Horses are no less than mythical creatures roaming around the earth in all their glory. Most often than not, their beautiful appearance and variations in coating bring about a magical aura to them. And one such other-worldly creature is the blue roan horse.
Blue Roan Horses are practically horses with an underlying coat in the darker shade, preferably black or deep brown. If it’s a lighter shade of underlying coat, it’s often a red roan horse and if it’s the opposite, it’s a blue roan horse.
However, that’s not all that goes into the specifications of a blue roan horse. There are several genetic and appearance factors that play a major role in such cases. Let’s have a good look into many such factors and attempt to find everything about these magical beasts.
What Is A Blue Roan Horse?
Blue roan horses are horses with a unique color variant in their underlying coating. Fun fact – they aren’t actually blue even though the name suggests exactly that.
Nope. Despite being called “blue” roan horses, they are originally a mixture of light grey or white with a darker underlying coating. In fact, these are the primary characteristics of a roan horse.
The term “roan” refers to a certain color pattern that’s prevalent in some of the horses with the dominant roan genes. In other cases, it’s absent due to recessive genetic traits.
Now, several other genetic factors determine the underlying coating color and pattern of these roan horses. Whenever a roan horse is born with a deep shade of coating that later evolves to a darker shade like black, it’s referred to as a blue roan horse.
What Does A Blue Roan Horse Look Like?
Here’s where it gets pretty interesting. Despite not having any trace of blue hair on their body, these roan horses can often appear blue in the naked eye. My theory about them being mythical creatures is starting to sound more and more reasonable, isn’t it?
But, no. It’s simply a beautifully orchestrated trick on the eyes. Plus, a little help from the proper lighting and environment. Really goes to show just how easy it is to get deceived by nature, doesn’t it?
The dark underlying coating only constitutes 50% of the coloring in a roan horse. The other 50% is either light grey or white or ashy hair. As a result, the equal mixture of light and dark-colored hair gives off the optical illusion of a blue-hued appearance.
And, yes. The lighting also plays a major role in this case. In soft and clear lighting, especially during twilight, the illusion is at its peak i.e., you can almost see them as blue from a distance. However, in the dark, they appear just like regular horses with no definite significance in their appearance.
That being said, not all horses that appear to be blue are blue roan horses. Sometimes, people mistake a sabino, rabicano, or grey-gened horse as a roan horse due to similarities in their coating. Even though these horses can appear blue in certain circumstances, they don’t have the ‘roan’ gene in them. That’s why they are best known as roaming horses i.e., false roans.
History and Popularity of The Blue Roan Horse
Roan horses have been around for a long time and there’s no doubt about that. However, they were first genetically identified as a separate variation of horses back in 1977. Which is really not that long ago if you think about it.
These first identified species belonged to a group of Belgian horses in both the European and North American quarters. This is also the reason why Belgian horses are termed as one of the primary ancestors of blue roan horses.
Back when they were discovered, people were aware of the more common shades like red, brown, etc. that are now known as red roans and chestnuts. Blue roans weren’t as popularly known back then due to their rare occurrence.
So, people decided to name them “roans”. The word roan had been around for a few hundred years by then and it implicated the reddish-brown colour. As a result, everyone put two and two together and that’s how roan horses came into existence.
Fun fact – roan in Irish means little redhead. Little did they know, soon they would get to see the blue roan horses that wouldn’t have any similarities to either red or brown stallions.
In a way, they were always popular in one way or the other as common people love unique things. And these horses certainly fit the bill in that category. In fact, there are several stories of kings and queens throughout the world owning these superior creatures to show off their royalty.
Many kings brought in roan horses from distant lands to breed their own as thoroughbreds. Upon seeing them, the other royal families started to grow a strong fascination for them as well. And soon, the fascination for them spread all around among both royalty and common people.
Later on, they became much more popular around the 1900s when they were featured in many cultural shows, books, novels, etc. This was possible mainly due to Shakespeare. He was a huge roan fan and used to ride one himself.
Many of his stories and novels speak about the beautiful blue roan horse and their graceful adventures. As a result, they piqued the interest of a lot of people at the time and became quite the fascination.
What Makes A True Blue Roan Horse?
True blue roan horses are the ones with the darkest shade of underlying coating i.e. a black coating. Even though any roan horse with a dark shade of underlying coating like dark grey is a blue roan horse, only the black ones get to be true blue roans.
There is a very specific reason as to why this happens. For one – only the black underlying coating perfectly complements the other 50% of lightened hair. This completes the optical illusion of the blue-hue or blue roan appearance.
Again, any other dark underlying shade except the completely black one is found in other breeds one way or the other. For example – dark grey is often found in thoroughbreds that can also appear blue at times even though they don’t have the roan gene in them.
The same goes for the deep dark brownish underlying shades. In addition to the chestnut horses and red roans, sometimes chest bay roan horses are also mistaken as blue roans due to their indifference to the underlying coating. Not everyone has the professional or keen eyes to spot such differences most of the time.
As a result, since almost all other underlying shades of the blue roan horses can be mistaken for the other except the black, they are termed as true-blue roans. The mutual combination of black and white coating gives them the proper blue roan look that’s impossible to find in any other breed.
How to Identify A Blue Roan Horse?
Well, yes. Seeing whether the horse gives off a blue-hued appearance from a distance would be a good place to start in order to identify a blue roan horse. However, you would be mighty wrong if you think that that’s the only way to identify a blue roan horse.
Here are a few of the physical traits that you can use to find out whether a horse is a blue roan or not:
- Initial Appearance Vs. True Appearance
Blue roan horses don’t come out of the womb looking the way that they do. In fact, they bear no resemblance to the blue-hued appearance at all during and after birth. As a result, it’s often hard to determine whether a horse actually has the roan gene or not.
It’s only after the horses shed their initial coating, that the true appearance starts to develop slowly. Initially, they often appear fully black as a fowl. After the shedding, the dark underlying coat is revealed and the rest of the light-colored hair starts to appear.
- Even Mixture of Hair Throughout the Body
As previously mentioned, a blue roan horse is a 50-50 combination of dark and light-colored hair. This unique combination is what gives them the illusion of a blue-ish appearance. And in blue roan horses, you’ll find this combo of hairs equally distributed all over the horse’s body.
For example – a horse with a Rabicano pattern will also have white patches of hair in combination with the dark black coat. But these lighter hairs are often clumped together – especially around the tail base and the flanks. Meanwhile, you’ll find no such disruptions of clumped hair in a blue roan horse.
- Changes in Coloring Due to Aging
The proverb – time will tell the truth; apparently stands true for blue roan horses as well. In their cases, the variations in the underlying coating clearly express whether they are a blue roan horse or not.
Unlike most other horses, the color of the underlying coating in a roan horse doesn’t change over time. It remains the same shade all its life. On the other hand, the coating of a grey horse will gradually lighten over time and eventually become white-ish. So, that’s a great way to identify a roan horse.
What Breeds Have Blue Roan Horses?
Blue roan horses come from a variety of breeds. Actually, it’s all about how pre-dominant the roan gene is in them. Let’s take a look into some of the most common breeds that have blue roan horses.
American Quarter Horse
American Quarter Horses are known worldwide for their thorough participation in all sorts of racing activities. Especially in short sprint racing. They are also known for their abundance in blue roan breedings.
American Quarter Horses are acknowledged in seventeen different color variations and blue roan is one of the specialized variations. These horses have evolved from a combination of various European horses like the Percherons, Belgians, etc. Presumably, that’s where the roan gene comes from as well.
Thoroughbred is also a horse breed that’s best known for its efficiency in competitive racing. It’s not often uncommon to see blue roans among thoroughbreds especially if one of the parent horses is a roan. However, there are chances for mistaking a grey thoroughbred as a roan as well.
Some thoroughbreds with a darker underlying coating may give off a blue-hued appearance at times. But it wears off with time and gradually the underlying coating becomes lighter. And as mentioned before, that doesn’t happen with actual roan horses even if they get older.
The name itself reminds you of some all-powerful Greek creature or something, doesn’t it? Well, they might just as well be with the way they look and carry themselves. They actually originate from France and are thought to be one of the most intelligent breeds of horses.
Blue roan horses have a fascinating history with the Percheron breeds. Due to the extreme similarities in both their looks, it’s often said that the Percherons are the ancestors of the blue roans. In addition to the looks, they match in their physical attributes like stamina, intelligence, calmness, and work power as well.
American Paint Horses
American Paint Horses also show a variety of blue roans in their breeds. However, the combination is a bit rare. These horses are known as the ‘moo’ horses in some communities due to the patches of white in their neck, legs, and body that often resembles a cow.
As for blue roans, they coexist with the other color variants like the chestnut, bay, palomino, etc. Due to their gorgeous manes, they are a major part of the horse beauty pageants and talent shows. However, the look distinctively changes with the distinguished patterns such as the tobiano, tovero, and overo.
Belgians are another common breeder of the blue roan horses even though they come across as little chubby versions of the adult blue roans. Well, that’s just how their respective genes work and it’s really adorable at times. Belgians are a part of the draft breeds and due to the amazing strength, they are used as cart-pullers or weight-pullers.
Even though they do come in the blue roan variant, the chestnut or red roan variety is more prevalent in them due to a few genetic factors. Especially in America, you’ll find more chestnuts than any other shade of roan. And for the rest of the world, they are distributed more or less pretty similarly.
Okay, who doesn’t know a mustang over here? Time out for that guy. Mustangs are a household name in all communities interested in the animal athletics championships. They are a great breed for riding and trailing mountain arenas.
Fun fact – they aren’t even a domesticated breed currently even though they used to be previously. I guess – that’s one of the reasons why they are such a passionate and enthusiastic breed. And as for blue roan variants, it’s quite uncommon but not completely rare in these Western feral horses.
Not to go off-the-topic here, but Andalusian Horses are one of my most favorite horse breeds in the world. They are just so majestic and beautiful in their appearance, walk-ins, and pretty much, everything else. And rightfully so, as their ancestors come from the Iberian Peninsula, making them a Pure Spanish breed.
If you look up a picture of an Andalusian horse, you’ll be astonished how much of a similarity they bear with the blue roans. However, it’s important to note that blue roan is more of a pattern and not a separate breed. Even then, the looks and audacious behavior of an Andalusian horse reflect how they could possibly be the primary ancestors of blue roan horses.
Besides all these amazing breeds of horses, blue roan horses are more or less prevalent in all sorts of horse breeds. Some of the mentionable breeds among them are the Appaloosa, the Tennessee Walking Horse, The Gypsy, The Cob, Noriker, Nokota, Paso Fino, and many more.
Are Blue Roan Horses Rare?
Technically, yes. Blue Roan Horses are comparatively pretty rare than some of its contemporary breeds. But that doesn’t mean that they are an almost-extinct breed since they are still found in abundance in various parts of the world.
This has been possible due to a few dedicated breeders if I must say. Even though breeding is often perceived as a negative retort in the current world, these people do have their respective merits in special cases.
The massive interest of horse-loving people also plays a major role in these kinds of specialized breedings. As the blue roan horses are pretty majestic and theatrical-looking creatures, there’s a high demand for them in various parts of the world.
Starting from beauty pageants to talent shows to acting gigs, these horses excel at a lot of culturally significant programs. In fact, I still remember the time where they were hired to play unicorns in local fantasy dramas due to their unique looks.
So, yeah. The fact that a large part of the horse community is really conscious and protective of such significant breeds – helps out a lot in their preservation.
But that being said, they are still quite rarer than the contemporary red roans or chestnuts. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, roan genes aren’t prevalent in a breed where it’s not the dominant gene.
If you are a student of genetics or someone with thorough knowledge of it, you should get how this works. Genes mainly come in two types depending on how they show their traits. One’s the dominant one and the other is the recessive one.
In a dominant gene, the traits are instantly expressed in the next generation while the recessive ones skip a generation or few. That being said, the Rn allele gene, also known as the roan gene, is by itself a dominant gene on all fronts. But that’s not all that it takes to create a blue roan appearance.
Here’s where it gets a bit complicated. To bring out the blue roan shade, a certain combination of genes is required progressively so that those traits are dominant. If that doesn’t happen, the horse will most likely be a red roan or a chestnut horse.
Even the researchers aren’t completely sure on the exact combination as of now since it’s a really intricate thing to determine. However, it’s presumed that between the parent horses, one has to carry the dominant roan gene with a non-chestnut allele. And the other one will have both recessive chestnut and non-roan alleles.
So far, this combination results in a fowl that grows up with blue roan genetic traits. As you can see, it’s a quite complicated step-by-step process that inadvertently answers why these horses might be this rare. Thankfully, nature never fails to amaze everyone since they are still found in abundance.
Costs of Owning a Blue Roan Horse
You must have thought by now that – how much do blue roan horses cost? Well, they don’t come cheap, I’ll tell ya that. And deservedly so. I mean, they are indeed quite a rare breed, aren’t they?
Buying a blue roan horse will cost you about 4 to 20 grands (in dollars) depending on the underlying coating and physical conditions. And that doesn’t even include the nurturing costs later on. Fowls, will, however, cost a little less as they haven’t developed the proper roan features yet.
A blue roan horse will live for a long time (like most horses) if you know how to properly take care of them. These magnificent creatures are super playful by nature and they love to play with their peers.
So, if you are getting a blue roan fowl, make sure that you have the proper and adequate space to keep them in. Not only that, but you also need a pretty spacious backyard as well so that they can roam around freely. Other than that, and proper nourishments, you don’t have much to worry about.
Since blue roan is only but a pattern, there’s no major difference in a roan horse and a normal horse’s eating habits. They love to munch on the same exact stuff that every horse feed on. For example – green grass, carrots, hay, raw vegetables, fruits, etc. And of course, enough fresh water.
They absolutely love fresh fruits as treats. So, if you want to befriend them easily, it might be a good idea to carry some apricots, peaches or apples with you. Do remember to get rid of the seed or stones from beforehand as those can end up choking them sometimes.
Should You Get A Blue Roan Horse?
Undoubtedly, yes. If you can afford their costs and maintain their living standards, there’s no reason for you to not get one of these sweet babies. And if you happen to already be a horse-enthusiastic, that’s even more of an incentive.
However, people with no previous experience can get a blue roan horse as well if they have someone experienced to help them out. If you live in the countryside, you should find tons of trainers/jockeys to help you out in the stable.
And the perks? Pfft. The perks are endless when you own a horse. Come on, who here hasn’t asked for a pony for their birthday when they were a kid?
Exactly. You get to fulfil your life-long dream of owning a horse A-N-D give a loving blue roan a forever home in the process. Or multiple blue roans, for that matter. I ain’t judging. Horses love to live and play in groups so the more you bring in, the merrier the stables.
Furthermore, if you have a little kid at home, you can bring in a fowl for them. They will grow up together and be best friends forever. And if that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.
All in all, the way I see it, there’s no downsides to owning a blue roan horse if you are capable of it. As long as you can love and care for it, you don’t have anything to worry about.
Top Blue Roan Horse Names
Well, now that you know quite a lot about the blue roan horses, it’s time to go get one for yourself if you are passionate enough. And, of course, if you have the right space and backyard for it. Here’s a list of the top 20 names that you can give to your precious blue roan horse.
- Blueberry muffin
- Blueberry pie
Phew, that’s a lot of names. Do remember that these are all suggestions merely. A horse is not just a pet but a member of your family if you are compassionate enough. And I’m sure that they will love any name you give them with all their heart.
By now, you pretty much know all the basic things about a Blue Roan Horse. So, if you were thinking of getting one of these beautiful horses, go for it! Just make sure to meet all their vital needs and ensure proper veterinary care whenever it’s convenient.
Another important thing – if you buy a fowl and after the initial shedding, it doesn’t show the properties of a true-blue roan, don’t get disheartened. Remember that they are all majestic creatures and they all deserve a loving home. With enough love and care, all of them will be by your side with undying loyalty and will shower you with all the affection in the world.