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Dun Horse

Oliver Jones

If you are new to horses, you’ve probably heard of a dun horse before, but not knew what it was. Simply put, a dun horse simply refers to a specific coloration due to a genetic mutation. It is not a certain breed, and many horse breeds can have this mutation.

With this in mind, dun horses come in a variety of colors, characteristics, and temperaments, based on the breed being affected by the mutation. To find out more about dun horses, read on.

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Quick Facts about Dun Horses

Species Name: Equus caballus
Family: Equidae
Care Level: Expert
Temperature: 18 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit
Temperament: Varies by breed
Color Form: Dun (classic, red, or grulla/grullo)
Lifespan: Varies by breed
Size: Varies by breed
Diet: Hay, foliage, water
Minimum Stall Size: 12 x 12 with pastureland
Stall Set-Up: Wooden stall inside barn
Compatibility: Great for horse experts

Dun Horse Overview

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Credit: Blackout_Photography, Pixabay

If you hear someone talking about a dun horse, they are not talking about a horse breed. Instead, “dun” refers to a specific coloration. Classic dun horses will be either tan or gray-gold, but other colored horses can be classified as dun as well. However, their unique characteristics may be harder to spot.

All around, there are three shades of dun: classic dun, red dun, and grulla/grullo dun. Classic duns, also known as zebra duns, are the most common with tan coats and black tails and manes. Red duns have a light tan coat and a reddish mane and tail. Lastly, the grulla dun comes in a variety of colors.

This coloration is determined by a specific dun gene, which is responsible for the classification as a dun horse. With the dun gene, the body is typically lightened so that the horse’s primitive markings can be seen on their ears, legs, mane, and tail. A variety of breeds can have the dun gene.

Because of the unique coloration that comes with this gene, dun horses are a favorite among horse fanatics. The most prized dun horse is the true dun. A true dun will have a clear dorsal stripe that runs from the horse’s mane to its tail. This is a permanent coloration.

How Much Do Dun Horses Cost?

Given that “dun” simply refers to the coloration of the horse, there is a large range in terms of their price. The breed and coat color will largely determine the exact cost of a dun horse. Other factors like age, health conditions, and hereditary will also affect the price.

When we looked up the price for dun horses online, most averaged between $500 and $5000. That’s a wide gap. The cheaper horses were typically adults who needed a new home. The more expensive duns were horses soon to be or newly born.

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Typical Behavior & Temperament

Because dun horses primarily share one common feature, a gene mutation, they do not have a standard behavior or temperament like horse breeds would. If you want to know the estimated temperament of your dun, it is better to look at the breed of the horse, not the coloration.

For example, a dun Norwegian Fjord will have a different temperament than a dun American Quarter Horse. Unfortunately, there are a lot of horses that can have the dun gene, and we can’t give you any more tips about the typical behavior and temperament of duns.

Appearance & Varieties

Instead of wasting our time talking about the many breeds that can have the dun gene, let’s take a look at the different colorations and markings common to most duns instead.

Classic Dun

The classic dun is also known as a zebra dun or dun. These horses will have a dusty gold or tan colored body and a black mane and tail. There will also be distinct primitive markings on their legs and back.

Red Dun

A red dun can be called a clay back, and they will have a light tan coat. Without the mutation, these horses would have a Chestnut color, but the gene lightens the coat. Their mane and tail will have a reddish color.

Grulla/Grullo Dun

Grulla or grullo dun horses have a variety of colors, which typically is a tan-gray combination. These horses will have the dun gene, black gene, and mouse hair genes, which can make it more difficult to see the colorations and markings.

Markings

Many duns will come with visible primitive markings, such as zebra striping on the back of the legs. All will have a dorsal stripe, though. This is a stripe that runs from the tail to the Main. It is a permanent color.

In addition to markings on the legs and back, many duns will have a darkened area at the front of their face. They will also have cobweb-like stripes on their forehead. More so, they can have a shoulder stripe such as the shoulder stripe on donkeys. Finally, they can have frosting on the sides of the mane and tail, as well as darkened ear tips.

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How to Take Care of Dun Horses

The way that you take care of a dun horse is the same as taking care of any other horse. They require a whole lot of food, water, exercise, and space to run.

Habitat, Stall Conditions & Setup

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Credit: jumpinghooves, Commons Wikimedia

Temperature

Most horses are comfortable between 18 degrees Fahrenheit and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but their exact preference will largely depend on their breed and coat. It’s best to provide your dun horse with a stall that provides shade in the summer and warmth in the winter.

If you live in an area that gets particularly cold, you will likely need to invest in additional features to keep the stall warm. This includes jackets for your horse and certain heating elements. For the summer, consider getting a fan.

Stall

As we mentioned above, horses need an indoor enclosure to go to whenever the weather is unsuitable for them. Most people prefer a stall. Stalls should be a minimum of 12 by 12 square feet, which is a good size for most horse breeds. For larger horse breeds, however, you might want to make a 12 by 14-foot stall.

Within the stall, there should be stable floors and stall mats right above the floor to provide extra cushioning for your dun horse. If you don’t want to purchase stall mats, you could add hay, straw, or pine bedding instead, but this can easily become contaminated.

Within the stall, your horse needs to have fresh hay and water so that they can eat and drink inside.

Pasture

Even if you have a great stall for your horse, they need pasture time. Stalls do not provide enough room to exercise and move freely. Ensure that your horse has pasture so that they can graze and stretch. More so, ensure that the pasture is not filled with hazardous or poisonous plants that your horse may accidentally eat.

Do Dun Horses Get Along with Other Pets?

Once again, the biggest determiner of whether your horse will get along with another pet depends on the breed of the dun horse. Certain horses are known to be very brave and friendly. Others, on the other hand, are skittish and can be spooked by other animals.

Generally speaking, horses are not very aggressive and need companionship, but they don’t always get along with each other. If you are introducing a new horse to your dun horse, or vice versa, you will need to introduce the horses carefully to see if they get along.

As far as other animals go, horses will likely get along with cows and other farm animals, but they may be skittish around dogs and other animals that are loud and perky. Overall, it simply depends on the breed and individual horse, but they will likely need another horse friend.

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What to Feed Your Dun Horse

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Credit: Dorena, Pixabay

Much like humans, dun horses need five different types of nutrients. This includes proteins, vitamins, water, minerals, and energy nutrients, such as fats and carbohydrates.

Given that horses are so big, they typically need 10 to 12 gallons of water every day. If the weather is incredibly hot, they may need between 15 to 20 gallons of water instead. Even if the weather is cold, they need a ton of water. So, prevent their water from freezing in the winter.

The majority of horse’s food will come from forage roughage. This typically includes grass and alfalfa hay, or a combination of the two. Horses also need access to high quality hay that is not musty or moldy. For grazing, they need pastureland that does not harvest any dangerous or poisonous foods.

Additionally, feed your dun horse small grains, like barley or corn. This will provide your dun horse with concentrates for energy. Finally, feed your dun horse supplements to ensure they have all the protein and vitamins they need.

Keeping Your Dun Horse Healthy

To keep your dun horse healthy, make sure that you feed it enough water and high-quality food. See above for more information about what to feed your dun horse.  Also, provide them with deworming supplements and vaccines, and take them to the vet every year, or whenever issues arise.

More so, try to minimize stress. Because horses are so watchful, they can become stressed much easier than other farm animals. Slowly introduce a horse to new experiences, be patient with the horse, and let it hang out as a horse normally would.

Horses need special attention to their teeth and hooves. You will likely need to file down your horse’s teeth regularly. You can talk to your vet about how often your horse may need its teeth filed.

Take a second to care for your horse’s hooves too. Given that horses stand nearly constantly, the hooves and legs need special attention. Do not skimp on hoof care. Instead, talk to a farrier and determine a hoof care schedule for your horse.

Finally, the last way to keep your dun horse healthy is to make sure they get daily exercise. These creatures have specifically evolved so that they can move all day long. When they are kept in stalls, they don’t get the exercise they need, forcing them to become overweight and unhealthy.

Breeding

Given that the mutation that causes dun coloration is dominant, it is considered relatively easy to breed dun horses, in comparison to other gene mutations. In fact, there are three different alleles of the dun gene.

If only one parent horse has the mutation, there is a chance that the offspring will have the coloration as well. Certain breeds are considered more likely to be dun than others. For example, Norwegian Fjords are predominantly dun horses. For this fact, the breed of horse has a large impact on breeding dun horses.

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Are Dun Horses Suitable for You?

Dun horses are incredibly stunning, but they require quite a bit of work, just like any other horse. If you want a unique looking horse and you have the needed space and resources to provide for two horses, then a dun horse is certainly suitable for you.

If you do not have stall area, pastureland, and the resources to provide for two or more horses, you should opt for a lower maintenance pet instead. Even though dun horses are incredibly kind and beautiful, you certainly should not get one if you know you are not prepared for their maintenance.


Featured image credit: Peter Broster, Commons Wikimedia

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.