What Is Smokey Black? All About Black Horses With The Influence Of A Creme Gene

When researching about all the different coat colors caused by the creme gene, I was noticing that the ones I was focusing on were chestnut and bay horses influenced by the creme gene they carried. I started to wonder, is it only bay and chestnut horses that have the creme gene? Or can black horses have the creme gene as well? It was then that I discovered the Smokey Black coat color.

What Is Smokey Black?

Smokey Black is a coat color created from two specific genes. These genes are the base genetics of a black horse and the color dilution gene known as the creme gene. Smokey Black horses are pretty rare to see and aren’t common even in the breeds that allow this coat color. The way to identify this coat color is through looking at its genetics to identify the black and creme genes, as well as looking at its overall appearance. These horses are often mistaken for bays because of their brown-gray coat color and black mane and tail. These horses are seen in a variety of breeds, but the most common breeds to see them in are in Andalusians, Akhal Tekes, and Morgans.

What Creates The Smokey Black Coat Color?

There are two things that go together to make this rare and unique coat color. These are the black base coat color and the single copy of the creme gene. A horse with a different base color would create a different coat color altogether when mixed with the creme gene.

How Can A Smokey Black Horse Be Identified?

There are several ways to identify the smokey black horse. This can be done by looking at specific traits such as:

The Horse’s Genetics

As I said before, a horse needs specific genetics to be considered a smokey black. To be a true smokey black, the horse must carry the base coat color of a black horse and carry one copy of the diluting creme gene. Without these, a horse can’t be considered a true smokey black.

The Color Of The Horse’s Mane & Tail

The color of the horse’s mane and tail are a key way to identify these horses. A true smokey black will retain the mane and tail color from their black genetics, meaning their mane and tail will be black.

The Shade & Color Of The Horse’s Coat

The coat color of a Smokey Black horse can range in shades from a mouse-gray color, to a black-bay color. No matter the coat shade, Smokey Black horses appear bay in color.

The Color Of The Horse’s Skin

Smokey Black horses, like most horses, have black skin. If one of these horses is found with pink skin it is NOT a true Smokey Black.

What Is The Difference Between Bay & Smokey Black?

There are a few things that can be noted to tell the difference between these two coat colors. The way to tell these horses apart is by looking at the horse’s:


The main difference between these two coat colors actually lies in the genetics of these horses even if they look the same in color.

Bay horses are horses with a black mane and tail and brown coat color. Their genetics are strictly for their base color of bay with no influence from outside genetics. This coat color can be seen in nearly every single breed of horse in the world, except for color-specific breeds. (To learn more about bay horses, click here!)

Smokey Black horses are horses that also have a black mane and tail and brown coat, but their genetics are different. These horses are truly black as they have black as their base color, but their lighter coloration comes from the color dilution caused by a creme gene that they carry.

Overall Coat Color

The coat colors of bay and Smokey Black horses really don’t differ much. Both of these horses carry the same black mane and tail and have brown coats. They really aren’t easily told apart when it comes to a horse’s physical appearance.

It is more common for a Smokey Black horse to have a mousy-gray coat than it is for bay horses to have that coat color, making that one identifying feature.

What Is The Difference Between Black & Smokey Black?

Black and Smokey Black are similar coat colors with similar genetic makeup, but what’s the difference? To tell these horses apart look at the:


Both of these horses carry the base coat color of black in their genes making both of these horses true blacks. The difference lies strictly in the presence or absence of a copy of the creme gene.

Overall Coat Color

Black horses, to be considered truly black and not bay, must be pure black other than white markings. Smokey Black horses must have lighter colored hairs caused by creme gene dilution.

Can Smokey Black Horses Have White Markings?

Yes! Just like when looking at other horses with the creme gene, like Palominos and Buckskins, white markings on the face and legs are always allowed. The allowed markings include:

  • Stars
  • Stripes
  • Snips
  • Interrupted Stripes
  • Blazes
  • Socks (includes coronet, half pastern, fetlock, half-cannon, and cannon markings)
  • Stockings (includes any over-the-knee markings)

Are Smokey Black Horses Rare?

Yes. This coat color seen in horses is rarely seen and not very well known either. These horses are often mistaken for bays making this coat color even less well known.

Breeds That Can Be Smokey Black

There are many breeds that can carry this coloration though it is extremely rare. the most common breeds that carry this color are:

There are many other breeds that can carry this color, but this is a list that I can remember off the top of my head.

Breeds that Can’t Be Smokey Black

Most purebred horses can’t carry this coloration, and some breeds that are color specific won’t allow a variety of colors. Some of the horse breeds that don’t allow this color include:

There are many more breeds that don’t allow this color into their breed or registry, but again this is a list of breeds I can think of.

Can The Smokey Black Coat Color Affect The Horse’s Health?

Typically, in horses that have their color influenced by the creme gene, they are much more prone to health issues such as sun burn, skin issues, and cancer. Because the Smokey Black coat color is still so dark and the horse still has black skin, sun burn, cancer, and skin issues aren’t as much of a problem. This is because the pigmentation levels they carry are mostly enough to protect them.

Fun Facts On The Smokey Black Coat Color

  • Smokey Black Foals are born looking almost grullo in color but will darken to an off-black color as they age.
  • The genetic identification is one of the only ways to tell the difference between Smokey Black and Bay horses.

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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