Last Updated on February 24, 2022 by Allison Price
Strawberry roan horses are a beautiful, blush-colored horse that is sure to turn heads wherever they go.
The horses’ coats are a reddish brown color. They look like fresh snow or powdered sugar.
But, technically, pink horses that have this distinctive frosted appearance are not “strawberry roans.”
These majestic horses are here to tell you all that you need to know.
What is a strawberry-roan horse?
Roaning a pattern in the horse’s coat that lightens the horse’s body color by a constant intermingling white hairs.
Blue Roans have black bases, Red and Strawberry roans are chestnut basecoats, Bay roans also have chestnut bases coats but stand out by their black points.
Red roan and strawberry roan are frequently used interchangeably. Strawberry roan is an older term to describe these pink-red-roan horses.
Since red roans are now described with black points by “bay roan”, “strawberry” is used to refer to horses with flaxen or reddish points.
Strawberry roans will be solid reddish in color with solid reddish legs and faces (though sometimes with white markings) and reddish or flaxen manes, tails, and manes.
The overall color can vary from a solid chestnut to a light pink with a few roan markings on the face and tail to a fully-colored coat that is almost entirely white.
Strawberry Roan vs Red Roan
It can be difficult to describe the colors of horses’ coats accurately. The terminology may also change as we learn more about the genetic codes that make each horse’s unique pattern.
An older era meant that a horse with blueish-tinted black hair was a blue or strawberry roan. A horse with reddish brown coats was a red roan.
Breeders and equine geneticists started to go a step further, defining “bay roans”, as red roans that have black points, instead of lumping them with other lighter-colored strawberry red.
The agouti gene, which acts on a red base coat to give the horse its bay color, gives it its black points.
Both the American Paint Horse Association (AKA The American Quarter Horse Association) have changed their descriptions of coat colors to clearly distinguish bay roans and other red-roan horses.
Strawberry Roan is an older term with more common usage that you might see in a for sale ad on a light-sorrel horse with chestnut point.
Strawberry Roan Color Genetics
All horses can attribute their unique patterns and colors to their genes. Equine coat genetics can be quite complicated.
Most casual horse owners don’t need to know if their horse is a true strawberry roan genetic strawberry roan. This is except if you intend to breed them or submit them to a registry that has strict requirements for their coat colors.
Horses have a primary coat color, which can be either red (chestnut), or black. These base colors are combined with other genes to produce the many patterns and markings we see today.
The classic roaning characteristic is a dominant trait and will be expressed in the horse’s phenotype (appearance), if the parent has the roaning gene.
A roan foal cannot be produced by two non-roan horses.
There are two genotypes for each genotype. They are “Rn” for “roaning” and “N” to describe “normal” (without the roaning).
Each parent gives offspring one allele, which will determine their genotype and therefore their phenotype. These are the chances of producing a roan mare:
- Roan Parent x Roan Parents (Rn/Rn, Rn/N = 100% chance Roan baby (Rn/Rn, Rn/N).
- Roan Parent (homozygous Rn/Rn) x Normal Parent (N/N) = 100% chance Roan Baby (Rn/N)
- Roan Parent (heterozygous Rn/N) x Roan Parent (Rn/N) = 75% chance Roan Baby
- Roan Parent (Rn/N x Normal Parent(N/N), = 50% chance Roan baby
Some horse breeds do not have the roaning genotype. This makes it difficult to obtain a strawberry-roan horse if the horse is purebred.
The Roan Zygosity Test, a genetic test that UC Davis offers, can provide a detailed analysis of your horse’s genome and tell you if they are likely to have a roan foal. (source)
Strawberry Roan Horse Breeds
The classic Roan gene can be found in many breeds. However, it is more common in certain breeds.
True strawberry roans can be found in American Quarter Horse and American Paint Horse breeds. Grade horses, mustangs, AQHA, APA crosses, for example, may also have roaning.
Although this gene is not found in Arabians or purebred Thoroughbreds, it may be present in some breeds.
Strawberry Roan Imposters
Strawberry roans often have a striking, even intermixing of white hair in their coat patterns that completely lightens the color except for the points.
Foals may sometimes show a pattern similar to traditional roaning, but it is quite different. (source)
Roaning has one of its main features: the pattern doesn’t change over time.
Foals may be born with a bay roan pattern. However, this pattern lightens as they get older.
This is often the case with gray horses. They may be born black or solid chestnut, but eventually become light dapple grey.
You’ll most likely get a gray foal if a “roan” foal is born to two solid parents.
A red dun might look like a strawberry roan at first glance.
Both have the darker body color and reddish points. They also have the solid manes and tail.
The dun factor is a dilution gene that gives a dune its coloring, instead of a roaning one.
It is not possible to have white hair mixed with the base color of their coat.
True roaning involves a mixture of white and black hairs. however, is a restricted form of rabicano-roaning.
It is usually more prominent at the flanks and top of the horse’s tail.
This little bit of white hair is also known as a “skunk tail”, and hair that’s arranged in rings can be called a ‘coon tail.
The rabicano gene is not the same as the classic roaning gene. It can be found in Arabians and Thoroughbreds. White hairs may also appear while the horse is still young.
Particularly around the stomach, the distinctive jagged edges of sabino markings can be roaned.
Without a DNA test, it can be difficult for a person to distinguish between the two. This is especially true if their darker legs are covered with white patches.
If the horse is not a true roan, but it’s listed on a for sale ad as such, it’s probably Sabino or Rabicano. (source)
The Appaloosa’s leopard-complex gene is responsible for the varnish roan pattern on his coat.
The strawberry-roan-like appearance gives horses the same look, but it can lighten or change over time in certain areas.
Varnish roan foals often have darkened or spotted births and then “roan out” as they mature. (source)
Famous Strawberry Roans in Popular Culture
Strawberry roans were a symbol of the American West and have been immortalized in many books, movies and songs.
- The Strawberry Roan film, 1948. This western classic tells the story of a cowboy Gene Autry, who plays Champion (The “World’s Wonder Horse”) and his efforts to capture and train a wild strawberry roan mare. (source)
- Strawberry Roan young-adult novel, 1946. This heartwarming story follows Roscoe’s adventures with his strawberry roan, as they navigate harness racing’s exciting world.
- The Strawberry Roan, a classic American cowboy song written by Curly Fletcher in 1915 as a poem entitled The Outlaw Bronco, is now a song. Ennis’s knowledge of the “salty” words to this song will be appreciated by fans of the 1997 short story Brokeback Mountains (or the 2005 movie). (source)
- Strawberry Roan. Ken Maynard stars in this 1933 western film.