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The Buckskin Horse: Colors & Facts of These Iconic Horses

Last updated: August 30, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

When my five-year-old granddaughter became mesmerized by a buckskin Mustang from the movie “Spirit,” I thought it would be good for us to learn more about these iconic horses. Our discovery? An equine world marked not just by stunning hues but by an enduring spirit and remarkable character.

At first glance, a buckskin horse captures the imagination with its golden or tan hues, made even more striking by a dark mane, tail, and lower legs. Yet, their appeal isn’t just skin-deep. Beneath their aesthetic lies a legacy of hardiness and strength.

Although “buckskin” isn’t a breed but a color pattern, it’s fascinating to note that this pattern graces a multitude of horse breeds. Each buckskin horse carries unique qualities that transcend its captivating appearance. Interested in learning more about these iconic horses? Let’s trot forth on this journey together.

Introduction to the Buckskin Horse: Color and Origin

The buckskin is a stunning horse known for its signature coat color and unique characteristics. This color is undeniably eye-catching in the horse world, and many equine enthusiasts find themselves drawn to their beauty. But what exactly is a buckskin horse, and where does this superb color originate?

Picture of a standard colored buckskin horse.
Standard buckskin

First, let’s talk about the color of a buckskin horse. Their coat is characterized by a rich, golden-tan color, accompanied by black points, like a mane, tail, and lower legs. This coat color is a result of the presence of a specific gene, named the “cream gene,” that dilutes the base color of a horse’s coat.

In the case of the buckskin horse, this gene is responsible for diluting the base coat color from a darker brown to the golden-tan shade that we associate with buckskin horses. It’s important to note that there are variations in the shade, ranging from a lighter, creamier hue to a darker, sootier shade.

However, all buckskin horses share the common feature of having black points, which distinguishes them from other similarly colored horses, such as dun horses. The presence of leg barring and a dorsal stripe on dun horses are telltale signs that differentiate them from buckskin horses, despite sharing a similar base coat color.


Now that we have a better understanding of the buckskin horse’s coat color let’s take a closer look at the origins of the breed. The buckskin horse is not a specific breed in itself but is instead a color variation seen in various horse breeds worldwide.

These breeds include but are not limited to the American Quarter Horse, the Morgan Horse, and many draft horse breeds. The buckskin horse’s color gene is thought to have originated in ancient times, with evidence pointing to the presence of tan horses in early European cave paintings dating back thousands of years.

The buckskin horse was not just admired for its color, though. Throughout history, these horses were highly sought after for their impressive strength, endurance, and versatility. In North America, buckskin horses have played a significant role in the lives of early settlers and Native American tribes, who valued these horses for their agility, power, and adaptability to various climates and terrains.

Over time, the distinctive coat color of the buckskin horse became synonymous with the tough, dependable, and lively nature of these remarkable animals. In addition to their beautiful coats and impressive physical abilities, buckskin horses are often known for their gentle temperament and spirited personalities.

Many horse enthusiasts are particularly drawn to the buckskin horse’s unique combination of grace, power, and reliable disposition, which make them an ideal choice for novices and experienced riders alike. It’s easy to see why these horses are so highly coveted and admired by equestrians from all walks of life.

The buckskin horse is truly spectacular to behold, with its striking coat color and storied origins steeped in historical significance. Not only is the buckskin horse’s color the result of a unique gene that transforms the animal’s coat, but this captivating equine also boasts a host of other desirable characteristics, including strength, endurance, and gentle temperament.

As an equestrian enthusiast, the allure of the buckskin horse is almost impossible to resist, and it’s no wonder that this incredible animal continues to be admired and adored worldwide.

Picture of buckskin horses in a paddock.
Buckskin horses in a paddock

The Beautiful Colors and Unique Patterns of Buckskin Horses

Buckskin horses are known for their beautiful and unique colors that make them a favorite among horse enthusiasts. These horses have a genetic color known as the bay dun, which is a mix of black, red, and yellow pigments, making them stand out among other equines.

Buckskin horses exhibit a variety of patterns and shades, ranging from light to dark. Their distinct appearance, combined with their temperament and versatility, have contributed to the popularity of buckskins among horse lovers worldwide.

The base color of buckskin horses is a golden or tan hue, achieved by the dilution of the bay gene. This creates that gorgeous coat of various shades of gold, tan, and yellow. The mane, tail, and other points (ears, face, and lower legs) are typically black, dark brown, or smoky, giving them a striking contrast against their golden body.

The color distribution in buckskin horses is not consistent, thus creating even more unique shades within this breed. For example, there are light buckskins with a pale yellow or cream-colored coat and dark buckskins with a rich, golden-brown shade. Some buckskin horses display a sooty or smoky hue in their coat, which adds depth to their color and creates a stunning visual effect.

Another interesting feature of the color in buckskin horses is the presence of dapples. Dapples are circular or irregular-shaped patches of lighter or darker hair that are scattered throughout the coat. They can be quite prominent in some buckskins, giving their coat an unmistakable texture and visual interest. Not all buckskins have dapples, but those that do often present a truly captivating appearance.

The versatility of buckskin horses makes them suitable for various disciplines, from dressage and show jumping to western riding and trail. They are adaptable and athletic, with a strong work ethic and an endearing personality. The color and patterns of buckskin horses make them stand out in competition and on trails alike, quickly capturing the hearts of those who come into contact with them.

Buckskin horses are not only prized for their athleticism and temperament but also for their stunning colors and unique patterns. The different shades and markings make each buckskin horse distinct, further adding to their appeal. It’s easy to see why horse enthusiasts worldwide are enamored with these beautiful equines.

A buckskin horse is both a competitive companion and a breathtaking showpiece, making them a popular choice for many disciplines and environments. So, whether you’re a seasoned rider or just starting your equestrian journey, a buckskin horse might just be the perfect partner for you.

Buckskin Horse Color Significance and Meaning

Buckskin horses, with their golden coats and dark points, radiate a sense of elegance and charm in the equine world. The significance and meaning of buckskin horses can be found in various cultures and historical contexts.

The buckskin horse color holds unique significance and meaning, representing luxury, refinement, and a strong connection to nature. Their golden coloration and dignified nature continue to captivate horse enthusiasts worldwide, celebrating the diverse beauty and unwavering bond between humans and these extraordinary animals.

Picture of a Akhal Teke with a golden buckskin coat.
Golden Buckskin: Akhal Teke Breed

History and Popularity of the Buckskin Horse Breed

The buckskin horse has a rich history and widespread popularity that has only grown over the years. The origins of this beautiful breed date back centuries, with its distinctive color and characteristics making it highly sought after by horse enthusiasts worldwide.

The history of the buckskin horse breed can be traced back to the Spanish conquistadors, whose horses were both admired and envied for their strength, agility, and endurance. These Spanish horses considered some of the best in the world, were used to establish newer breeds that would dominate not only Europe but also America.

As time went on, the buckskin horse breed would come to represent both power and grace in the equine world. Breeders would strive to create horses with stunning buckskin color and pattern, as well as the superior athleticism and temperament that are commonly associated with the breed.

The result is an incredibly diverse range of horses that fall under the buckskin category, each with their own unique qualities and appeal. The popularity of the buckskin horse breed has remained consistently high throughout history, with many notable individuals owning and riding buckskin horses.

Royalty, warriors, and famous figures in history, such as Buffalo Bill, have all been known to prefer the buckskin horse, adding to its esteem and reputation. Additionally, the breed’s prominence in various equestrian disciplines – such as dressage, show jumping, and western riding – has further cemented its status as a highly sought-after and valued breed.

Appreciation for buckskin horses isn’t limited to just their physical appearance and athleticism, though. A large part of the breed’s popularity is due to the reputation they possess for their friendly and willing temperament.

Buckskin horses are known to be intelligent and manageable, making them an ideal choice for riders of all experience levels. Add to this the breed’s impressive stamina, and you have a horse that can excel in both competitive and recreational riding.

Some of the most iconic buckskin horses throughout history include Comanche, General Custer’s favorite mount during the Battle of the Little Bighorn. This famous horse served as a shining example of the breed’s incredible strength, courage, and loyalty—further boosting their popularity and desirability.

The modern buckskin horse is the result of centuries of selective breeding, and the diversity of the breed has only grown as a result. Today’s buckskin horse can be found in virtually every breed classification, from Arabians and Thoroughbreds to Quarter Horses and Appaloosas. This incredible range of breeds is a testament to the global appeal and appreciation for the buckskin horse and the unique qualities they possess.

While the history and origin of the buckskin horse are fascinating in their own right, the breed has carved out its place in equestrian history thanks in no small part to its undeniable beauty and appeal. Owners and riders of buckskin horses often view them as not just mere steeds but as living works of art whose natural beauty lends an extra level of satisfaction and camaraderie to the act of riding.

It’s little wonder, then, that the buckskin horse breed has endured and flourished over the centuries and continues to be one of the most sought-after and admired breeds in the world today. Looking forward, it’s safe to say that the buckskin horse breed will continue to hold a special place in the hearts and minds of those who love and appreciate everything they represent.

From their incredible history to their unmatched beauty and skill, the buckskin horse is truly a breed without equal, and their popularity is sure to endure for many centuries to come.

Picture of a buckskin quarter horse stalliion.
Buckskin quarter horse stallion

Famous Buckskin Horses in Hollywood and the Cowgirl Culture

Buckskin horses have a long and fascinating history, not only as a practical and reliable horse breed but also in Hollywood and the cowgirl culture. These magnificent animals have played prominent roles in numerous American Western movies and TV shows. Let’s saddle up and take a closer look at some of the most iconic buckskin horses that graced the silver screen and inspired generations of cowgirls and cowboys alike.

One more adored buckskin from Hollywood was Buttermilk, the reliable mount of Dale Evans in the TV show “The Roy Rogers Show.” Buttermilk, played by an attractive buckskin horse, was the loyal partner to the show’s leading lady, enhancing the charm of buckskin horses to viewers.

In the world of animation, the fictitious horse Spirit, from the popular kids’ movie “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,” is also a buckskin. Despite being an animated character, Spirit’s personality and adventures have contributed significantly to the enduring appeal of buckskin horses to fans of all ages.

Another cherished buckskin of Hollywood fame was Buck, the faithful horse of Matt Dillon from the enduring TV series “Gunsmoke.” Buck, played by a striking buckskin horse, was the loyal partner to the show’s central character, portrayed by actor James Arness. The bond between Dillon and Buck was a pivotal element in the show’s success and the enduring appeal of buckskin horses to fans of all ages.

Within the cowgirl culture, buckskin horses are often associated with the legend of Calamity Jane, a rough-and-tough frontierswoman who was a contemporary of Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody. Although the exact breed of her horse is unknown, buckskins were common in the American West, and it’s easy to imagine a resourceful cowgirl like Jane riding a sturdy and agile buckskin horse across the plains.

Another popular cowgirl who rode a buckskin horse was rodeo performer Mabel Strickland, who, in the 1920s and 1930s, became one of the most famous trick riders in the world. Strickland and her trusty buckskin horse helped redefine the image of the modern cowgirl. Together, they captivated audiences worldwide with their daring performances and brought the cowgirl culture to the forefront of public consciousness.

Buckskin horses have also found their way into the world of contemporary western horse sports, from reining to barrel racing, where cowgirls and cowboys continue to showcase the skills, beauty, and personality of these remarkable animals. At the heart of the cowgirl culture, you will often find a buckskin horse – a symbol of perseverance, spirit, and resilience.

Whether galloping across the big screen or winning hearts and championships in modern horse sports, buckskin horses have continually demonstrated why they remain so beloved in the world of Hollywood and the cowgirl culture. Their stunning coats and unique patterns, along with their versatility and intelligence, make them stand out from the crowd and captivate audiences of all ages.

The buckskin horse holds a special place in Hollywood history and the cowgirl culture. These iconic animals have not only contributed to the rich tapestry of American Western storytelling but have also inspired countless cowgirls and cowboys to embrace their own sense of adventure and pursue their dreams.

The bond between humans and horses is truly unique, and the stories of famous buckskin horses in Hollywood and the cowgirl culture demonstrate just how deep this connection can be. So, here’s to the buckskin horse – may their legacy continue to flourish and inspire generations to come.

Picture of the sole of a horses foot.

Caring for Your Buckskin Horse

A buckskin horse is a beautiful and unique equine that requires proper care and attention in order to maintain its health, happiness, and magnificent appearance. Just like any other horse breed, the buckskin horse needs regular grooming, exercise, and a balanced diet to thrive.

In this section, I’ll provide you with some handy tips and tricks for caring for your buckskin horse so you can enjoy a strong, healthy, and long-lasting bond. First and foremost, let’s address the striking color of the buckskin horse.

With its distinctive black mane, tail, and lower legs, the buckskin horse is truly eye-catching. However, it’s important to remember that this black pigment can sometimes fade or become discolored due to sun exposure. To prevent your buckskin horse from losing its luster, make sure to provide them with adequate shade or a UV-protective horse blanket during times of intense sunlight.

Regular grooming is essential for keeping your buckskin horse looking and feeling its best. Use a curry comb to remove dirt, sweat, and debris from their coat, which will help maintain the health and shine of their beautiful buckskin color.

Be sure to pay special attention to their mane, tail, and legs, as these are more prone to tangling and matting. Gently remove any knots with a mane and tail brush to keep these black areas looking neat and tidy.

A balanced diet is crucial for any horse, and the buckskin horse is no exception. To ensure your buckskin horse’s health and well-being, provide them with a diet that’s rich in quality forage like hay and grass. They will also benefit from regular meals of grain or pelleted horse feed, which can provide vital vitamins and minerals. Be sure to keep your buckskin horse’s diet well-rounded and avoid overfeeding, as excess weight can cause strain on their joints, hooves, and overall well-being.

Regular exercise is another essential aspect of caring for your buckskin horse. Whether it’s through riding, turnout, or lunging, giving your horse regular workouts will help keep their muscles strong, their joints flexible, and their spirits high. Be mindful not to over-exert your horse, as this can lead to injury or burnout. Instead, aim to provide a consistent, moderate exercise routine that keeps your buckskin horse happy and physically fit.

Proper hoof care is so important for the buckskin horse, as their hooves can be prone to certain issues such as thrush. Regularly pick out your horse’s hooves to remove dirt, debris, and excess moisture, thus preventing thrush from taking hold. You should also schedule regular visits with a professional farrier to have your buckskin horse’s hooves trimmed, balanced, and, if necessary, shod.

Lastly, pay close attention to your buckskin horse’s overall well-being. If you notice any changes in their demeanor, appetite, or physical condition, it’s important to address these concerns right away. Consult with your veterinarian for any health issues or concerns you may have, as they can offer specialized advice and guidance when it comes to caring for your unique buckskin horse.

With proper care, attention, and love, your buckskin horse can provide you with years of joy, companionship, and spectacular beauty. By following these tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to forming a dynamic duo with your stunning buckskin horse.

buckskin horse,
By SkippyTheWonder

Buckskin Horse Associations and Events: Get Involved

If you’re passionate about buckskin horses, you’ll be happy to know there are several buckskin horse associations and events to get involved in. With a rich history and unique colors, buckskin horses have captured the hearts of many horse enthusiasts. To connect with like-minded horse lovers and participate in horse buckskin events and clubs, read on to learn more about these fantastic associations.

One well-known buckskin horse association is the International Buckskin Horse Association (IBHA). Founded in 1971, the IBHA promotes and preserves buckskin horses, as well as other dun breeds, by hosting events and maintaining a registry for these horses. They offer classes for all ages and skill levels, including halter, western pleasure, trail, and more. By taking part in IBHA events, you’ll have opportunities to earn points, win awards, and showcase your horse buckskin at an international level!

Another significant organization, specifically for American buckskin horses, is the American Buckskin Registry Association (ABRA). Established in 1963, the ABRA aims to record and track pedigrees for buckskin, dun, red dun, and grullo horses. They offer a variety of programs, from youth activities to horse shows, providing opportunities for riders, trainers, and breeders to get involved. Plus, the ABRA World Championship Show is an annual highlight, where you can compete with fellow buckskin horse enthusiasts from around the world!

If you’re interested in learning about and celebrating the history of buckskin horses, consider joining the National Buckskin Society (NBS). Committed to preserving the heritage of these horses, the NBS hosts several events throughout the year, including shows and parades. They often invite guest speakers to educate attendees on topics such as horse care, training, and breed history. Don’t miss their annual Buckskin Horse Festival, which attracts members and horse lovers alike to enjoy the beauty of buckskin horses.

Now that you know about some popular buckskin horse associations, let’s discuss a few notable events. The All Breed Classic Horse Show is one annual event that includes classes specifically for buckskin horses, as well as open classes for all breeds. This event is a fantastic opportunity to make connections and compete with your buckskin horse at a top-notch facility against a diverse array of competitors.

Another event that may pique your interest is the Color Breed Congress, which celebrates all colorful horse breeds, including buckskin horses. The Congress offers classes for several breeds and disciplines, so there’s sure to be something for everyone. With an impressive lineup of events, awards, and clinicians, the Color Breed Congress is an unforgettable experience for horse lovers of all kinds.

With so many buckskin horse associations and events available, you’re sure to find the perfect opportunity to get involved and celebrate your love for these horses. Not only will you become part of a supportive and knowledgeable community, but you’ll also have a chance to deepen your understanding and appreciation of buckskin horses. So go ahead and dive into the world of buckskin horses – you won’t regret it.

How did the term ‘buckskin’ come to be used?

The term “buckskin” likely originated from the fact that the color of the horse’s coat resembled the color of tanned deerskins, which were commonly referred to as “buckskins.” The use of the term can be traced back to at least the early 19th century, and it has since become a popular term in the equine world to describe this particular shade of horse color.

The term “buckskin” may also have been influenced by the historical use of buckskin as a type of leather material for clothing and equipment. Buckskin jackets, for example, were a popular type of clothing among hunters and outdoorsmen. The color of these jackets likely contributed to the association between the color of the horse’s coat and the term “buckskin.

Picture of a silver buckskin horse with a dapple coat.
Silver buckskin with dapples

The Colors of Buckskin Horses

Buckskin horses are known for their distinctive golden or tan coat color and black points on their mane, tail, legs, and ear edges. However, the world of buckskin horses is much more complex than this simple description suggests.

In fact, there are many different shades and variations within the buckskin color category, each with its own unique characteristics and traits. In this section, we will explore the fascinating range of colors found in buckskin horses, from the classic tan-and-black look to rare and unusual variations that are sure to catch your eye.

Buttermilk buckskin

Buttermilk is the lightest colored buckskin coat, and just like all buckskin horses, they have dark points. Below is a photo of a buttermilk horse. Some buttermilks are much lighter than the horse in the photograph.

Picture of a dusty buckskin horse,
By Cocopelli – Own work,

Dusty buckskin

A dusty buckskin is a lighter version of a sooty horse with standard coloring and no definitive dorsal stripe.

Picture of a sooty buckskin horse.
By Satu Pitkänen – Self-photographed,

Sooty buckskin.

Sooty Buckskin- The stallion below may look like a dun, but he is a buckskin. He has the dilution gene and bay genes. Sooty horses have a genetic modification resulting in a horse that looks like soot has been dumped over him, i.e., darker on top and lighter underneath. These are the darkest of this color breed.

Picture of a standard buckskin horse,
Standard buckskin

Standard buckskins.

A standard buckskin can vary in shades, but the horse should have a coat color similar to a deer. The horse below is standard colored and on the lighter side of the spectrum.

buckskin horse,
CC BY-SA 3.0,

Silver buckskins.

A silver buckskin horse has light gray hairs intermingled in its coat. Some silvers have a considerable amount of grey to the point they will look like a gray horse and have a shiny overcoat. These are the lightest-colored of this color breed.

Arsdelicata [CC BY-SA 3.0 ] Dorsal stripe

Buckskins can’t have blue eyes.

A buckskin horse cannot have blue eyes due to its specific genetic makeup. The gene responsible for creating the buckskin color pattern only produces horses with amber or brown eyes. If a horse resembles a buckskin but has blue eyes, it’s likely the result of a genetic phenomenon called double dilution, which affects coat color and eye color. However, such horses, despite their striking appearance, are not considered true buckskins.

This is a good YouTube video that includes buckskin horses of various colors and shades.


Are buckskin horses a breed?

Buckskin horses are not a specific breed of horse but rather a coloration that is shared across different breeds. While buckskin horses may come from various breeds, they share certain common characteristics, such as soundness, endurance, and sure-footedness.

Are buckskin horses rare?

Buckskin horses are not rare. Particular buckskin color patterns are less common than other buckskin color patterns. The standard color buckskin, displaying tan with standard black points, is the most common buckskin color.

Miles Henry