Silver Dapple

The color silver dapple is sometimes called the "chocolate" or some times "taffy" color. Silver is one of the dilution genes, along with Dun, Champagne and Creme. Silver not only dilutes Black, but completely changes it, to a flat brown color (which may range from a creamy chocolate-with-milk color to a deep "Weimerainer" grey-brown), usually (but not necessarily) with dapples, and changes the mane and tail to white or very nearly white. The horse retains a dark, nearly black mask on its face, similar to Duns (especially Black Dun, or Grullo).

Silver, or Silver Dapple, is neither silver nor necessarily dappled. It is entirely unrelated to dapple gray. It is a color gene that works to dilute Black pigment - creating lovely effects that include an extreme lightening of the mane and tail, and partial dilution of the body.

Silver dapple does not affect Red pigment, but it dilutes a Black or Bay coat to look red. Silver can be carried by a red horse, who can then pass it on to offspring. The lighter Silver Bay horses are sometimes incorrectly identified as flaxen chestnuts. But the dark roots and darker face are diagnostic of black-based Silver.

Silver Dapples is called "Chocolate" in the Rocky Mountain Horse breed, and the Australian writer J. Gower refers to it as "Taffy."

Photo: Cathy Barcomb
Many horses, such as this "chestnut" Pine Nut Pony, are labeled "liver chestnut" but are really silver dapple. (the dark face is a give-away) Likewise, Sooty ("Chocolate") Palomino and Silver Dapple Bay or Silver Dapple Buckskin can look much alike.

Both The University of California at Davis and Animal Genetics, Inc. of Florida can test for the presence of Tobiano, Red, Frame, Creme, Silver, Sabino, and Agouti (Bay). The test for Tobiano can determine whether or not a horse is homozygous of heterozygous (good to know if you are trying to breed for Tobiano).

The Silver gene is confined to just a few breeds in the United States. It's found most commonly in the gaited breeds of the different Mountain Horse breeds, Rocky Mountain Horses, Kentucky Mountain horses, Missouri Fox Trotters, Saddlebreds, and the Icelandic Horse. It's also common in the Welsh Pony, Shetland Pony, and Miniature Horse breeds.

Mustangs with Silver Dapples are most likely descended from feral horses of these breeds.

Silver dapples only affect Black. It has no affect on red (although a red horse can carry silver dapples and unexpectedly pass it on to a foal).
If the horse is bay (black only on the points), it will turn the legs some variety of brown or tan, and the mane/tail to cream (usually with black roots). These sometimes look like flaxen chestnut.

Silver Bay Shetland pony - you can tell it is Silver and not Flaxen Chestnut by the dark roots.
Tinkerbelle, a silver dapple dun horse can mimic flaxen chestnut. But the key is the roots: Flaxen manes and tails are flaxen all the way through. Silver manes and tails have dark roots.
Tinkerbelle's darker winter/early spring coloring
Tinkerbelle in summer
Horses with the Silver dilution often have striped hooves, and often have light blonde or white eyelashes, especially as foals.
Palomino Valley BLM Wild Horse & Burro Center had some really lovely Silver horses in July of 2006.

External Links

You can download forms for these tests from The University of California at Davis from their website - follow
the links from

OR, from the Animal Genetics website

For more information on Silver Dapples:

Information from, written by Nancy Kerson (
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