horses are a beautiful and unique breed of horse that are known for their striking blue roan coloring. This is a breed that mainly comes in this color.
The Nakota is a medium-sized breed that typically stands between 14 and 16 hands high. These horses have a sturdy build with a deep chest and strong legs.
The head of a Nakota horse is relatively small in proportion to the body, and the neck is of medium length. The coat is thick and dense, which helps to protect the horse from the harsh conditions of the Great Plains. The most distinctive feature of this horse is their blue roan coloring.
The Nakota horse is a hardy breed that originated in the Great Plains region of North America. These horses were prized by the Native Americans for their strength, endurance, and agility.
They used these horses for hunting and warfare, as they were able to cover large distances quickly. They are a versatile breed that is now used for a variety of purposes including riding, as pack animals, and even racing.
The Nakota horse is also an intelligent breed that tends to be easy to train.
The Percheron is a breed of draught horse which originated in France.
It is one of the oldest heavy draught breeds in the world and it’s origins can be traced back to around AD 800.
The modern Percheron was used by the British Army during the First World War to pull the guns due to their strength and calm nature.
The Percheron is famed for its muscular stature, good temperament, and versatility.
The blue roan is more common in the Welsh pony and cob (all four sections-A, B, C, and D) than in some other breeds of horses.
Originating in Wales, early types of Welsh ponies and cobs existed before 1600 BC, although it is thought that, like the Standardbred, they were influenced by Morgan and Hackney horses.
They are a versatile breed which, due to the different breed sections and heights, are suitable for children
right up to adults. They have had a variety of uses over the years, from pit ponies to working on farms, and latterly as riding and show ponies.
They have an excellent temperament, which makes them suitable for children, and they have smart movements, which means they usually excel in the show ring.
Tennessee Walking Horse
Blue roan is actually a common color in the Tennessee Walking Horse.
The Tennessee Walking Horse is well known for its distinctive gait, which is a four-beat lateral ambling style. This smooth gait is incredibly comfortable for riders, making the Tennessee Walking Horse a popular choice for trail riding and show horses.
But the Tennessee Walking Horse can also offer another unique trait – its ability to produce a blue roan coat.
The Tennessee Walking Horse is a breed that is known for its powerful conformation and strong legs, making it a great choice for riders looking for a horse with a lot of stamina and athleticism.
The breed is also known for its sweet disposition, which makes it an exceptional mount for riders of all levels.
With both the Standardbred and the Welsh Pony having their origins in the Hackney breed, it could be suggested that those breeds have received their blue roan genes from the Hackney itself, and indeed, blue roans are found within the breed.
Developed in the United Kingdom, the Hackney has a high stepping action and the ability to trot at great speeds.
They are perhaps one of the smartest moving horses around and are well known as excellent driving horses – their showy action making them highly desirable horses to pull carriages with, particularly throughout the nineteenth century amongst the more well-to-do of society.
The Morgan is another breed which seems to have had an influence in the origins of the blue roan gene, and indeed there have been several well known blue roans within the breed, including a popular dressage horse called Caduceus Herod.
The Morgan is one of the earliest breeds of horse to be developed in America and has had many jobs throughout the years.
They have been successful in harness racing, as coach horses, and were also used as Cavalry horses in the American Civil War. In more modern times they are successful across a range of disciplines, including dressage and show jumping.
The Paso Fino originated in Puerto Rico, and the blue roan is a recognized color of the breed.
The Paso Fino is a particularly unique breed of horse as they are a “gaited” breed that has different gaits to usual horses which are unique to it’s own breed. They have the classic fino which is a collected show gait.
Their paso corto gait is the equivalent of a trot but is much smoother. The paso largo is a much faster gait, more like a canter or a slow gallop.
Paso Finos are a popular breed across America nowadays, and they are used in a wide variety of disciplines.
Shetland ponies are famed for their strength and hardiness and make fantastic children’s ponies due to their calm and affectionate nature.
While there is a vast array of colors and markings in Shetland ponies, the blue roan is a recognized color by the Shetland Pony Society, and it is not that rare to find a Shetland that is blue roan, although it would be harder to determine the origins of the true blue roan genetics in Shetland ponies.
Some Other Breeds With Blue Roans
Here are other breeds that can produce a blue roan horse.
- American Paint
- Kentucky Mountain Horse
- Missouri Fox Trotter
- Racking Horse
Blue Roan Genetics
The genetic make-up of horse coat colors is complex and fascinating, and the blue roan coat is no exception. The roan gene is symbolized by the “Rn” allele. The horse must have this gene to get the roaning pattern.
But before we dive into the genetics of blue roan horses, it’s important to note that sometimes there are horses that appear to have the “roan” pattern, but they are not actually a true roan.
What isn’t a roan horse? Roan Imposters
Horses may be confused with having a roan pattern for the following reasons:
- They have slight variations in their coat color and have some white hairs mingled in.
- They have some markings that look similar to roaning.
- The horse is a grey but looks similar to a roan as there coat lightens with age.
- In particular, the Rabicano color pattern is often mistaken for being a roan. This is part of the Sabino coloring. The Rabicano pattern has white hair mixed mainly around the tail and flanks, unlike the roan who would have white hairs mixed evenly across the body.
In order for a horse to be considered a “true roan,” the parents must both have the roan gene. Also the roan gene itself is a dominant gene. This is seen by the large R in the “Rn” allele.
Even if a true roan horse appears to have a parent who is not roan, the gene must be present in the parent. The parent will have some roan color in them, but it may be masked by other colors or markings, making them appear as though they are not roan.
How To Breed For A Roan Horse: Roan Horse Genetics
The three main base colors of horses are black, chestnut, and bay.
- Black genes are symbolized by “E”
- Chestnut by “e”
- Bay by “E” + “A”(Agouti gene)
To make it simple, in order to produce roans ( red, bay and blue roans, respectively), the base coat genes above must be paired with the roan gene “Rn.”
If we look deeper into the genetics of roans and particularly blue roan horses, then the “Agouti” gene (A)
determines where the black coloring will be on a horse.
- If it is recessive (aa) then the horse will be black on its legs and body.
- But if the gene is dominant (Aa or AA) then the horse will be bay if paired with a dominant black gene (EE or Ee) to produce black legs and a red body.
- If a chestnut gene is paired with a recessive black gene (ee), the horse will be chestnut.
All three of these will produce roans if combined with the roan gene (Rn).
How do you get a blue roan horse?
Therefore, to get a blue roan, the horse must carry the dominant black gene “E” for the base color and the roan gene “Rn”.
The particular circumstances under which the genetic make-up of the blue roan needs make it very difficult to intentionally breed a horse that is blue roan.
It is possible but in most circumstances you would need to know the exact DNA make-up of both potential parents, which is why, more often than not, blue roans are born by pure chance.
10 Blue Roan Horse Facts
Here are ten different facts about the blue roan color in horses.
1) Blue Roan Horses Are Born With Roan Pattern
When a blue roan is born, they appear to be a solid color-usually black.
However, the roan is present, but it is covered by the initial foal coat and the white hairs only appear once they begin to lose it.
2) Roan Pattern Starts To Show By 2-3 Months Old
The roan coloring starts to show by the time they are two to three months old and will usually be fully visible by the time they are a year old.
3) Blue Roans Look Darker In The Winter
Due to the longer hair of the winter coat, blue roans usually appear darker in winter.
4) Blue Roans Grow Black Hairs Over Scars
If a blue roan has a cut or scrape that scars, then the hair will grow back black over it without any white hairs, therefore creating a black mark in their roan coloring.
This is a contrast to most other colors, which would usually be scarred with white hairs.
5) Blue Roans Are Commonly Mistaken For Grey
Blue roan horses are often mistaken for grey by people unfamiliar with the coloring.
6) Blue Roan Horses Don’t Exist In Purebred Arabians
The roan gene does not exist in Arabian horses, so you will never get a true blue roan Arab, or any Arabian horse that is a true roan for that matter.
However, the Rabicano coloring is present in Arabs, and as such, they are often mistaken for roan Arab horses.
7) It Is Rare But Thoroughbreds Can Come In Blue Roan
Thoroughbreds can come in the roan pattern, but it is not common. To find a blue roan horse is even more uncommon, because black is less common in thoroughbreds.
So, to find a thoroughbred base coat black with the roan gene is very rare.
8) A Blue Roan Horse Was Portrayed In One Of Shakespeare’s Plays
Roan horses have been much revered throughout history, and in Shakespeare’s play Richard II, King Richard was portrayed as riding a roan horse.
Shakespeare also mentioned roan horses in several of his other plays.
9) Blue Valentine Was A Famous Blue Roan Horse
Blue Valentine was a blue roan stallion who was born in 1956 and became famous on the rodeo circuits.
He excelled at roping, cutting, and barrel racing, along with regular ranch work.
He became a legendary sire and died in 1980 after suffering from colic.
10) Dapples Are Lighter On Blue Roans
Dapples are reversed on blue roans.
Instead of having dark dapples, blue roans have light dapples which appear as lighter circles on their coat, therefore reversed.
Blue Roan Horse Names
If you’re lucky enough to own a blue roan horse, then you’re going to need a good name to go with it.
I think it’s pretty obvious what the top names for a blue roan horse are going to be, but there’s still plenty more to choose from here if they don’t take your fancy.
- Blue Jeans
- Blue Bell
- Blue Moon
Blue Roan FAQ’s
Do blue roan horses turn white?
Blue roans do not turn white, unlike grey horses which get progressively lighter as they get older.
A blue roan horse remains the same color throughout it’s life, although they can appear darker in the winter due to the longer hair of the winter coat.
What is a true blue roan horse?
A true blue roan horse has a black base color on it’s body with white hair mixed in evenly throughout it’s body, giving the appearance of a blue color.
The head and legs are black. The true blue roan must also be from parents who were both roans.
Is a blue roan horse rare?
While not rare as some other coat colors, the blue roan horse is one of the least common coat colors of the roan colored horses.
It is also more rare in certain breeds like the Thoroughbred.
Are blue roan horses expensive?
Blue roan horses should not be more expensive than other horses of the same breed or caliber.
Although some may be willing to pay more for a blue roan just because of it’s distinct and unique coat color pattern.
Are horses born blue roan?
Yes, a horse that is a true blue roan will be always born roan although they will appear to be black until they begin to lose their foal coat.
By the time the foal is two months old the roan coloring is usually visible to some extent.
You now know blue roan horses are not actually blue but a genetically black horse with a white pattern gene called roan.
They are born with the roan pattern and keep it throughout their life.
So we went over the genetics, facts about blue roans, breeds that can come in the color, even names if you decide to buy a blue roan.
They are a unique and gorgeous color of horse. But only one of many horse coat colors.
Do you ride any bay horses? Be sure to read my blog post all about the base color bay and variations that come from bay.
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