Featuring a golden color, a buckskin horse is one of the most beautiful horses.
The term buckskin horse sounds more like both a breed and a coat color, but it only refers to the color.
It isnt a color breed either, but a standard coat color that can appear in any breed.
Read on for buckskin horse facts, origin, colors, and characteristics.
What Is A Buckskin?
Buckskin is a horse with tannish or golden coat color, with a solid black mane, legs, and tail.
The eyes are usually brown but can be blue if the specific genes are present.
True buckskins have a characteristic black mane, black lower legs, and black tails.
Some tails have a mix of black and white or lighter hairs, a trait called frosting. Then why the name buckskin? Because true buckskins have similar coats color to the male deer, a.k.a a buck.
Buckskin Horse Origins
Buckskins have been around for a long time. Oklahoma State University traces their origin to primitive Sorraia breed, initially in the Spain Sorraia.
The Spanish first bred the buckskins in the Middle Ages and brought them to North America during the exploration era. The Spanish loved the buckskins exceptional endurance and low maintenance needs and used them as pack animals.
Its believed the Sorraia buckskin became a wild horse that bred with the Wild West horses to develop the western buckskins. And the cowboys fell in love immediately, for not only the beautiful golden coat color but also the desirable soundness and sure-footedness.
A Dilution Gene creates buckskin Coat Color
Buckskin coat colors result from a single dilution by a crème gene acting on a bay horse.
Bays usually have a brown coat color and a black base coat gene, the agouti gene.
The crème gene mixes with the brown color to create a tan color, and the agouti gene maintains the black color to the mane, lower legs, and tail.
The single crème gene dilutes the bay to tan while leaving the black points intact. Therefore, genetically buckskins should possess the black points rather than a fully solidly tan color.
And to make a foal a buckskin, one of the parents must have a crème gene. But the good news is, most breeds such as Mustangs, Morgans, and Quarter Horses have the crème gene, hence can sire a buckskin.
Coat Color Testing For Buckskin
Buckskin variations range from yellow, dark golden to the primary tan with black points.
To be sure it’s a buckskin, horse lovers need to do a coat color test.
And true buckskins have one of the following equine coat color test results.
The letters Cr show a crème gene, and cr represents its absence, and Crcr signifies a pair of crème genes.
- EEAACrcr: Homozygous Black Gene and Agouti, Heterozygous Cream: in the absence of other color modifiers, half of the offspring will be bay and the other half buckskins.
- EEAaCrcr: Homozygous Black Gene, Heterozygous Agouti, and Heterozygous Cream: all offspring will have a variety of black-based colors, and 50% will have a crème gene.
- EeAACrcr: Heterozygous Black Gene, Homozygous Agouti, And Heterozygous Cream: in the absence of other color modifiers, an offspring will be either a buckskin, chestnut, bay, or palomino.
- EeAaCrcr: Heterozygous black and agouti, Heterozygous Cream: offspring can be of any color.
Buckskin as a Horse Breed
Youve possibly read somewhere that buckskins are a breed. Though not entirely true, the uniqueness of buckskin coat is sometimes classified as a color breed (classification based on coat color and not pedigree).
Another good example of a color breed that weve covered extensively is the blue roan horses.
But the single dilution can never result in a consistent true-breeding trait, and its not always a guarantee that two buckskins will sire a buckskin foal.
Also, one of the parents must have the crème gene to produce a true buckskin-coated horse. Genetically, the heterozygous nature of the cream gene can result in a range of base or cream coat colors.
For instance, based on the recessive and dominant trait calculations, breeding two buckskins will result in an offspring with:
- 25 % chance of having a base color coat (bay base color, chestnut, or black coloring)
- 25% chance of being a double crème dilute foal (cremello, cream, or perlino)
- And 50% chance of being a single dilute foal (buckskin, palomino, or smoky black)
Common Buckskin Shades
Buckskin coats coloring can vary widely from light to dark color shades, and each coloring pattern has a shade name. Below are the most common color shades:
Three different colors, same genetic code
The three colors feature the same genetics, with phenotypes or expressed color varying randomly from individual to individual equine.
A good illustration is how two blue-eyed people could have different shades of blue.
- Buttermilk or cream buckskin: Buttermilk buckskins have the lightest buckskin color. The light golden color looks like soft, milky/creamy yellow, with the characteristic black points.
- Standard buckskin: The standard buckskin shade looks like a tanned coat of a male deer. Ideally, its the coat color of an actual buckskin.
- Golden buckskin: Golden buckskin horse is a lighter version of a sooty buckskin but looks more like a standard buckskin with dark coloring on shoulders and back.
Different Genes Creating Different Buckskin Shades
Though barely testable today, a variation of the agouti gene can change a genetically bay to a brown. The shades below result from the action of several genes on a bay.
- Sooty or burnt buckskin: Genetically, sooty buckskins have a dilution gene and bay genes. Typically the equine looks like a dun, but its a buckskin. Sooty shade is the darkest of the buckskins and has a darker topcoat over a lighter undercoat as if someone dumped soot on them from the top.
- Brown buckskin: They usually have a brown base color with a single crème gene. Many equine researchers believe a gene called At controls the brown buckskin horse coat, a special version of the Agouti gene.
- Silver buckskin: Horses with varying coat colors can qualify to be a silver buckskin. For instance, a buckskin roan horse and a gray buckskin horse can fit as silver buckskins. But the proper definition of a silver buckskin is an equine that has a silver gene. In addition, true silver buckskins must be bay-based and carry the cream and silver gene and would look like a very light buttermilk color with a light tan or white tail and mane.
- Black buckskin: A black buckskin, also called a smokey buckskin horse, is not an actual buckskin as the shade results from a black coat rather than a bay base coloring and diluted by a cream gene. Their correct name is dilute blacks or smoky black.
What Is The Difference Between A Buckskin And A Dun?
Many people confuse a buckskin with a bay dun horse, and sometimes the names are used interchangeably. Though they both have almost similar-looking golden tan coats, theyre different genetically.
And both result from base color dilution by a gene, but by different dilution genes. Also, the crème gene in buckskins acts on bays only while the dun dilution gene dilutes both black and red-based horses.
Buckskin horse colors range from pale yellow to deep gold but fall under true buckskins if their coat color is similar to a tanned deerskin.
Theyll also have black points in their manes and tails and solid black legs. Also, the buckskins have no stripes.
On the other hand, dun coloring or bay duns can range from light yellow to an almost chestnut Reddish-brown, with legs shade darker than the bodys base coat color.
They have primitive markings, usually a prominent dorsal stripe over the back or leg stripes.
Further, duns have horizontal striping that marks the shoulders, foreheads, or lower legs. Common horse breeds with a dun color include the American Quarter Horses, Icelandic Ponies, and the Highland Ponies.
Horse Colors with a Buckskin Base
You need one dominant black gene, a single crème gene, and one agouti gene to get a buckskin coloring. However, there are other coat colors formed over a buckskin base. For example:
- Dunskin=Buckskin + Dun
- Buckskin Roan= Buckskin + Roan
- Dunskin Roan=Buckskin + Dun + Roan
- Silver Buckskin=Buckskin + Silver
- Amber Cream Champagne=Buckskin + Champagne
- Sable Cream Champagne= Brown Buckskin + Champagne
- Gray (with a Buckskin Base) = Buckskin + Gray
- Buckskin Tobiano=Buckskin + Tobiano
- Buckskin Overo=Buckskin + Overo
- Buckskin Tovero= Buckskin + Tobiano + Overo
Can A Buckskin Have A Dorsal Stripe?
The dun gene, like the cream gene, isnt limited to a single breed. If present in the parents of a buckskin, then the foal can have a dorsal stripe.
However, the dorsal stripe can result from countershading and thus need a DNA coat color testing or a closer look at the pedigree to determine the actual cause.
Genetically, any foal with a dorsal stripe or with leg striping carries a dun modifier. And if they also have a crème gene, their proper name would be dunskin and not buckskin.
Many people will mistake a dun for a buckskin due to the crème dilution on a bay, especially if they don’t know how to check the primitive striped markings of a dun.
11 Buckskin Horse Facts
Here are some facts on buckskins:
- A buckskin is cream-colored with black points on legs, ears, tails, and mane. Even so, the color shade can vary from light cream to dark tan.
- Buckskin is a bay with a single crème dilution gene that lightens the color.
- Buckskin and dun are different colors, though the terms are used interchangeably at times.
- Buckskins exhibit amber-colored eyes sometimes, the same with palominos.
- Buckskins can sometimes have primitive markings associated with duns, such as dorsal stripes and leg barring.
- The buckskin color is found in almost all horse breeds.
- Black and white horses are the most common, but buckskin vanners are also a possibility.
- Buckskins have been used in western television shows for a long time. For example, Ben Cartwright uses a buckskin on Bonanze, and Trampa does it too on The Virginian.
- The classic animation “Star of the Spirit” uses a buckskin for the Stallion of the Cimarron.
- Buckskins are primarily of Spanish origins but bred with other horses.
- Buckskins are mostly packing animals due to their strength and endurance.
Buckskin Horse Associations
Since its inception in , the American Buckskin Registry Association has collected, recorded, and preserved the pedigree of buckskins, red duns (a dun gene acting on a chestnut base), grullas, and duns.
The association also accepts miniature horses, mules, and ponies of all breeds, provided they are offsprings of buckskins.
The International Buckskin Horse Association (IBHA) came later in to promote buckskins, red duns, duns, grullas (usually confused with grey horses) globally.
The registry is the most significant worldwide for buckskins, links to local charter groups, and provides information about coloring requirements.
To register a buckskin, it must have a tanned deer hide color or at least be a shade varying from yellow to dark gold, with dark brown or black points.
Buckskins with muddling colors arent registered. Others that do not fit the criteria include Albino, Paint, Pinto, Appaloosa, and palominos that possess a dorsal stripe.
The two organizations deal with buckskin-colored horses globally, and their websites have all the information on registered animals.
Registering your pony with these organizations increases its value and connects you to a community of similar animal owners.
And, as of , you can register your miniature horse with IBHA, provided it has eligible coat color.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are buckskin horses a breed?
Buckskins have common characteristics but are not a breed. Buckskins exist within horse breeds. Though sometimes people classify buckskins as a color breed rather than based on pedigree.
Are buckskin horses rare?
Buckskins are common among different breeds around the world. They are especially common in stock horses and gaited horses. In fact, the same gene in buckskins is responsible for palomino horses. However, some color shades are more common than others are, with standard buckskins leading in popularity and countershading common among adult horses.
Can a buckskin horse have a dorsal stripe?
Yes, they can. Buckskin is just a base color, and other color genes can result in dorsal stripes, white markings, pinto, and paint markings. They can even turn completely roan or grey.
Whats the Difference between buckskin and dun?
A buckskin has a single cream dilution gene that works on a bay horse, while a dun dilution gene acts on red-based and black horses. Even though their color coats can look very similar, a dun will have a distinct dorsal stripe.
Is spirit a buckskin or a dun?
Spirit is a buckskin, specifically a buckskin Kiger mustang colt. Other popular buckskins in Hollywood include the Mart Dillons big buckskin quarter horse and the Kevin Costner buckskin in the movie Dances with Wolves.
Buckskins are often excellent ranch horses with a beautiful golden coat and majestic personality. It’s known for being a solid and steady horse and loved by both horse people and general fans. Their superior genetic heritage ensures they can be sired in any breed and thus will remain around for a long time.
- “11 Fun Buckskin Horse Facts.” Karina Brez Jewelry, karinabrez.com/blogs/news/fun-buckskin-horse-facts. Accessed 25 July
- “Breeds of Livestock Buckskin Horse — Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science.” Afs.okstate.edu, afs.okstate.edu/breeds/horses/buckskin/index.html/. Accessed 25 July
- “Buckskin Horses | American Buckskin Registry Associaiton | Tulsa, OK.” ABRA, Inc., www.americanbuckskin.com/. Accessed 25 July
- “Cream | Veterinary Genetics Laboratory.” Vgl.ucdavis.edu, vgl.ucdavis.edu/test/cream.
- “HOME.” IBHA, Inc., www.ibha.net/. Accessed 25 July
- Locke, M. M., et al. “The Cream Dilution Gene, Responsible for the Palomino and Buckskin Coat Colours, Maps to Horse Chromosome ” Animal Genetics, vol. 32, no. 6, Dec. , pp. –, /jx. Accessed 25 July
- “Shades of Buckskin Coat Colours.” Www.dilutesaustralia.net, www.dilutesaustralia.net/Shades-of-buckskin.html. Accessed 25 July
Do you know other buckskin horse facts? Please share with us in the comment section below!
Peter was always been fascinated by horses. He got his first horse, a Morgan Horse, when he was 13 and he has been learning about them since then. He loves contributing on this blog to share what he learned so far. Find him on: FACEBOOK
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Buckskin refers to a coat color similar to the color of tanned deer hide, occurring due to the presence of cream dilution gene in a bay horse. There are several buckskin variations, including silver dapple and sooty. These horses have a gold or tan coat with a black tail, mane, and lower legs. Buckskins are believed to have superior endurance, overall strength, and determination than other horses.
Buckskin horses are popular around the world, having appeared in several western TV shows and movies, including the animated film “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”. The American Buckskin Registry Association, established in , and the International Buckskin Horse Association, founded in , register, promote, and preserve the pedigree of Buckskin horses.
Horse Breeds That Can Have Buckskin Coat Color
- Campolina Horse
- Appendix Quarter Horse
- Criollo Horse
- Spanish Mustang
- Georgian Grande Horse
- Quarab Horse
- Missouri Fox Trotter
- Nordlandshest / Lyngshest Horse
- Andalusian Horse
- Nez Perce
- Welara Pony
- Curly Horse
- Baixadeiro Horse
- Karabakh Horse
- Blazer Horse
- Pryor Mountain Mustang
- Australian Pony
- Hanoverian Horse
- Irish Draught Horse
- Australian Stock Horse
- German Riding Pony
- Swiss Warmblood
- Akhal Teke Horse
- Andravida Horse
- North American Single-Footing Horse
- Azerbaijan Horse
- Tennessee Walking Horse
- Sandalwood Pony
- Spanish Jennet Horse
- Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse
- Deliboz Horse
- Mangalarga Marchador Horse
- Morab Horse
- Appaloosa Horse
- Gotland Pony
- Galician Horse
- Mustang Horse
Buckskin Horse Pictures
Pictures buckskin horse
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Duns and buckskin horses often get confused, even by experienced equestrians. But when my grandson asked me to explain the differences, I didn’t have a ready and clear answer, so I researched these two similar coat colors.
The difference between dun and buckskin horses is that buckskins have a tan body with black points and a dorsal stripe, and duns are a sandy brown with a crisp dorsal stripe, and primitive markings. But unlike a buckskin, their manes and tails aren’t always dark.
Many people often confuse dun and buckskin horses. But there are some important difference between the two especially for breeders because the genetic differences play an essential role the color of offspring.
What are the differences between Dun and Buckskin horses?
Dun and buckskin horses may look similar, but they have distinct genetic differences. And as you’ll see, they have outward differences in their color patterns as well.
Genetic differences between duns and buckskins.
In a nutshell: The buckskin horse color is created by a cream dilution gene acting on a bay base color, and a dun pattern is created by a dun dilution gene on any base coat. The dun dilution gene produces primitive markings: a dark stripe across its shoulders, a dorsal stripe, and stripes across its legs.
Horse genetics can be an exciting field of study. As with humans, some genes are dominant; therefore, one parent has to have the gene. Both dun and buckskin are this way.
Of the duns, there are three genotypes of genuine dun, genotypes of pseudo-dun, and one non-dun, diluted without the dun gene. The first five of these will all have primitive markings, as they are called.
The last type will not have them. They all have in common, including the buckskin and the palomino, at least one allele that carries the cream coloring. As mentioned, they can have more than one.
All buckskins have a bay base coat color.
The buckskin cream dilution gene only works on bay horses. Bay horses have a specific genetic pattern that creates black points and a copper-toned coat. The cream dilution on a bay base lightens the horse’s coat color, but the dark points remain.
Dark brown bay horses will even show a few golden highlights when this gene is present. That doesn’t preclude the horse from having a dun gene as well. However, we’ll get into that further in the article.
Dun genes can affect any base coat color.
Horses with the dun gene will be somewhat lighter in color like a buckskin. The gene that creates the dun pattern affects all base coat colors, including black.
Black horses with the dun gene are often interpreted as grays, but the equine term is grullo or grulla when it affects a black horse’s coat. There is a good way to tell if the dun gene is showing its presence.
All dun horses must have at least one dun parent.
Coat and pattern differences between dun and buckskins
- Duns typically display primitive marking, a dorsal stripe, shoulder stripe, and many will also have lateral markings on the legs.
- Buckskins have dark points, lower legs, ears, and face, but a dun has striping on its lower legs and typically webbing around its face.
- Buckskins may have a dark stripe down its back, but it is typically countershading. A countershading dorsal is often broken and ends before reaching the animal’s tail.
- The dun gene is dominant, so a horse with either one or two copies of the gene is dun, and because it is dominant, it will always show.
A true dorsal stripe of a dun is distinct, unbroken, and runs from pole to dock. There’s something really fascinating about this gene, it’s ancient, and it’s the original coat color of equids and is very similar to another gene, the one found in zebras.
However, the dun horses’ gene doesn’t produce quite the distinctive striping that goes with a zebra; it is less defined. Nevertheless, if you’ve ever wondered about why some horses seem to be zebra-striped in a way, now you know, it’s because it has a dun gene.
What is a dunskin horse?
A dunskin horse has both the dun gene and the buckskin gene. Basically, it’s a buckskin with an added dun modifier. This combination creates a stunning coat color on a bay horse and allows for gray color to appear.
Dunskins typically are a little lighter and have more frosting in their mane and tail than a standard dun horse.
What is a dunalino?
A dunalino is a palomino with a dun gene. A standard palomino is created by a dilution gene acting on a chestnut base color. To make a dunalino, a dun dilution allele is added to the mix.
And since dun genes are dominant, their traits show over the palomino coat. These gorgeous horses display a golden palomino color with a distinct brown dorsal stripe and stripes on their lower legs.
Other cream dilution coat colors: Cremellos and Perilinos
There are several different cream alleles, and some can be mixed in with dun and/or buckskin. Some of the most beautiful horses are called cremellos, and they have two cream dilutions in their genetic code.
Having multiple dilution genes can lighten the coat to nearly white. In a horse with a black coat, they are called smoky creams. There can be problems when there are double cream alleles.
They are often referred to as pseudo-albinos due to the light color of the skin and eyes. Buckskins and bays have dark skin and darker eyes. Perlinos, which is the correct name of this horse coat, has light eyes, either blue or glass.
For a long time, breeders and others in the equine world shunned this type of horse. The American Quarter Horse Association did not accept either cremellos and perlinos until
Other registries also denied registration to them. Many breeds can develop this genetic code, but it took a lot of time to make them acceptable.
Healthwise, there don’t seem to be any problems for this genetic type. One would think that sunburn would be a problem, given their pink skin and light eyes, but some owners of these stunning horses say that they are like other horses, if they sunburn at all.
The pink is actually a pigment, not a lack thereof. However, other owners mention on horse forums that their horses’ faces get sunburned. For that reason, it is recommended that a vet-approved sunscreen be applied to the face to help avoid that issue.
The horses also seem to attract more biting insects than darker-skinned horses. One horse owner stated that the horse took out a hundred feet of fencing, trying to get away from them.
For that reason, a fly sheet and good fly control are strongly recommended. This is probably a good idea for all equines, especially where they are the most prevalent.
A fly mask is a good idea as well, not just because of the flies. The lighter-colored eyes seem to be more sensitive to sunlight, and the mask is sort of like equine sunglasses.
You may be wondering whether or not these horses are albinos. They aren’t; if they were, they would be subject to sunburn and skin cancer at a higher rate.
However, there are no known living albino horses. It is theorized that they aren’t viable and are miscarried. These horses are perfectly normal; they just have an unusual coat color and skin pigmentation.
One question that gets asked a lot is whether or not double cream dilutes are white. No, they aren’t. If you stand them next to a true white horse, you will see that it is a little off, like the color of cream.
There is one other thing about these light-colored horses. They need to be groomed well and bathed frequently. Dirt shows up on them really fast.
With light skin and coat, even a little bit of dirt or mud is clearly visible. Particular care should be taken of the feet, as some horse owners report that they tend to bruise more easily.
Duns and buckskins look similar, but they can be distinguished. The easiest way to tell them apart is the dorsal stripe. Yes, some buckskins have a dorsal stripe, but it’s not clearly defined and is called countershading.
The dorsal stripe on a dun is clearly defined; the youtube video below is a great example of the differences between duns and buckskins.
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