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Chiped in Dun-dorsal1.jpg (180592 bytes)

What are 
"Dun Genes"?

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There is now a test for several kinds of dun genes!


DUN is the description of the colors caused by, and also the genes themselves, which causes a horse to have particular markings (usually striping) at certain locations on its coat, while diluting the rest of its body color.

Old vs. New Definitions

Just a generation ago in America, and still in many countries to this day, "dun" in horses was defined according to the dictionary definition of the word: a muted, tan, or mousy, color, usually with darker points.

In the horse world, this is changing, as equine color genetics knowledge has changed.  Horses once lumped together under the old definition of "dun" are now recognized as being champagne, buckskin, dun, pearl, and even silver, and the "new" meaning of dun, of a diluted body color with darker striping, is becoming the norm.

An older meaning of "buckskin", a tan horse with dark zebra-like markings, no longer applies.  Perhaps this term was once used this was because deer tend to have a darker area along their spines, slightly similar to a dorsal stripe.  "Buckskin" now describes "a bay horse diluted with one cream gene", which would be a horse with a tan or golden body color with black points ... without striping.

The gene that causes the diluting and striping effect we now call "dun" can be added to any color base coat, with any number of other color modifiers also present.

Definitions:  see definitions page.

On this site, I hope:

Sometimes a horse with one or more dun traits is summarily declared a "false dun" without exhausting the possibilities. 
I hope this web site will discourage this practice.

Dun is a "dilution gene"

Dilution genes lighten the base coat of what would have otherwise been a darker color.  In addition, it leaves some "markings" behind (undiluted, or darker.) 

Dun is a very intriguing and complex color modifier.  It is sometimes called a "primitive" color manifestation, because it involves striping and barring similar to that seen in zebras and in some indigenous, truly wild horse breeds (like a deer or an antelope is wild), like the Spanish/Portugese Sorraia, the Mongolian horse, Tarpan, or Przhevalski's horse.  There is some question as to whether there is more than one form of dun, or whether it consists of more than one gene.  This site tends toward the commonly held theory that it is only one simple dominant gene, while continuing to investigate the alternatives.

Q: What is "a Dun"? 

A: A horse with one or two dun genes.

All genes come in pairs.  The dun gene has long been believed to be a SIMPLE DOMINANT gene, which means only one is needed for full expression, so adding another has no effect on the horse's color.  The current DNA test reflects that (see link just below). If further laboratory research determines that there is more than one form of dun gene, or that it is a COMPLEX (several different genes expressing themselves), the site will be updated to reflect that.

We detect whether the horse carries a dun gene (or two) by its APPEARANCE and by its genealogy.  If dun is a simple dominant gene, and a horse has NO dun parents, it CANNOT be a dun.  (This does not mean "if its parents don't LOOK dun".  Sometimes dun can be obscured by other variables.)  If it produces duns when mated with non-duns, it MUST be a dun.  However, now the definition of "dun" has been narrowed somewhat by a new DNA test:

There is now a DNA test to detect MARKERS for one form of striping dilution, officially known as "Dun".

**** note: it may take some real detective work to find the dun parent or offspring! 
Some people don't KNOW their horses are duns, and some don't WANT to...especially those
that are also Palominos, since the PHBA rules exclude them. ****

IMPORTANT NOTE: Repeating: a dun is not a buckskin.  A buckskin is a horse with black, bay, and one cream, genes.  Its body color is golden, with a black mane, tail, and legs.  If it is a "sooty" buckskin, it may also have a black shaded area down the center of its back, across its shoulders and hips, and on its upper face.  The genetics of "sootiness", also known as "smuttiness" or "countershading", are unknown at this time.

Email the author/webmaster


Here are some relevant sites; pictures to see, information to read:

Sorraias: the dun, Iberian "wild horse"

Hardy Oelke's wonderful book for Sorraia, dun, wild, or other horse lovers: http://horsesonly.com/books/inprint/born_survivors.htm

UC Davis:

Sharon Batteate: 
current web address:  http://www.brindlehorses.com/ 


A very personal note from Pastor Barb about horse colors and the Bible.


Duns For Sale
Dun Coloring
Tested Horses
DNA Color Tests

Home / Duns For Sale / Dun Coloring / Tested Horses / Definitions / Genetics / Breeds / Questionable / DNA Color Tests / Research

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  This web site created with delight by Hippo-Logistics   2011 Barbara A. Kostelnik
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