swordwhale’s art class: black horses

I grew up with Zorro …

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One very important member of the cast didn’t even get his name in the credits. Besides the distinctive black costume and his skill with a sword, Zorro relied on his trusty horse, Tornado, to aid in him in his battles. Tornado was usually played by Diamond Decorator, a seven-year-old quarter horse, with three stand-ins used to perform the horse’s various stunts. One horse specialized in Tornado’s dramatic rearing, as seen in the opening credits, one was used in fight scenes, and the third for high-speed running. Diamond Decorator also was used for many of Guy’s personal appearances as Zorro, being well behaved despite the distractions of the eager fans.

Diamond Decorator had an interesting history beside his role on Zorro. The horse competed in the Grand Nationals Medal Class in the 1950’s with fourteen consecutive show wins.

and the Black Stallion

Image result for black stallion walter farley images

and Black Beauty

Image result for black beauty picture book 50s Image result for black beauty picture book 50s

and the Jungle Book…

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Heroes who ride by night on black horses, or are part of the night themselves…


Horses basically come in black and red …


The basic coat colors of chestnut, bay, brown and black horses are controlled by the interaction between two genes: Extension (gene symbol E) and Agouti (gene symbol A). The Extension gene (red factor) controls the production of red and black pigment. Agouti controls the distribution of black pigment either to a points pattern (mane, tail, lower legs, ear rims) or uniformly over the body. The effects of approximately 10 other genes may modify these pigments to provide an array of colors in the domestic horse ranging from white to black.

Let’s just take black for now…



That’s my mustang mare Olori Eldalie, back in the 90s. She shed out utterly black each spring and regrew utterly black coat in the fall. In between she sunbleached to burnt toast. She was probably (without genetic testing) a fading black, or seasonal black.


The agouti gene produces “seal brown” or “seal bay”, it is totally different from fading black. The lighter areas are “countershading”, like the white areas on deer or antelope.

Seal Bay

Combining red and black and an agouti gene gets you the classic bay color;


(Me on Saraf back in the 80s)

Adding a greying gene creates…


(me on Bazraf back in the 80s)

You can still see “chocolate chips” of the original color in the grey, as well as the black skin. Baz had a white marking on his face that ran near one eye, so, blue eye on one side.

Throwing one cream gene on a black horse gets you smokey black…

throwing two cream genes at black gets you…

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a white horse, sort of…

throwing a cream gene onto a red horse usually gets you this…


but sometimes the sooty gene takes over and your palomino looks like this…

all three palominos from:  http://www.morgancolors.com/palomino.htm

If you throw a dun gene at black you get…


grulla, grullo, blue dun

If you toss a roan gene on black…

Image result for blue roan

The difference between those two is the grulla is made of “blue” hairs, each hair is a dilute shade of black. The roan has a mixture of white hairs throughout the black ones (except on the points; mane, tail, lower legs). Roan does not lighten with age like grey does.

The champagne gene creates this…

Image result for classic champagne

Image result for classic champagne

A bit more yellow tones than the grulla. Each hair is the pewter color, not a mix of white and black hairs like roan or grey.

The silver gene creates….

Image result for silver dapple gene images

Blue dun and silver creates…

Image result for silver dapple gene images

Leopard complex, and pinto creates a whole set of patterns…

Image result for leopard complex

that’s a pintaloosa…


We haven’t even touched what happens to red horses yet…

next time…





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