Colours & Markings

A horse’s markings and hair patterns are so individual, they can be used to identify one horse from another. All horses, ponies and donkeys in the UK now need to have their own passport and their colour and markings are recorded here so we know who is who.


Before you see what a horse's passport looks like, you'll need to know the names for the various markings that horses can have.





Black - it’s very rare to see a black horse, as they must not have any brown hairs, not even any dark brown hairs. The horse in the photo is a Friesian - they are always black in colour.




Brown - like Manduro, brown is when a horse is dark brown all over and with brown points (mane, tail, legs or ears.)


Bay - a very common colour for thoroughbreds. They have a brown body (often mid to light brown) and black points (mane, tail, legs and ears). Darley stallion Exceed and Excel (pictured) would be described as a ‘bright bay’.


Chestnut - reddish brown, like humans with red hair. They should not have any black on them. The stallion in the photo is New Approach, who you may have seen at Dalham Hall Stud.


Grey - This is when horses have a lot of white in their coat. They are normally dark at first and become lighter and lighter with age until they are almost fully white. They can have darker skin, eyes and muzzle than the rest of their body. The horse in the photos below is Slickly, who raced in Europe, America and Dubai and is now a Darley stallion in France. You can see that he has become much lighter since he went to stud.




These are the most common colours for thoroughbreds, but in other breeds there are a variety of other different colours and colour combinations, such as:



Markings are the areas of white hair found on a horse's body. In thoroughbreds, this white is found on the legs or the face.











The other markings used to identify horses are chestnuts and whorls.




As mentioned in the points of the horse, the exact location of a horse's chestnuts is particularly individual and can be used to identify one horse from another.





A whorl is like the top of our head, where the hair changes direction. In a horse, it looks like a little whirlpool of hair, circling around itself. They can be located anywhere and no two horses will have the same pattern. They are usually found somewhere on the crest, the stifle and often on the legs.


Just like us, horses need passports as every one is a bit different and we need to be able to tell who is who when they are travelling around. Horse passport


Below are the official diagrams that need to be filled in by a vet to go into a horse's passport. There are no photos inside the passport, only these diagrams.


Diagram one