How do you tell if a horse is a buckskin or a dun? What is the difference, or is there a difference? We have a Quarter horse listed on his papers as “dun,” yet there are many horse people who have called him a buckskin.
A buckskin varies in color from a light cream, called a buttermilk buckskin - remember Dale Evan’s horse from the old Roy Rogers TV show? – through dark gold to almost a chocolate color. They also have black points: mane, tail, lower legs and tips of the ears. Also, they can have light hairs at the base of their tail and mane.
Genetically, buckskins have a “cream” gene that acts on a bay (brown body color, black mane, tail and points), diluting the color. This is what gives them the lighter coat color with the dark points. This differs from the cream gene acting on a chestnut (reddish brown body, light mane and tail), which results in a palomino.
A dun can have the same coat color as a buckskin but it carries an extra gene which is associated with primitive factors. The most common of these is the dorsal stripe down the back - a line from the base of the mane to the tail. Other primitive factors include zebra- or tiger-like stripes on the legs, usually on the knees and hocks; lighter hairs in the mane and top of the tail; shadowing on the neck and face and “cobwebbing” (faint lines usually found on the face and neck).
So our Quarter horse, Ole, really is a dun. He has a dorsal stripe; faint zebra stripes around his knees (usually only visible on his summer coat); and lighter hairs in his mane and the base of his tail.