All About Bays: How To Identify The Bay Horse & More

Bay horses are the most common coat color found in horses. They can be seen in nearly every horse breed in the world. But what is a bay horse? How can you identify them? What bay horses were the most famous? After researching more about bay horses, I was able to come up with this article all about this color.

What Is A Bay Horse?

A bay horse is a horse that has a brown coat ranging from reddish-brown to nearly black. Bay horses must have black legs (with the exception of leg markings), black ear tips, and a black mane and tail to be considered bay. Some breeds only come in a bay coat color like Cleveland Bay horses for example. This color, also has a few subcategories including blood bay, dark bay, and black bay.

The Different Types Of Bay Coat Colors

Blood Bay

Blood bay horses are, as you might guess, red in color. Blood bay horses are one of the less commonly seen bay horses. Cross Fiire, one of my Arabians is actually a blood bay.

This coat color of horse appears to be reddish-orange in the sunlight. I believe this is partly where Cross Fiire got his name. In the sun he glows red and orange like fire.

In the famous Black Stallion book series by Walter Farley, the black stallion sired a blood bay colt that goes on to win many races.

Dark Bay

Dark bay horses are horses that have any dark brown color as their main coat color. These horses can be a shade of brown anywhere from dark red to very dark brown.

Dark bays are one of the more common types of bay horses and are seen in any breed that carries bay as their coat color.

Black Bay

Black bay horses are often confused with black horses which is partly what gives them their name. A black horse is considered bay if they have any sort of brown coloring mixed in their coat.

These horses have a nearly black body as well as a black mane and tail. The only thing that makes them a bay is the brown hairs that are mixed into their coat.

Many horses that people think are black may actually be black bays. It can be kind of difficult to tell the difference between a black horse and a black bay horse. The difference may only be able to be seen when looking at the horse close up.

Light Bay

A light bay horse is basically a bay horse that has a lighter than average coat color.

Light bays have a sandy or honey colored coat. This bay is the least commonly seen of all the bay horses there are. Many people don’t describe horses as light bays and will usually just refer to a light bay as ‘bay.’

Can Bay Horses Have White Markings?

Yes, of course bay horses can have white markings. They can have white leg markings as well as face markings.

My horse Bronze has three white socks (leg markings) as well as a star and a snip that were connected by a faded stripe down the middle of his face.

There are some bay horses that can have stockings as well which mean that their legs are nearly completely white. This is most commonly seen in the Clydesdale breed.

Is There Such Thing As A Bay Roan?

Yes in fact there are bay roan horses. These horses are born bay and will eventually ‘roan over’ with age.

Bay roans were actually known as red roans at one point. Now a bay roan is called a bay roan and a chestnut roan is called a red roan.

Fun Fact: Black bays that turn roan are often mistaken as blue roans because of the larger amount of black hairs in their coat.

To read more about roans click here!

Fun Facts On Bay Horses:

  • Buckskin horses are just bay horses with one copy of the creme gene
  • Bay is the most common horse coat color in the world
  • Perlino horses are just bay horses with two copies of the creme gene
  • Bay is one of the 4 standard colors found in horses (the standard colors being black, grey, chestnut, and bay).
  • The Cleveland Bay horse can only be bay

Famous Bay Horses

American Pharaoh

American Pharoah is one of the most famous bay horses of all time. This horse was the twelfth winner of the triple crown which he won in 2015. This hirse was born in 2012 to a breeding farm in Kentucky.

After an extremely successful racing career, American Pharaoh was retired to stand as a breeding stallion. He currently has over 162 foals and some of those are starting to win races on the track just like their father did.

Fusaichi Pegasus

Fusaichi Pegasus is the most expensive horse, as well as the most expensive bay horse ever to sell on earth. This horse won the Kentucky derby in the year of 2000 and sold for a whopping $70 million to stand at stud.


Boomerang was a legend in his time in the showjumping industry. This bay horse was an Irish Sport Horse who was owned and showed by Eddie Macken.

Boomerang is most famous for winning the Hickstead Derby four times in the span of three years (1976-1979). Winning this showjumping derby once is an incredible achievement, but winning it four times is nearly impossible


Seabiscuit is a very famous bay Thoroughbred racehorse who, like American Pharaoh, won the triple crown.

Seabiscuit was voted Horse of the Year in 1938 and he beat the 1937 Triple Crown winner in a special race for just the two of them. In the 1940s Seabiscuit was the top money winning horse in the world.


Ruffian, also a bay Throroughbred racehorse, was actually a mare who won 10 races in a row.

She was entered into a special race against the winner of the Kentucky derby known as Foolish Pleasure. Sadly, in the race, Ruffian broke down and later died on July 7, 1975 at just three years old. She had shattered both sesamoids in her right ankle and was put down eight hours after her tragic injury.


Snowbound, a bay Thoroughbred, was the first horse ridden by an American rider to win a gold medal in Olympic showjumping. Snowbound earned this achievement in the year of 1968 at the age of 10 years old.

Hailey Sipila

Horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. At school, I was known as that weird horse girl, and I would read horse encyclopedias for fun. Over the years since those days, I have only learned more. My experiences with horses of a variety of breeds have taught me a lot. Now I want to share what I know with you!

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