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Blue Roan Horse: A Comprehensive Guide to This Unique Color

Last updated: February 8, 2024

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Have you ever marveled at the beauty of a horse with a coat that resembles a dusky, starlit sky? Chances are, you’ve encountered a blue roan horse. As a long-time horse owner, author of two equine care books, and a dedicated equestrian, I’ve always been captivated by the blue roan’s unique allure.

Their coat—a mesmerizing blend of black and white hairs—creates a stunning blue-gray appearance, setting them apart from other horse colors and breeds. Let’s explore the enchanting world of blue roan horses together.

Picture of a blue roan horse looking off to the horizon.
Wild blue roan horse.

Defining the Blue Roan Horse

Blue roan refers to the striking blue-gray coat of a horse, a result of unique genetic traits and visually dynamic physical characteristics. This distinctive coloration sets the blue roan apart in the equine world.

Genetic Makeup:

  • The blue roan horse’s coat color is the result of a combination of the Roan gene (symbolized as Rn) and a black base coat color.
  • The black base coat is determined by the Extension (E) gene and the Agouti (A) gene. For a horse to be black, it must have at least one dominant Extension gene (E) and two recessive Agouti genes (aa), making its genotype E_aa.
  • The Roan gene (Rn) on a black base coat (E_aa) leads to the blue roan phenotype. This gene causes white hairs to be evenly interspersed with the black hairs of the coat, except in areas like the mane, tail, and lower legs, giving the horse its distinctive blue-gray appearance.
  • This specific genetic combination (E_aaRn) distinguishes blue roans from other roan varieties, such as red roans (on a chestnut base) or bay roans (on a bay base), where the base coat color influences the roan expression.

Physical Characteristics:

  • The coat of a blue roan can appear to change with the seasons or as the horse ages.
  • In winter, the coat may darken, showing a deeper blue, while in summer, it might lighten to a softer grayish-blue.
  • These changes are due to the growth of new hair and the shedding process, affecting the coat’s visual intensity.

The Blue Roan Coat

Picture of a blue roan horse looking off to the horizon.
Blue roan mustang.

The blue roan horse boasts a mesmerizing coat, a canvas of black and white hairs that blend to create its iconic blue-gray hue. This distinctive coloration not only sets them apart but also adds to their allure through various visual changes.

Color Composition:

  • A mix of black and white hairs gives the blue roan its blue-gray appearance, distinct from other horse colors.
  • This unique blend results in a coat that stands out for its depth and complexity.

Visual Changes:

  • Lighting can significantly alter the coat’s appearance, shifting from a deep blue to a lighter gray.
  • Seasonal changes, particularly during shedding periods, can also affect the coat’s hue and intensity, adding to the horse’s dynamic beauty.

What Horse Breeds Have Blue Roans?

Picture of a blue roan quarter horse.
I took this picture of a blue roan quarter horse competing in Western Pleasure.

Blue roan horses are admired for their stunning blue-gray coats, found across various horse breeds. Here’s a concise overview of breeds known for their blue roan members:

  • American Quarter Horse: Recognized by the American Quarter Horse Association, which registers seventeen colors, including blue roan.
  • Percheron: Traditionally black or grey, Percherons also come in blue roan. Originating from France, they’re known for their strength and were once the largest draft horse registry.
  • Belgian: Mostly bay or chestnut in the U.S., blue and red roan Belgians are more common in Europe. Known for their size, strength, and docile nature, Belgians excel in pulling competitions.
  • Welsh Pony and Cob: These ponies come in a variety of colors, including blue roan. Ranging from 11 to 14.2 hands, they’re versatile, used in chariot races, coal mines, and as ranch ponies.
  • American Paint Horse: Known for their colorful coats, including blue roan. They feature patterns like tobiano, overo, and tovero, with the American Paint Horse Association registering even solid-colored horses as “Solid Paint Bred.”
  • Paso Fino: Accepts all colors, including blue roan. Known for their smooth gaits, Paso Finos are a naturally gaited breed with incredible strength, averaging around 14.1 hands tall.
  • Mustang: Feral horses with a variety of colors, including stunning blue roans. Descended from Spanish horses, mustangs roam free in the western U.S., protected by law.
  • Standardbred: Primarily used in harness racing but also popular for pleasure riding. While mostly bay, black, or brown, blue roans are among the colors found in this versatile breed.
  • Tennessee Walking Horse: These gaited horses are known for their smooth ride and are available in various colors, including blue roan. They’re used in therapeutic riding, trail riding, and show competitions due to their gentle nature.
Explore the unique beauty of a blue roan horse in this captivating YouTube video. Pay special attention to the corn marks on the mare, a distinctive trait exclusive to roan horses.

How Do You Get a Blue Roan Horse?

To breed a blue roan foal, essential genetic conditions must be met:

  • One parent must possess black horse genes.
  • At least one parent should carry the roan gene, with the possibility of producing blue roan offspring, though not guaranteed.

The Genetics Behind the Blue Roan Color Pattern

Genetics explains the inheritance of traits from ancestors. In horses, the blue roan color results from specific inherited genes. The roan gene, symbolized as Rn, is dominant and can mask other gene variants. Roans may be:

  • Homozygous (Rn/Rn): Carrying two roan genes, ensuring all offspring inherit the roan gene.
  • Heterozygous (Rn/rn): Carrying one dominant roan gene, with a chance of passing the roan gene to offspring.

Breeding strategies involve combining roan with certain gene sequences, such as chestnut, to produce a blue roan appearance. A successful combination requires one chromosome with the non-chestnut allele and the dominant roan allele, and another with the recessive chestnut allele and the recessive non-roan allele, resulting in a blue roan coat.

Roan zygosity testing in some equine breeds can identify the true roan genotype, though the exact mutation for true roan is yet to be pinpointed. For more on roan genotype testing, resources like UC Davis offer in-depth information.

This approach to breeding and genetics is crucial for breeders aiming to produce roan offspring, highlighting the complexity and ongoing learning in equine genetics.

Color Variations in Blue Roan Horses

Picture of a blue roan quarter horse in a stal.
Blue roan quarter horse with a bay base.
  • White Hair Density: The color of blue roans changes with the density of white hairs. More white hairs mean a lighter appearance, which can be uniform or patchy.
  • Black vs. Dark Bay:
    • Black Horses: Fewer visible pigment variations compared to bays and chestnuts. May resemble dark bays but lack tan muzzles and flanks.
    • Dark Bay Horses: Characterized by tan muzzles and often tan flanks, distinguishing them from black horses.
Picture of a blue roan mustang.
Blue Roan Mustang with a black base.

Black Pigment Variations

  • Causes: Variations can be natural or influenced by nutrition (copper and zinc deficiencies), UV exposure, and environment.
  • Impact on Blue Roans: These factors contribute to color variations in blue roan horses.
  • Dark Bay Roans: Sometimes mistaken for ‘blue’ due to dark coloring and black points. However, genetically, they are dark ‘bay roan’ because of the tan muzzle, differentiating them from true blue roans.

Are Blue Roan Horses Rare?

No, blue roan horses are not rare, however they are less common among the roan colors.

  • Breed Variation: Common in many breeds, especially Quarter Horses. Rarity may depend on location or breed.
  • Compared to Other Colors: More common horse colors include bay, chestnut, dun, and palomino. Blue roans are fairly common in various horse breeds.

What is a True Blue Roan Horse?

  • Black Base Coat: True blue roans have a black base coat with white hairs mixed in.
  • Mimics: Some gray or dark bay roans may look like blue roans but aren’t “true blue.”
  • Confirmation: Genetic testing can confirm a horse’s status as a true blue roan.
Picture of a blue roan Paso Fino.
Blue Roan Paso Fino: By Just chaos

Are Blue Roan Horses Expensive?

  • Color vs. Value: Typically, color, including blue roan, doesn’t significantly impact a horse’s price. Factors like conformation, pedigree, and training are more influential.
  • Desirability: While a beautiful coat color like blue roan is desirable, it usually doesn’t drastically increase a horse’s worth.
  • Real-World Example: A friend bought a blue roan colt and its mare for $1,200. The colt, well-bred with a foundation Quarter Horse lineage, was considered reasonably priced for its breeding.
  • Mare’s Value: The mare, used mainly as a broodmare and briefly as a ranch horse, will be sold after weaning the colt to recoup some costs.

Below is a YouTube video about blue roan horses I think you will find interesting.

Video about blue roan horses.

FAQs About Blue Roan Horses

What makes a horse a blue roan?

A blue roan horse has a genetic combination that results in a coat mixed with black and white hairs, giving it a distinctive blue-gray appearance. This is due to the presence of the Roan gene on a black base coat.

Is a blue roan horse more expensive than horses of other colors?

The price of a blue roan horse depends more on factors like conformation, pedigree, and training rather than its coat color. While a beautiful coat color like blue roan can be desirable, it typically does not significantly increase a horse’s price.

Can the coat color of a blue roan horse change over time?

While the roan pattern remains consistent, the visibility of the blue roan color can change slightly with the seasons due to the shedding and growth of the coat. However, the fundamental blue-gray appearance remains.

Is there a black roan horse?

What you’ve got here is a blue roan. It is a horse with a black base that has white hairs interspersed throughout its coat, giving it the appearance of being blue.

Can any horse breed be a blue roan?

While not every horse breed can be a blue roan, many breeds do have blue roan members. Common breeds include the American Quarter Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse, and the Percheron, among others.

Picture of a blue roan, red roan, and bay horse jogging.
Blue roan, red roan, and bay Thoroughbred horses.

Ten Best Blue Roan Horse Names

Choosing the perfect name for a blue roan horse can be a challenge, with the aim to reflect their unique coat color and individual personality. Here are my favorite names inspired by their blue-gray hues and the essence of these horses:

  1. Mystic Shadow – Captures the mystical allure and shadowy tones of the blue roan’s coat.
  2. Stormy Skies – Reflects the dynamic, storm-like appearance of their unique coloring.
  3. Blue Moon – A nod to the rare and beautiful occurrence, much like the rarity of the blue roan color.
  4. Silver Mist – Evokes the image of a gentle, silvery mist over a dark landscape, mirroring the horse’s coat.
  5. Twilight Haze – Suggests the dusky, mysterious quality of their coloration at twilight.
  6. Sapphire Dream – For a horse that embodies the beauty and depth of sapphire under the sun.
  7. Frostbite – A cool name that hints at the icy blue and gray tones of the roan coat.
  8. Blue Echo – Symbolizes the lasting impression the horse’s striking color leaves on all who see it.
  9. Indigo Wind – Combines the deep blue of indigo with the swift, free nature of the wind.
  10. Celestial Blue – Inspired by the heavenly shades of blue found in the night sky, it is perfect for a horse with a coat that seems to hold the universe.
Picture of blue roan belgian horses.
Blue Roan Percherons. Jean, CC BY 2.0,

Unique Roan Traits

Roan horses, including blue roans, exhibit several fascinating traits that set them apart from other color variations in the equine world. Here’s an exploration of these unique characteristics:

  • Coloration from Birth: Unlike grey horses, which may be born dark and gradually lighten with age, roans display their distinctive coloring right from birth. While a roan foal’s coat may undergo seasonal lightening, its overall coloration remains consistent as it matures.
  • Mane Color Changes: An intriguing observation from my experience with blue roan foals is their red manes at birth, which typically turn black by the age of two. It’s unclear if this is a widespread phenomenon among all blue roan foals or a unique feature of those I’ve encountered.
  • Roan Varieties: Roans are primarily categorized into three types based on their base coat color: red roan (chestnut base), blue roan (black base), and bay roan (bay base). Each variety presents a unique blend of base color and white hair, contributing to the diversity within the roan classification.
  • Corn Marks: When a roan horse sustains a cut or scrape, the regrown hair in the injured area is solid-colored, lacking the white hairs typical of the roan pattern. This phenomenon, known as a “corn mark,” highlights the roan coat’s unique response to injury.
  • Reverse Dapple: Roan horses exhibit a distinctive pattern known as reverse dapple, where dappling appears as lighter circles against their coat, in contrast to the dark circles seen in non-roan horses. This reverse dappling adds another layer of visual interest to the roan’s already captivating appearance.
Picture of a blue roan welsh pony.
Blue Roan Pony By Aravis


Blue roan horses captivate with their unique beauty, defined by a blend of black and white hairs that create their signature blue-gray coat. This distinctive coloration, resulting from a specific genetic makeup, sets them apart in the equine world.

While not the rarest, the blue roan’s allure is undeniable, varying in shade depending on the density of white hairs. Blue roan horses embody a remarkable combination of genetics, beauty, and rarity. Their captivating coat color distinguishes them within the vast spectrum of horse colors and highlights the fascinating interplay of genetics and environment in determining equine beauty.

Take Action and Learn More

Eager to dive deeper into the world of blue roan horses and the broader equine community? Explore these resources for comprehensive insights, registration details, and engaging stories about the majestic blue roan and other horse colors:

  • Roan Zygosity Test: UC Davis Veterinary Medicine.
  • How To Tell What Color Your Foal Will Be. American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA)
  • Youth & Young Adult Programs: Engage with programs designed for young equestrians, offering a wealth of learning and development opportunities. Learn more at AQHA Youth.
  • News and Publications: Stay updated with the latest news, research, and publications in the equine world, enriching your knowledge and understanding of various horse breeds and colors. Check out American Roan Horse.

Whether you’re a seasoned equestrian or new to the horse community, these resources offer valuable information to enhance your journey with horses, especially the captivating blue roan.