We’ve talked about the allure of palomino horses and explored facts about chestnuts, but today let’s turn our attention to horses of yet another delightful color: gray. With their stunning beauty and fascinating genetics, gray horses have delighted equine enthusiasts for centuries. Let’s take a closer look.
2. Gray can be spelled g-r-e-y- or g-r-a-y. Some breed associations prefer grey, others prefer gray. The University of California-Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory uses gray.
3. They can be born any color. There’s a common misconception that all grays are born black. Not so! They could conceivably be born ANY color. (It’s interesting to note, however, that when a black foal is going to go gray, it is usually born a deep, jet-black. Black foals that do not carry the gray gene are often born a mousy-gray color, which is why people sometimes joke that “black horses are born gray, gray horses are born black.”)
4. Gray is a modifier. Gray modifies the base coat color, transforming it to gray. Genetically, the horse is the color it appeared at birth, but the presence of the gray gene modifies the coat color to gray.
5. They must have at least one gray parent. The gray gene is a dominant gene and cannot “show up” later on, as recessive genes are wont to do. So if your horse is gray, you know without question that one or both of its parents were gray.
6. They keep life interesting thanks to the myriad shades of this color from “rose gray” and “dappled” to “flea-bitten” and “pure white.” It’s a transformative process that can take many years.
7. Grays are found in many breeds. The color is commonly associated with the Lipizzan breed, but it is also very common in Andalusians, Arabians, Welsh Ponies, and is accepted as a color by most breed registries.
8. Gray horses have won the Kentucky Derby on eight occasions. These famous gray Thoroughbreds include: Determine, Decidedly, Spectacular Bi, Gato Del Sol, Winning Colors (a filly), Silver Charm, Monarchos, and—most recently—Giacamo in 2005.
9. The only Kentucky Derby winner to be disqualified was a gray. Dancer’s Image, initial winner of the 1968 Kentucky Derby, was later disqualified after a drug test showed the presence of phenylbutazone. The disqualification remains a topic of controversy even today.
10. The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit, the 1968 Disney comedy starring Dean Jones and Kurt Russell, features a gray horse named Aspercel.
Has your life been influenced by the companionship of a gray horse? Share your stories in the comments!