Everything You Need To Know About The Dapple Gray Horse

If you’re interested in horses, then you’re in the right place. We have all the information you need regarding the care of horses, breeds of horses and even guides of how to ride horses! This guide is all about the Dapple Gray Horse. 

A dapple gray horse is a type of gray horse, but it is not a separate horse breed altogether. Instead, the dapple is a type of coat color that you will find on a range of different horse breeds.  

You will have seen a Dapple gray horse before, as these ones tend to have darker spots or round circles along their coat which give them an attractive, eye-catching appearance. So, exactly what is a dapple gray horse and is it different to a gray horse? Let’s find out! 

What Is A Gray Horse?

Gray horses occur when the predominant gray gene overrides other genes. This means that the coat will always be a gray color. The gene itself is not a color, it mainly dilutes the color of the base coat hairs, creating graying around the eyes and muzzle, and along the coat. 

This dilution of color continues as the horse ages, with most gray horses becoming whiter and whiter, and some becoming fully white at about six years old. 

What Is A Dapple Gray Horse?

A dapple horse is a horse with a dappling pattern or effect on its hair. A dapple is a small ring or dark ring with light colored hairs. These rings can be scattered all over the body or in certain parts where there is more hair. 

Dappling occurs due to black pigment in the hair shaft, rather than the actual skin. What this means is that if you clipped or shaved a dappled horse, they would look the same as a normal horse underneath the hair. 

Dappling is down to the genes, as the positioning of the black pigment in the hair is controlled by the genetics, which is what causes those circles and spots to appear. Dappling is therefore a result of the genes of a gray horse, and is part of the dilution process as it ages.

Some say that dappling can also be caused by good nutrition, as it is essential for a healthy skin and coat. When a horse, such as a gray horse is predisposed to dappling, with good sources of protein, minerals and vitamins, they can develop dappling in their hair. 

Dapple gray horses may have only a little bit of dappling, or a lot of it, and it can sometimes fade with age. For some horses, the dapple only appears at certain stages in their lives, and it is part of the ageing process.

A gray horse will have characteristics such as silvery gray hairs. Most gray horses will have black skin and darkly colored eyes. Gray horses are affected by dappling, as this may appear on their skin during different stages in their lives, and the hair may eventually become whiter in patches.

A dapple gray horse may even eventually become completely white in color.

However, this does not mean that the Dapple gray is a white horse, as white horses have pink skin and blue eyes. In contrast, a gray horse can be various shades of gray when born, but as it matures, the base gray color will slowly be replaced by whiter hairs.

Overview Of Dapple Gray Horse


A Dapple gray horse is not a breed of horse, so there are no definitive answers for how tall they are. The dapple is a coat condition, so is not strictly related to specific height horses. On average, horses such as gray horses with this condition are about 1.4 to 1.8m at the withers. 


In a similar way to the height section, dappling can affect various breeds of horses, so the weight may also vary. Generally speaking, most horses with a Dapple gray coat will be between 900 pounds and 2,000 pounds. 


A dapple gray horse will look similar to regular gray horses, but they will have dark rings with white hairs inside of them. The dappling can often affect all areas of the horse, and cover the entire coat, or can sometimes just be at the rear of the horse near the legs.

The Dapple gray is not a breed, and can apply to various horses, so these horses can be smaller and compact, muscular, medium-sized or taller. 

Horse Breeds With Dapple Coloring

Despite it being a coat condition that affects various different horses, dappling will not appear on all horses. This genetic condition and attractive feature can only be specific to some breeds of horse. For instance the ones following below can all show the dapple gray effect. 

  • Irish Sport Horse
  • Andalusian Horse
  • Poitevin Horse
  • Standardbred Horse
  • Mangalarga Marchador
  • Lippizan Horse
  • Oldenburg Horse
  • Hanoverian

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Dapple Gray Horse?

A Dapple gray horse is not a type of horse. Dappling is more of a coat condition that affects gray horses.

The hair of the horse is controlled by their genetics, and some may have more black pigmentation than others. This creates a spotted or dappled appearance on the body, with dark rings and white hairs in the middle.

Is A Dapple A Breed Of Horse?

No, dapple gray is not a breed, but a condition that affects many breeds of horses, resulting in deposits of light and dark spots on the body. 

What Health Issues Do Dapple Horses Have?

Most dapple gray horses will face the same health issues as other horses and will need to have all of their vaccinations. In addition, to keep the coat healthy, you will have to regularly worm and flea the horse and keep on top of treatments. 

However, dapple gray horses are also more prone to melanoma than any other horses, breeds and colors. They may develop dark lumps around the body, near the head, around the anus and under the tail or in the sheath of gelding horses.

This health problem unfortunately also affects all gray horses, with more than 70 percent of gray horses over the age of 15 suffering melanomas near their tails and heads. 

Does Dappling Get More Prominent With Age?

No, dappling does not get more prominent with age. Much like other gray horses, dapples do not stick with their true color. Instead, they tend to lose color from their coats as they age. 

With each year, these horses tend to get lighter and lighter and lighter until they are all but white all over. Therefore, dappling is simply a stage in the graying process of a gray horse.

Are Dapple Gray Horses More Desirable?

Dapple Gray horses are often considered more attractive to the eye, but as we mentioned above it is not a permanent coat condition, and will fade over time.

In addition, gray horses are prone to skin conditions, skin cancer and melanomas later on in life, which can make them less desirable to potential buyers because there is the risk of medical bills and ill health to watch out for. 

What Color Skin Do Gray Horses Have?

Most gray horses will have black or dark skin underneath their fur, and have a black base color. However, there are some exceptions. 

Will A Horse Always Be Dapple?

Unfortunately, no a horse will not always be dapple, as most will turn completely white as they age. Horses born with gray allele or genes can vary in color.

Some can start off dark gray, or lighter gray, but as they begin to age, the hairs slowly stop producing melanin. This results in the dappled effect, but as time passes, the hair will slowly turn completely white. 


To summarize, a Dapple Gray horse is not a specific breed of horse, and is a coat condition that affects horses with gray hair. Therefore, the majority of gray horse breeds will develop a dappling effect on their bodies at some point during their life as they slowly change to a lighter, whiter color. 

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