There’s just something majestic about black horses. Maybe it’s the fame of The Black Stallion or the beauty and elegance of black horses that delights us. In celebration of our love of black horses, here are 12 facts that you might not know:
- As we’ve previously discussed, there are only two base colors in horses: black and red (chestnut). Every other color is a modified version of one of these two colors.
- Black is dominant over chestnut. If a black horse carries two copies of the black gene, the horse is said to be homozygous black; if a black horse carries one copy of the black gene and one copy of the red gene, the horse is heterozygous black.
- Two black horses can produce a black foal. Or a chestnut. That’s because if each of the black horses carries a copy of the recessive chestnut gene, the foal could conceivably receive a copy from each parent and—voila!—a chestnut foal arrives.
- Two black horses cannot produce a bay foal, but two bay horses can (theoretically) produce a black foal. It’s complicated but true.
- Black horses are born…gray? While this isn’t always the case, many black horses are a unique shade of mouse-gray at birth. The true black coat is revealed after the mousey-colored baby coat sheds out.
- The classic children’s novel, Black Beauty, is said to have sold over 50 million copies since its publication in 1877.
- A black mare named Burmese was gifted to Queen Elizabeth II in 1969 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Queen rode Burmese during the Trooping the Color ceremonies for nearly twenty years.
- Friesian horses are well-known for their black coloring and minimal white markings.
- Some black horses “fade” in the summer sun, and these are known as (you guessed it) “fading blacks.” Black horses that retain their ink-black coloring are known as (here comes another shocker) “non-fading blacks.”
- The “most famous fictional horse of the century” (according to the New York Times) is Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion. At the time of Mr. Farley’s death in 1989, his books were said to have sold more than 12 million copies.
- A black Thoroughbred named Black Gold was the winner of the 1924 Kentucky Derby and a Hall of Fame entrant. Black Gold was also the focus of Marguerite Henry’s 1957 book of the same name.
- Aside from Black Gold, only three other black horses have won the Kentucky Derby: Halma in 1895, George Smith in 1916, and Flying Ebony in 1925.
Samantha Johnson is a freelance writer and the author of several books, including The Field Guide to Horses, (Voyageur Press, 2009). She raises Welsh Mountain Ponies in northern Wisconsin and is a certified horse show judge. Follow her on Twitter: @miraclewelsh