Dun horses, often confused with buckskins, are one of the oldest horse colors seen in the world. The dun color can range in different shades and this color also comes with some unique traits such as special markings. There are a few breeds that can only come in dun.
What Is Dun?
Dun is a horse coat color that typically comes in a golden yellow or tan shade and isn’t very commonly seen in domesticated horses. Dun horses usually have a black or dark brown mane and tail and dark legs. These horses are often confused with buckskins because of these traits but it’s the fact that duns have zebra stripes and dorsal stripes that make them appear different as well as the fact that a dun doesn’t have a creme gene and a buckskin does.
Traits Of A Dun Horse
Dun horses typically have dark colored legs though some white markings are acceptable. Sometimes, striping will appear on a horse’s leg as well which is known as zebra striping.
Zebra striping on the legs is most commonly seen in the forearm of the front legs and the gaskin of the back legs, but it is not unheard of for the striping to reach nearly to the shoulder or lower hindquarters.
Dorsal stripes are seen on many more horses outside of duns, but they are a key trait in identifying a dun horse. Dun horses typically have a really dark dorsal stripe that extends down to their tail and up through their mane. This is not common in other coat colors, but with some duns, the horse will have a white tail with a black stripe and a white mane with a black stripe. This coloring is mainly seen in fjords.
A true dun will usually have a darker face with a dark nose and coloring that reaches up the face before fading out into the main coat color.
Duns can have facial markings like any other horse can.
Mane & Tail
Like I mentioned above, some duns have a two-toned mane and tail like what’s seen in the Fjord, but this is not for all duns. Most duns have just a black or dark brown mane and tail.
The Dun color can come in a variety of shades but the most common of these is the classic dun. There are also grullos which are similar to and sometimes classified as dun and red duns.
A red dun is often confused as a sorrel or chestnut horse, but they are in fact duns. The way to tell them apart is that a red dun will have a slightly darker mane and tail than their body, they will have darker legs (not black, just darker), they carry dorsal stripes, and they are often seen with leg stripes as well.
There is a debate on whether or not to classify grullo as a type of dun. Grullo horses have a dorsal stripe and some will even carry zebra striping. These horses have a dark mane and tail, a gray body, and dark legs.
A classic dun is the most common type of dun found in the horse world. Classic dun horses are horses that are golden yellow in color and have the dark mane, tail, legs, and stripes found in dun horses. All horses that can be dun can be classic dun.
Horses That Can Only Come In Dun
The Fjord is a smaller horse breed that originated in Norway and can only come in the dun coloration. There are five shades of dun that are recognized in this breed. The defining traits of this horse are their heavy strong build, their striped mane, their dorsal stripe, and the sometimes prevalent zebra markings.
The Przewalski’s horse is a breed of horse that lives in the wild. This breed is thought to resemble what the world’s early horses looked like. Przewalski’s horses are native to the Mongolian-Central Asia area where the breed once thrived.
Przewalski’s horses come only in dun and carry the typical traits including stripes in the legs and a dorsal stripe.
This breed has never been domesticated like the current modern horse and it is thought that it never will be. Sadly this breed is endangered as well and there are only 1.900 left in the wild.
This breed looks incredibly similar to the Przewalski’s horse. This breed is native to northeastern Tibet where it captured the attention of researchers who think it could be a link between the modern horse and the prehistoric horse.
This breed has a dark mane and tail like a normal dun as well as a dorsal stripe and occasional zebra stripes.
The Sorraia horse is a extremely rare breed that originated in Portugal. This breed is currently going through some conservation attempts by horse breeders so the breed doesn’t go extinct.
These horses can come in any shade of dun, but one of the more common colors is a gray done or grullo.
Sorraia horses have dorsal stripes and are sometimes seen with zebra stripes as well.
The konik pony is a unique breed that originated in Poland. The breed’s name, Konik, actually means pony. These tough little horses descended from hardy horses in the Bilgoraj region.
The Konik is seen with dorsal stripes and some zebra striping on the legs and shoulders.
What Is The Difference Between Buckskin & Dun?
Though these horses may look very similar in appearance, the difference really does come down to the horse’s genetics. A buckskin horse has one copy of the creme gene while the dun does not. Though these horses may look very similar, the buckskin and dun have very different genetics. This goes for comparing the Perlino horse and the dun as well. The perlino has two copies of the creme gene while the dun has none.
Buckskin horses are just bay horses that have a creme gene. Dun horses are just naturally golden horses.