Unusual equine coat spots explained

Here's a quick look at some coat-color modifications that go beyond the familiar spots of a Paint or Appaloosa.

A plain bay is as plain as day and an outright Appaloosa is easy to spot, but what about those horses who seem to sport a blend of colors or markings? To help you identify these oddities, here are some common color modifications, as defined by Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, in his book Equine Color Genetic:

A grey horse standing outside during fall weather
Although seen most commonly on gray horses, dapples can occur on any coat color.

Dappled – having a network of dark and light areas in which the centers are lighter than the peripheries or, very rarely, the reverse pattern. Dappling can occur on any coat color, and comes and goes depending on the season and the horse’s level of nutrition.

Sooty – having black hairs present among the body hairs, most commonly over the top of the horse, so that the back, shoulders and croup look darker than the rest of the body.

Mealy – exhibiting pale red or yellowish areas on the lower belly, flanks, behind elbows, inside the legs, on the muzzle and over the eyes. Mealiness can occur on any background color.

Bend Or spots – random dark spots, ranging from tiny and inconspicuous to large and obvious, most commonly found on chestnut horses. Name for a so-marked Thoroughbred who lived more than a century ago, Bend Or spots can appear on nearly any breed.

Birdcatcher spots – small, random white spots over the body that appear spontaneously with no relation to injury or skin damage. Named for a Thoroughbred who bore them, Birdcatcher spots tend to run in families but are not yet genetically linked to any breed.

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