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Roan Horses: Interesting Facts and Pictures

Dean Eby

Roan horses are unique and beautiful horses that are instantly recognizable by their distinct coloration. Many roan variations exist, which can lead to confusion regarding what roan is. It’s not a breed of horse. Rather, it’s a type of coloration that can appear on almost any horse. Roan can be combined with many other colors, such as red, bay, and blue, as well as some less common combinations like red dun roans and palomino roans.


What is Roan

Roan horses have coats that are a solid color with many white hairs distributed throughout. Their legs and head are devoid of white hairs, only showing the horse’s base color. Generally, the mane and tail are unaffected as well, though sometimes white hairs can be mixed into them. Since roan coloration is caused by the roan gene, it can show up in any breed of horse.

Typical Roan Colors

Since the defining characteristic of roan coloration is the white hairs that are interspersed through the horse’s base color, there must always be a base color to combine with the white hairs. This means that there are many roan variations, but these are some of the most common ones.

Bay Roan

Bay Roan Horse
Image Credit: Callipso, Shutterstock

A bay-colored horse with the roan gene will be a bay roan. They often look similar to red or blue roans.

Red Roan

Red Roan
Image Credit: HTurner, Shutterstock

Also known as a strawberry roan horse, red roans have a chestnut or sorrel base color paired with the roan gene.

Blue Roan

Blue Roan Horse
Image Credit: HTurner, Shutterstock

Black horses with the roan gene become blue roans. They’re still black, but the white hairs subdue the hue and make for a color that appears almost blue.

Roan Spots

Roan Spots Horse
Image Credit: Kichev Denis, Shutterstock

Not every horse with the roan gene will have white hairs on its whole body. Some roan horses only have roan spots; small patches where white hairs are spread throughout.

Less Common Roans

The roans we’ve listed so far are the most common roan combinations. However, the roan gene can appear in horses with any base color, making for many more roan color combinations, including:

  • Red Dun Roans
  • Buckskin Roans
  • Dun Roans
  • Palomino Roans



Roan isn’t a color on its own, and it’s not a particular breed of horse. Instead, the roan gene causes there to be many individual white hairs dispersed throughout the base color. This gene can appear in horses of any breed with any base color, making for many unique and striking combinations.

Featured image: HTurner, Shutterstock

Dean Eby

An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan.  He gains experience on a full-time journey of exploration. For Dean, few passions lie closer to his heart than learning.  An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.