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Colors of The Tennessee Walking Horse

Futurity Baby


Bay horses, with a base color coat that ranges from light to dark, reddish brown hues, are distinguished by black mane and tail, legs, ears, knees, hocks, or any combination of these points.  Bays also may have white markings on the legs and face. A resemblance of blacks to chestnuts may be ascertained by the presence of black points above the white leg markings.

Some breed registries of horses in the same general color diversifications
as the Tennessee Walking Horses do not include the sorrel horse.  They are called "light chestnuts" in some of the other breeds, but the stud books
and registry of the TWHBEA includes thousands of horses identified as sorrels.

Bashful Sorrel

These horses range in color from a light, golden base color, often with flaxen or light blonde manes and tails, to a darker golden red,  also often with light manes and tails. In the lighter colors,  the sorrel is often confused with palomino, which along with the sorrel is a dilution  of the chestnut heritage.  According to geneticists, both chestnut and sorrel matings  breed true, i.e., chestnuts bred to chestnuts produce chestnuts and sorrels  mated to sorrels produce sorrel foals.




Palomino horses vary in shade from a true golden with white mane and tail to a light tan coat with off white mane and tail. This variance is attributed to the differences in the shades of chestnut parentage and the dilution of the base colors. The dilution of a uniform darker chestnut, for example, would be slightly darker than the dilution from a lighter chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail.  Other modifying genes may cause similar diluting effects so that the term "palomino" might be used to describe several different genotypes. Mating a chestnut with a cremello results in a palomino dilution. Palomino horses are also sometimes described as "yellow".


The champagne color is a dilution gene yet has its own identity separate from the dilution gene that creates palominos or buckskins.  The champagne group of colors consists of pale colors with underlying pink or light brown skin (sometimes mottled), and amber eyes.  Many champagnes are born with blue eyes that later darken to amber and sometimes to brown.  Body colors range from chocolate brown to variances of yellow with manes and tails that vary broadly in color and intensity.  Champagne foals often are born dark and get lighter after shedding the foal coat.  Champagne is determined by a dominant gene, and intensity of color may be subject to the control of a recessive allele.

Amber Champagne

The effect of the champagne dominant is to dilute black to champagne (sometimes called lilac dun).  Amber champagne is usually the result of the gene's effect on bay, while gold champagne is associated with the chestnut color.  Palominos can be affected as well and the results are usually an ivory champagne.  Champagne is rather new and as we deepen our understanding other names will emerge to describe the horses.

Merry NightCap


The muzzle, flanks and legs - the entire coat - must be black, with the exception of white markings. Although the early foal may be an overall mousy grey, black can usually be determined by the fine black hair on the muzzle. The coat color darkens to black as the foal grows older.


The basic coat color (bay, black, chestnut, etc.) of the roan horse is silvered by a mixture of white hairs, intermingled from birth with the darker hairs of the base color. Unlike grey horses, which develop white hairs first on the face, roans show their basic color on face and lower legs.  Common and colloquial usages of such terms as "strawberry roan" (roaning on chestnut), "red roan" (roaning on bay), and "blue roan" (roaning on black) should be amended to the more precise "chestnut roan, bay roan, or black roan."  The TWHBEA registry requires the combination of base coat color, such as "black," and the term, "roan" to describe a "black roan," and not a "blue roan." 

Red Roan Black Roan - Major

Roan silvering is present at birth, in the same proportions that it will be throughout the horse's life, while the grey foal is born a solid color and progressively becomes near-white or completely white in its aging. However, it is possible for a horse to be both roan and grey.  For example, a black horse which carries both roaning and greying genes could be born a black roan ... and gradually become completely white.


A mixture of white and dark hairs growing out of a dark skin combine to mark the coat of a grey TWH.  But it is a rare foal born as a distinct and recognizable grey.  Within weeks after being born a solid base color, they usually will begin showing signs of grey around the eyes, flank and below the elbow.  Grey patches occasionally will develop on the body, croup, or thigh before they are visible around the eyes.

Steel Grey

Aged Grey

Genetically, the rule is that the foal will not turn grey unless at least one parent is grey.  A horse may show varying shades of grey during the greying process.  A mixture of white and black hairs results in a steel grey.  Other horses may be rose grey, a mixture of chestnut and white hairs, or bay grey, made up of bay and white hairs.  Aging causes the coat colors of grey horses to lighten, sometimes appearing to be white.  Dappling is common and, often, older grey horses grow tufts of reddish brown hair and are called "flea-bitten."