Dun and buckskin are color patterns that result from entirely different genetic agents, and they are actually easy to tell apart if you can get up close to the horse. From a distance it is hard to tell the difference sometimes. The main problem in identifying them is terminology. For many years, the American Quarter Horse Association did not properly distinguish between them, so many people coming out of that background still get them mixed up.

Both dun and buckskin are the result of DILUTION agents, which both act to bleach to dilute the underlying body coat. For a complete description of dun factor markings, see DUN. The dun gene may also occur with any other base color or pattern, and it will affect that color in the same way: a diluted body coat with the underlying base color showing through for the dorsal and leg stripes, face, tips of ears, etc. Thus there can be a buckskin dun, which would be a horse carrying both dilution factors.

is the base for both Buckskin and the most common Dun color - known variously as "zebra dun" "classis dun" "bay dun" or simply "dun" (although dun can occur on any color base)

Both Buckskin and Dun result from a Dilution agent acting on a BAY base. The dilution for Buckskin is Creme. Creme is an "Incomplete Dominant" meaning that if one creme is present, the horse will have a diluted coat (Bay dilutes to buckskin, red dilutes to palomino, black dilutes to smokey black). If two cremes are present, the horse will be doubly diluted, and will be a perlino, cremello, or smokey creme (all look very much alike - nearly white with blue eyes and light skin)


The dilution for Dun is Dun.

Dun is a simple dominant, meaning that one gene will do the trick, and having two dun genes looks the same as having one.


Dun horse owned by Carnahan Ranch

From this distance it is hard to say for sure if this pair is buckskin or "buttermilk" dun; After the herd was captured by BLM in late 2004, we could tell for sure that these are buckskins

This rich orange-ish shade may resemble a light bay, but is seldom seen in buckskins. Even from a distance you can safely guess this is a dun

Here are wild horses in their winter shaggies. This is the most difficult time to tell the difference between dun and buckskin. But in the case of the dun horse (above) the dorsal stripe shows through (although sometimes it is not as easy as this)

Although no stripes are visible on this yearling, we can guess that she is a dun (actually a grullo, which is dun on a black base) because of her dark face. When she was adopted and then shed out, this turned out to be true.
The most obvious difference between a dun and a buckskin is the presence or absence of a sharp, clear dorsal stripe. However, buckskins sometimes have counter-shading that mimics a dorsal stripe, but in that case the stripe is wider, with fuzzy edges. There are many more components to the dun factor, too, that need to be present.

"Wild Bay" legs: Horses with the wild type of bay often have mottled lower legs that can resemble dun striping

Here is an example of sharp, clear "zebra" striping on the lower legs of a dun

Here is a dun with less clearly-marked leg stripes - note that one or two definite stripes can be seen just above the knee



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