Dapple Grey Horse: Info, Pictures, Characteristics, and FAQs

Dapple gray horse running in the field

You’ve probably heard about bay, brown, chestnut, and even golden horses. While each horse coloration has its own unique charm, dapple grey horses are preferred more by many horse enthusiasts. Because of their unique shade, they surely deserve more recognition.

A grey horse is quite common in many breeds. However, not all grey horses appear the same.

It might come as a surprise that a young foal that is born with a completely different coloration suddenly turns into a dapple grey horse.

The transformation process of dapple grey horses is just one of the many interesting aspects about them. If you want to find out more about their appearance, genetics, and other facts, just continue scrolling!

What Is a Dapple Grey Horse? What Is Dappling in Horses?

Dapple grey horse runs in winter snowy field

A dapple grey horse is a color variation of many horse breeds including Lipizzans, Andalusians, and Percherons. Their mesmerizing color is caused by a special gene that dilutes the horse’s base colors. The most distinct feature of dapple grey horses is the pattern of dark rings over their grey coat color.

These rings are caused by the dappling phenomenon in these horses. These “dapples” can be scattered throughout the horse’s grey coat or more prominent in some areas. There are two types of this pattern: true dapples and bloom dapples.

True dapples are exhibited naturally by a dapple horse due to their genes while bloom dapples are rings that suddenly appear on the horse’s coat mainly because of their health and diet. After some time, bloom dapple rings may disappear.

Dappling can also be exhibited by other horse colors but it is more commonly attributed to grey horses. At each stage of a horse’s graying process, the amount of dappling patterns changes as they grow older.

Dapple Grey Horse Color Genetics: Understanding the Dappling Phenomenon in Horses

Genetics plays a major role in the appearance of dapple grey horses. Their coat color is produced by the dominant gray gene (G).

This gene is responsible for diluting the horse’s base color progressively until it turns into an almost white color.

Since the grey gene is dominant, it means that a horse with only one copy of the grey allele can exhibit this color. A homozygous grey horse (GG) will always produce gray offspring regardless of the color of the other horse.

On the other hand, if the grey horse is heterozygous (Gg), the foal may be grey or not depending on the other parent.

Dappling in grey horses is a consequence of having the grey gene. In some areas of the horse’s coat, the gene may be deactivated.

As a result, the dapple patterns appear on the body. This deactivation phenomenon also creates the “flea-bitten” or “speckled grey” pattern in other horses.

Dapple Grey Horse Appearance: What Does a Dapple Grey Horse Look Like?

Dapple gray horse with plated mane running through the field

A dapple grey horse’s appearance can best be described through the different stages of its development. Since it is a transformative process, their gray coloring and dappling pattern changes over time.

When grey horses are born, their coats are not yet grey. These foals can either have bay, black, chestnut, or any base coat color. After a while, they begin to show some white hairs, particularly around the eyes and muzzle.

Once they reach a year old, the dapple grey horse or yearlings begin to have a dark steel grey coat, displaying some dapple patterns.

However, the shade of grey can vary depending on the horse’s base color. Black foals develop an iron or steel gray color while bays or chestnuts develop a reddish shade called “rose gray.”

At two to four years old, the dapples become the most evident. Most of their dark hairs have lightened and they become full-fledged dapple horses. At six years old, they almost look white with faded dapples. 

To distinguish them from white horses, you need to look at their skin. If it’s a dark color, then you’re looking at a dapple grey horse.

However, it’s important to note that some horses never lose their dapple patterns entirely.

Dapple Grey Horse Breeds: What Horses Are Dappled Gray?

Grey-coated horses are widespread across numerous horse breeds. However, some breeds predominantly produce dapple grey horses while others have them at a much lower percentage.

The three known horse breeds with a majority of dapples are Lipizzan or Lipizzaner, Andalusian, and Percheron. Each of these horses is described below along with other breeds that produce grey horses.

Lipizzaner Horse

Dapple gray Lipizzaner horse

Lipizzaner horses have been around since the 16th century and were famous for demonstrating dance movements in the horse riding schools of Vienna. However, this breed originated in Slovenia.

Like other dapple grey horses, they are born a dark color that subsequently lightens over time. However, this breed wasn’t always gray.

The selective color breeding started over 200 years ago due to the royal Haspurg family’s preference for light-colored horses.

Andalusian Horse

Dapple gray Andalusian horse

Andalusians, or the Pure Spanish Horse (PRE), is another grey horse breed that originated in the Iberian Peninsula.

They are strongly built and compact horses that were mainly used for war and as a means of transportation for noble people.

It is estimated that around 80% of today’s Andalusians are dapple grey. The remaining 15% are bay horses while the other 5% are either black, palomino, or chestnut.

Percheron Horse

Dapple grey Percheron horse

Another predominantly grey horse breed is the Percheron horse. They were utilized in France as war horses during the 17th century. Eventually, they became carriage horses and later for agricultural purposes.

Percherons’ hair can also be black, roan, bay, or chestnut but horse registries in France and Great Britain only accept dapple grey and black colors. 

Irish Sport Horse

Dapple gray Irish Sports horse

The Irish Sport Horse, also known as the Irish Hunter, is a horse breed used mostly for running and jumping competitions. Their strong-boned, muscular, and well-proportioned appearance make them well-suited for these events.

Irish Hunters are produced from the combination of the Thoroughbred and the Irish Draught horse. The most common hair colors for these horses include dapple gray, black, chestnut, brown, and roan.

Lusitano Horse

Dapple grey Portugal Lusitano horse

You can also find grey horses in the Lusitano breed that was first found in Portugal. Their popularity dates back to the Roman age when they were mainly used for war, dressage, and bullfighting.

Lusitano horses come in any solid color, although they generally have dapple grey, chestnut, or bay coats.

Orlov Horse

Dapple gray Orlov Trotter horse running on sand on a stud farm

The Orlov or the Orlov Trotter breed is notable for its incredible speed and stamina. They are the most popular breed in Russia used for riding and harness racing during the 19th century.

Many Orlovs are grey horses due to their Arabian horse origins. Currently, it is estimated that around 46% of Orlov horses are dapple gray, 28% are black, 20% are bay while the remaining 5% are chestnut horses.

Welsh Pony

Dapple Grey Welsh Pony horse

The Welsh Pony or the Welsh Cob is a pony breed that evolved in the Welsh Mountains of Wales.

They were mostly used as transportation horses for the working people back in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nowadays, they are famous for joining shows and harness competitions.

Welsh ponies are generally dapple grey but you may also find them in other common equine colors. However, they cannot be paint, piebald, or skewbald horses.

READ NEXT: Palomino Horse: All You Need to Know About This Golden Horse

Do Dapple Grey Horses Eventually Turn White?

As horses age, they often change their coat color. This is true for dapple grey horses which may eventually turn into an almost white color.

This usually happens when they reach 6 to 8 years old and is called the greying process. At this point, their dapple rings have almost faded out completely.

When a dapple grey horse undergoes complete depigmentation, nearly all of its hair becomes white.

As mentioned, it’s easy for them to be mistaken as white horses because of their graying coat. The clear distinction between the two is their skin color. 

White horses have pink skin while grey horses have dark, almost black skin. This can easily be seen when you look around their eyes, mouth, and genital area.

Are Dapple Grey Horses Similar to Silver Dapples?

Dapple grey horses and silver dapples are different in many ways. First of all, two different genes control their coat color. The specific dilution gene responsible for silver dapples is called PMEL17 (Z).

This gene specifically lightens the mane and tail of a horse while subtly diluting its base coat color. In other words, it is not one of the coat color genes that mostly causes the coat color of horses.

If a horse has a black base, the silver dapple gene will turn their coats into a chocolate color. Bay horses, on the other hand, will have the darker areas of their coat lightened as well as their points.

The picture below shows a silver dapple horse:

Silver dapple horse

One downside of carrying this gene is the possibility of acquiring a genetic condition called Multiple Congenital Ocular Anomalies (MCOA).

This is an eye disorder characterized by the formation of cysts, enlargement of the cornea, and abnormal development of the retina.

Several horse breeds such as Arabian, Quarter Horse, Saddlebred, and other related breeds are prone to inherit this condition from their parents that carry the gene.

READ NEXT: Bay Horse: 15 Color Variations of Bay Horses Explained (With Pictures)

Are Dapple Grey Horses Rare?

You learned in the previous sections that a lot of horse breeds can be greys. They are still not considered the most popular, but they are definitely not rare either.

Dapple gray horses belong to the top five in-demand horse coat colors along with black, bay, chestnut, and pinto.

Nowadays, it’s been reported that for every 10 horses, there is one horse that carries the grey gene.

For a higher chance of acquiring a dapple gray horse, you should look for horse breeds where they are most common such as the Lipizzan, Andalusian, and Percherons.

Dapple Grey Horse Temperament: Does Dappling Make Gray Horses Behave Differently?

Dapple gray horse sits next to a dog

A horse’s temperament is mainly a product of its environment, upbringing, and breed. Their coat color has nothing to do with the behavior they can develop growing up. Color only affects their appearance and nothing else.

For you to have an idea of what the dapple grey horse’s temperament could be, let’s discuss the personalities of the three breeds that are mostly grey horses.

If a dapple gray horse is a Lipizzan breed, you can expect them to show high intelligence and a positive response to training.

Most horse owners describe them as sweet, gentle, and eager to please. Sometimes, they can exhibit a stubborn streak.

An Andalusian dapple gray horse is also smart and easy to train. They are quite sensitive yet brave.

They are also very versatile and adaptable to different situations. Despite their strong spirit and desire to always perform, they surprisingly show docile behavior.

Lastly, if you have a Percheron dapple gray horse, you should be prepared for its highly energetic personality.

But even though they are known to be bold and fearless, these horses are really easy to control. Overall, they are well-tempered and clever horses.

Dapple Grey Horse Lifespan and Health Issues: Do Dapple Gray Horses Have More Health Problems?

A dapple grey horse’s lifespan depends on its breed and lifestyle. However, most horses are known to live for 25 to 30 years. Those who have the best health until their late years can even reach 40 years old.

However, some dapple grey horses can be predisposed to have serious diseases and conditions that can shorten their lives. 

Here is a list of some health issues in dapples you should watch out for:

  • Melanoma: This is a skin disease that causes the formation of dark grey or black nodules in the horse’s skin, typically on the neck, head, and underside of the tail. Melanoma is extremely common in grey horses, especially those over 7 to 8 years old. While some nodules are not harmful, others can be tested as malignant.
  • Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD): Like other horses, dapple grays can experience DJD or osteoarthritis. This causes the joints to swell and become stiff. Forceful training and exercise can develop into this condition.
  • Gastric Ulcers: Dapple gray horses can also suffer from gastric ulcers if they engage in sports like racing, jumping, and other physically exhausting competitions. A good feeding routine and a well-proportioned diet can prevent these ulcers.
  • Desmitis: When a horse experiences desmitis, the limbs become inflamed and eventually leads to lameness. A specific type of desmitis called suspensory desmitis is caused by an injury on the forelimbs and hindlimbs.

Just like any other animal, dapple grey horses need regular health monitoring and immediate medical attention once any symptom of the mentioned conditions above starts appearing.

How Much Does a Dapple Grey Horse Cost? Are Dapple Grey Horses Expensive?

Beautiful dapple gray horse rests on a snowy field

Horses, in general, are not cheap animals. If you wish to own a dapple grey horse, you should have between $3,500 and $7,000 in your bank account.

Grey horses that come from superior bloodlines and rare breeds are often priced at $15,000 to $45,000.

Once you settle the horse purchase, you need to think about the expenses that come after. Dapple gray horses live for a very long time so it’s wise to plan your finances ahead of time. 

Refer to the table below for a guided price breakdown of their yearly expenses:

Type of ExpenseAverage Cost
Horse Food (Hay, Grain, etc.)$1,000
Farrier Service$350
Medical Care$485
Training$2,400
Horse Insurance$300
Total Yearly Cost$4,535

The estimated annual cost of expenses for a dapple horse can reach around $4,535. By ensuring your horse’s health and well-being, you can significantly reduce this amount to a minimum.

Places to Find Dapple Grey Horses for Sale or Adoption

Now that you are fully equipped with knowledge about dapple grey horses, you can start finding out how you can have one for your own.

If you are already a horse enthusiast, you might have an idea about grey horse breeders from peers and other connections.

For those who just started dipping their toes into the equine world, this list of horse marketplaces can bring you to your first dapple grey horse:

  • EquineNow – This is a website where horse breeders across the United States can put up their horses for sale. With just a few clicks, you can search for a dapple grey horse for sale according to its price and your location.
  • Horse Clicks – Another platform called Horse Clicks can assist you in finding a grey horse in whatever breed you wish. You won’t have to worry about unsafe transactions when you use this website due to its intelligent monitoring system.
  • Dream Horse – Dream Horse is a horse market website that has a huge directory of horses for sale, including dapple gray horses. Like EquineNow and Horse Clicks, you need to create an account before you can make a transaction with any breeder.

If you wish to adopt a dapple grey horse, you can refer to this list of rescue organizations:

When buying or adopting a dapple grey horse, always ask the breeder or volunteer about their health. Make sure to request health records and certificates, if any.

Dapple Grey Horse Name Ideas: What Do You Name a Dapple Gray Horse?

After getting your lovely dapple grey horse, it’s time for the difficult task of naming them. Whether you have a mare or a stallion, you need to give them a name that just makes sense and undoubtedly, matches their color. 

Check out the possible horse names you can give to your dapple grey horse:

  • Angel
  • Dusty
  • Dream
  • Grayson
  • Ghost
  • Knight
  • Luna
  • Moonwater
  • Nimbus
  • Pegasus
  • Quicksilver
  • Rain
  • Storm
  • Skyfall

I hope you find these name suggestions helpful! Rember to get creative as you can because this is the identity they will be carrying for a long time.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Dapple grey horse in meadow at summer

Is Dapple Grey a Breed of Horse?

A dapple grey horse is a color variation and not a separate breed of horses. This is a common color for many horse breeds such as Orlov, Thoroughbred, Irish Sport Horses, and others.

These horses go through a series of color transformations that usually ends in almost white color.

What Is the Rarest Horse Color?

The rarest horse color is white. Unlike gray horses, white horses have full white hair and pink skin.

They are also born as white foals with blue or brown eyes color. They also don’t undergo any color changes and will remain white for the rest of their lives.

Are Dapple Gray Horses Dangerous?

Dapple gray horses are not dangerous horses. Their behavior will mostly depend on their breed, the treatment of their owners, and the training they received. Most dapple gray horse breeds are highly intelligent and docile.

Final Thoughts

Dapple grey horses are not only admired because of their color and unique metamorphosis. They can be found in all areas of horse events and competitions. They are truly more than what meets the eye.

Before buying a dapple gray horse, you need to be aware of the health issues that they can have, especially melanoma.

Talk to your vet or ask a breeder about the probability of your horse developing this life-threatening disease.

It’s also vital to know which breed is more fitted for your needs. A certain breed may be suited for racing or jumping events while others are mainly used for dressage.

Talk to horse experts and read more about each breed to find out which dapple gray horse breed can match you perfectly.

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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