What Is A Grulla Horse And What Do They Look Like?

If you are looking to better understand what a grulla horse is and learn a bit about them, we are going to cover all sorts of information about them in this article.

In this guide, we will cover what they look like, what they cost, how they are bred, and what the difference is between grulla and grullo horses.

Let’s dive in.

What Is A Grulla Horse?

A grulla horse or grullo horse is a member of the dun horse family that is also known as a blue dun, mouse dun, or gray dun. Its coat is lighter than its mane and tail, and it is often distinguished by being mouse-colored or tan-gray.

They also have dark faces, dark mottling, dark ears, and other distinctive markings that set them apart from other horses.

Wild Feral Horse - Grulla Horse

Grullas can range in color, but they must carry a dun gene and a black gene, which dictate their coat colors and their primitive markings. Many different kinds of horse breeds can have the typical grulla color and markings, and they are becoming highly desirable as they grow in popularity.

Grey dun horses are often very beautiful and unique, but there are a few characteristics that must be present for them to be considered grulla horses, which we will explore below. A horse belonging to the dun family is not enough on its own to make it a grulla.

Bear in mind as you read that they are not a breed; the term grulla refers specifically to their markings, and if a horse’s coat changes dramatically at certain times of the year, it may actually stop being a grulla horse – as described by GrullaBlue.

What Does A Grulla Coat Color Look Like?

More specifically, then, what does one look like?

They must have:

  • A distinctive dark dorsal stripe along their backs, running all the way along the back and into the tail
  • Dark tipped ears
  • A head that is darker than the rest of the body
  • Dark legs, black or brown usually

If you look at pictures of horses with this coloration, you will observe that all of these characteristics are present in them. Why?

To have the grulla coloring, they must have the black gene, with the dilution of the dominant dun gene on top. This creates the unique coloring, with the black providing the primitive markings, and the dun providing the main coat color. 

There are not very many grulla horses, because black tends to be a less common color than chestnut or bay horses, and it must also be combined with the dun gene in order to produce grulla coloration.

Even with a black parent and a dun parent, you are not guaranteed grulla coloring in the foal.

What other markings might you observe?

There are more variations that these horses may have, once it has fulfilled those previous characteristics.

These include:

  • Leg bars (striped legs)
  • Stripes on the horse’s neck
  • Stripes on the horse’s back and shoulders (often a transverse stripe that runs down towards the horse’s forelegs)
  • Forehead stripes sometimes called cobwebs
  • Dark rings around the horse’s eyes
  • Mottled patterns on the horse’s shoulders and legs
  • White or creme guard hairs in the mane or tail, especially around the base of the neck or base of the tail

Remember that the dun gene can be combined with other genes too, such as the creme gene.

Grullas can have quite varied markings, as long as they fulfill the first list of criteria, and may range from near-black to silvery white.

What Colors Make A Grulla Horse?

Grulla horses can be very varied colors, as long as they are essentially some dilution of black. HorseRacingSense has a great explanation of how the genes interact with each other, and how the dominant dun gene creates the distinctive markings.

Bear in mind that these markings can be very subtle and still count; a horse whose head is only a shade darker than its body can still be classified as a grulla provided it meets the other criteria (e.g. the dorsal stripe).

There are various shades of grulla. You might see some that are chocolate brown, champagne, painted, silver dappled, blue, light gray, almost white, or almost black. Any of these can have the grulla coloring, even though their main color is so varied.

The stripes and primitive markings are more likely to be noticeable on light-colored horses than on dark ones because the markings themselves are dark. However, dark horses can still be grulla, even if the markings are not so clear.

Remember to look for a dark mane, a dorsal stripe, dark legs, and a dark head – those are the telltale signs of a grulla horse.

How Do You Get A Grulla Horse?

Gray dun horses are considered fairly rare. It requires an unusual combination of colors, so it isn’t very easy to get one of these horses through breeding one yourself. However, it can be done, though you will need some degree of luck in order to get the right genes.

If you are able to complete some genetic testing on your would-be parents, you have much higher chances of success – and you will also know quickly if the foal is a grulla, as it will not be immediately easy to tell by sight alone.

The best chances of breeding a grulla foal will be by pairing up two grulla adults, or a black adult and a grulla adult. 

Remember that you need the black gene and the dun gene, and no other combination will work. Even with two grulla parents, you are not guaranteed to get a grulla foal.

You will need to do thorough research and get a solid understanding of horse genetics – or speak to someone who understands them – to have much success with this.

Your other option, which is much more likely to lead to success, is to buy a grulla horse from a breeder. 

However, you should do so with care. The growing popularity of these horses, combined with their rarity, makes it much more tempting for breeders to sell non-grulla horses under false pretenses.

Grulla foals often look much like dun foals, and it is easy for people to miscategorize foals, either deliberately or accidentally. Until the foal’s early coat sheds, almost any color horse could actually be a grulla, even red duns, according to GrullaBlue.

You don’t want to pay extra for a grulla foal, and then discover you have actually bought a black foal when it sheds its coat and shows its true colors (pun intended).

Choose a reputable breeder, and spend time educating yourself on the most important signs of a grulla foal. 

Many are born in light shades and will have a very clear dorsal stripe. You should also look for facial markings, such as dark hair on the face and around the eyes.

None of these things guarantee that a foal is a grulla, however, and it is surprisingly difficult to predict what color a horse will be from its first coat. One that is born with mouse-colored hairs will not necessarily have them later!

It is easy for even experienced breeders to get the categorization wrong, so you may want to purchase a horse that has shed its early coat and has its adult colors to be on the safe side. 

If you really want to buy a foal, make sure you know what to look for, and consider whether to ask for genetic testing.

Always choose reputable breeders and arm yourself with plenty of information if you plan to buy a grulla horse. 

How Much Does A Grulla Horse Cost?

The price of this color variation varies enormously depending on a huge range of factors, and you probably already know that they are not cheap creatures to purchase.

Be wary of any “too good to be true” deals and do careful research about a breeder before purchasing from them.

An adult grulla horse will often cost in the region of $3000-$20,000. 

If that seems like a wide range, remember that the color is not the only factor that will determine a horse’s price; you need to think about the breed you are buying as well, and other aspects such as its history, age, parentage, etc.

You may be able to acquire some gray dun horses cheaper, and a foal will cost less to buy but bear in mind the risks associated with purchasing a foal before it has shed its first coat – especially if you are set upon getting a grulla.

FAQs On Gray Dun Horses

What Is The Difference Between Grulla And Grullo?

You have probably come across the two terms “grulla” and “grullo,” and wondered what the difference is if there is one.

The answer is that there isn’t a definitive difference, although people do use them differently – and some people use them interchangeably.

“Grulla” is the Spanish word for “crane,” which shares the gray coloration of the horse. “grullo” means “gray horse,” but because Spanish is a gendered language, many people use “grullo” to refer to geldings and stallions, and “grulla” to refer to fillys and mares.

Therefore, a person might refer to a stallion as a grullo, while a mare would be grulla. You can, however, use the terms as you prefer and everybody will understand what you are referring to.

How Do You Pronounce Grulla Horse?

According to Petkeen, both words are Spanish, and “grulla” should be pronounced as “grew-ya.” This obviously isn’t the phonetic pronunciation, but knowing how to say it correctly will avoid a lot of confusion, and will ensure you don’t embarrass yourself around breeders.

“Grullo” is also pronounced unintuitively, “grew-yo,” so make sure you learn both pronunciations, especially if you intend to keep these kinds of horses!

What Is The Rarest Coat Color A Horse Can Have?

While grulla coat coloration is rare, it is not the rarest color in the world. That might lead you to wonder what is – and according to TheEquinest, it’s white. Albino horses do not survive for long, and instead, this refers to a “true white” horse, rather than light grays or those with diluted coat colors.

Most so-called white horses will change color throughout their lives, because they don’t carry the dominant white gene, but are actually cream or something similar. Often, horses that are white in adulthood start out dark as foals. 

True white horses, however, are white throughout their lives. They generally have pink skin, coupled with dark eyes.

It may surprise you to learn that there is only one “true white” breed, the Camarillo White Horse. According to HorseyHooves, this elegant creature will be white throughout its life, but it is a relatively recent breed, which only began around a hundred years ago.

There are also very few of them. Often, in order to keep breeding them, they need to be crossed with non-white horses, as breeding two white horses has a 25% chance of not producing a live foal. No wonder they are so rare!

That said, the grulla horse coloring is still rare. They make up less than one percent of the registered quarter horses in America – so they certainly aren’t commonly found. 

As more people take an interest in them and the color becomes more frequently demanded, it’s likely that this percentage will increase.

However, as they are also difficult to breed, they will probably remain relatively rare for quite some time, although some breeders claim to have techniques that work reliably.

Grulla Horse Pictures

Here is a gallery of some beautiful grulla horse pictures for your viewing pleasure:


Grulla horses have quite varied markings and may be difficult for an inexperienced eye to determine. 

Remember to look for dark ear tips, leg barring, and the dorsal stripe when trying to determine if a horse is a grulla. They are members of the dun family and should carry dun coloring.

It’s extraordinary how intricate determining the color of horses can be, so if you are looking to breed, or even just better understand, the genetics that goes into determining color and markings, you are going to be studying for quite some time.

Hopefully, you now feel clearer about what a grulla or grullo horse looks like and how it is defined, and you have a good sense of how they fit into the world of horses.

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