Miniature Horses and Tunis Sheep

The Bay Gene

Bay drawing

And variations thereof:

Bay | Mahogany Bay | Red Bay | Blood Bay | Sandy Bay | Wild Bay | Buckskin | Dun | Perlino | Bay Tobiano | Bay Overo | Bay Appaloosa | Silver Bay | Bay Grey | Bay Roan |

Bay is considered the "original" equine color. Major characteristics are the dark "points" ie. the head, mane, tail and legs. See illustration:

Variations of Bay Color

Many modifying genes produce various shades of bay horses, some like the red bay, or blood bay; the sandy bay, the mahogany bay, etc. are due to sooty, shade, pangaré and other modifiers. But darker point color (forehead, ears, legs, and tail) will always be prevalent in bays.


Bay "AA" or "Aa" Bay "AA" or "Aa"
with "sooty" modifier
Typical Bay Mahogany Bay

Typical bay, notice
dark points and
consistent body color

Note dark, sooty,
mahogany cast to
body color


Bay "AA" or "Aa"  Bay "AA" or "Aa" 
Bay foal color   Bay foal color

Bay foal, already
showing typical dark mane,
tail, ears, and lower legs

Bay foal, baby hair on legs
will turn dark

Bays change shades as they mature as well as through the various seasons. See illustration:

Stages of bay coloring 

Modifiers are responsible for the variations we see in the bay horse.


Bay "AA" or "Aa"  Bay "AA" or "Aa" 
Sandy Bay  Natural Bay 

Note lighter, more yellow body color

Note lower markings on legs, along with primitive marks 


Then there are the genes we can all recognize that affect the bay coat. Genes like the cremello gene which when present in the heterozygous form produces the buckskin and when homozygous the gene produces the perlino. The cremello gene only affects phaeomelanin, the red pigment, so the dark manes and tails of bays will not be affected by one copy of the "Cr" gene. The resulting color of buckskin will depend on the original bay coat and modifiers. Deeper red bays will produce richer colored buckskins, etc.


Bay "AA" or "Aa"/"CRcr"  Bay "AA" or "Aa"/"crcr" 
Bay Cream or Buckskin  Bay Double Cream or Perlino 
Note golden color  Note diluted cream
color with slight point color 

The dun gene is very similar to the cremello gene in that it dilutes the coat color but not the point color, it produces lineback duns that look very similar to buckskins. Unlike the cremello gene it affects both eumelanistic and phaeomelanistic colors, hence sorrel (red) duns are possible. Geneticists disagree on whether dorsal stripes are a requirement for duns.


Bay "AA" or "Aa"/"Dd or DD"  Bay "AA" or "Aa"/"CRcr"/"Dd or DD" 
Bay Dun 
Note dorsal stripe and diluted bay color 
Bay "AA" or "Aa"/"CRcr"/"Dd or DD"  
Cream Dun Bay 
 Combination effect of multiple genes. Note diluted cream color (also carrying cremello) with dorsal stripe and primitive leg markings 

Other modifying genes

The tobiano and the overo genes produce bay pintos or as some call them "tri-colors." Please don't call them paints, that name is used to describe a pinto Quarter Horse. Piebald (black pintos) and skewbald (other colored pintos) are correct names, but are not commonly used in the United States.


Bay "AA" or "Aa"/"TT" or "Tt"  Bay "AA" or "Aa"/ "Oo" (OO is lethal)
Bay Tobiano  Bay with Overo 
Note bay on solid areas  Note bay on solid areas 


Now here is a gene that thoroughly confuses many Miniature Horse breeders (and registries) -- the silver gene linked with the bay gene produces a color that most identify as chestnut (sorrel) with flaxen/ white mane and tail. Breeders MUST learn to identify this color if they will ever be able to predict the colors of their foals. See illustrations:

BAY "AA or Aa"/SILVER "ZZ" or "Zz"  SORREL "ee"/FLAX "Ff") 
Bay with Silver  Sorrel with Flax 
Though mane and tail are
silvered, note point color on
legs, nose and ears 
Note consistent color
on legs, mane and tail
more gold in color 

A couple of other genes that can drastically affect bays are grey and roan. These two genes are also often confused, especially in terminology, by not only miniature breeders but horse breeders in general. Since both start off full colored as foals, it is easy to see why there can be mistakes made in registration. Both genes are dominant, so at least one of the parents MUST show the effects. The easiest way to recognize the difference is to note the head and legs, grey horses will grey all over, usually starting around the eyes, roans never lose their color on their heads, it starts to roan from the jaws back.


BAY "AA or Aa"/GREY "GG" or Gg"   BAY "AA or Aa"/ROAN "Rr" (RR is lethal)
Bay Grey  Bay Roan 
Note greying of color on head  Note natural bay color on head 

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