What Is A Smoky Black Horse And What Do They Look Like?

What Is A Smoky Black Horse?

A smoky black horse is a horse with a specific hair coat color that could visually range from black to dark brown. Because of its similarities in color, a smoky black horse is determined by its genes. 

Smoky Black Horse

A smokey black coat color occurs when a single dominant copy of the cream dilution gene results in a “diluted” base fur. In the case of a smoky black horse, it becomes a lighter black base coat. 

Despite its likeness with black and brown, this creme gene puts the smoky black as a member of the cream family. Other coat color dilutions from this family include palomino, buckskin, perlino, and cremello.

Read this article to find out more about the genetics and telltale signs of a smoky black horse. 

What Does A Smoky Black Horse Look Like?

In general, the color of the coat determines what a smoky black horse looks like.  

Because the cream dilution gene has a subtle effect, any breed of horse that appears like a dull black horse looks like a smoky black. 

However, its coat could also be of a more brown color or somewhere in between. Additionally, smoky black horses sometimes have light brown, amber, or golden eyes. The eye colors are better determinates of a smoky black horse. 

Why? Because black horses’ coats could get weathered or sun-bleached and look identical to a smoky black horse as well. This similarity in fur makes it hard to differentiate the two. 

Furthermore, a smoky black could be confused with other horse colors such as a dark bay, seal brown, liver chestnut, champagne, and grullo. Especially when the horse’s fur is faded. 

Most breeds can be smoky black. However,  certain breeds like Arabs, Haflingers, and many draught horses do not possess the cream dilution gene. So a horse of that breed would not be a smoky black. 

How Do You Get A Smoky Black Horse?

To understand how to get a smoky black horse, you have to know some basic horse color genetics. 

In horse genetics, there are three primary genes known to affect coat color. The first is the Extension locus (E), the Agouti locus (A), and the ream dilution gene (Cr). The extension and agouti locus work together to express the base coats: black, bay, and brown. 

In simple terms, the E-locus determines the expression of red or black pigment, with the double recessive e-allele resulting in red or chestnut. Any single or double E dominant genes will result in a black or bay horse.

The black and bay colors are affected by the A-locus, which determines the repression of the black genes. Two copies of the recessive a-allele result in a black horse, while any dominant A-allele results in a bay or brown horse.

For example, a black horse would have at least one dominant E gene and two recessive a-alleles. Whereas a chestnut horse would have two recessive e genes and any combination of the A-locus. Note that the agouti gene doesn’t show on a chestnut horse. 

The addition of the cream dilution gene causes a lightening of the coat. For instance, a pure black steed has two recessive copies of the cream gene. If you add one dominant cream dilution gene, you get smoky black. Adding one more to make a double dilute gene gives you a smokey cream horse.

Basically, a smokey black is a black dilute foal. It comes from breeding horses with at least one dominant E gene, two recessive a-alleles, and a horse that carries at least one cream coat gene. 

What Colors Make A Smoky Black Horse?

Smoky horses have one creme gene and no dominant agouti genes. Therefore, smoky black horses can be bred with almost any combination of colors. Of course, this breeding can only happen as long as the right gene combinations can be made.  

However, the extension gene needs to be heterozygous dominant. Therefore, to produce a smoky black foal, you’ll need at least one bay or black parent horse. 

Additionally, you cannot have any horse with homozygous dominant agouti genes. Any dominant A-alleles will result in a bay or brown variation, NOT a black horse.

For instance, if you have a liver chestnuts horse, you could breed it with a black or bay horse because it will provide the dominant E-allele.  

Plus, liver chestnut horses are said to have two recessive agouti genes. This gene combination means they’d be able to create a smoky black horse. 

Contrastly, red chestnut horses with double dominant agouti genes won’t produce smokey black foals. Because no matter the combination of genes, it’ll always result in one dominant A-allele.  

How Much Do They Cost?

In the past, cream colors weren’t recognized by some horse associations. For example, the American Quarter Horse Association didn’t recognize nor allow any cream variants to be registered as pure-bred. 

However, those ideas have changed since the early 2000s and only matter in competition.

This means that even though smoky black and smoky cream coat colors are less desirable, they won’t affect the price too much. 

Breed (e.g., Appaloosa, Arabian, Lusitano, etc.), health, training, and age are more significant factors in costs. 

Thus, a smoky black horse can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands. 

Usually, upwards of $10,000 are for competition breeders that buy horses bred from previous competition winners with impressive bloodlines.  This price isn’t usual for non-breeders or racehorse/showhorse owners. 

If you’re just a casual horse owner, the average price might be between $2000 – $6,000, depending on the type of horse you need (i.e., a ranch horse or a riding horse).

If you see a horse going for only a few hundred or even less, make sure you check the horse’s health beforehand! 

What Do Black Horses Symbolize?

Many cultures and contemporary dream research associate black horses with different symbols. 

For instance, the color black is usually associated with death. Therefore a black horse is similarly linked. 

This link can be seen in the Christian Bible, Celtic tradition, and Native American totemism.

Starting with the Bible, there are four horsemen of the apocalypse, each a different color. The black horse is the one of the famine. 

In Celtic tradition, the Celts believed the black horse to signify death and dark forces. It represented the strength of maturity to handle what life brings. 

A black horse is both death-seeking and death-defying in totemism, meaning it is an emblem of death and rebirth. Despite the dark meaning, it helps you in leaving unnecessary things behind and finding new opportunities. 

In contemporary dream theory, a black horse has come to symbolize many different things. It is said that the black horse symbolizes mystery, intrigue, independence, sexual allure, and a strong sense of self. 

The meaning can change depending on whether the black horse is a stallion or mare and its actions. Whichever you believe, the black horse’s representation is a powerful and fascinating one. 

Smoky Black VS Black Horse

A pure-black horse is considered rarer because of the two homozygous recessive genes. 

However, the two colors can look identical, although a smoky black horse can have a browner coat rather than black. 

Additionally, a smoky black horse might have light brown, golden, or even amber eyes. In contrast, black horses tend to have dark brown eyes. 

Even for breeding, the horses offer similar color results. A black horse and a smoky black horse can produce chestnut, palomino, black, and other smoky blacks. Additionally, it could have a bay or buckskin if it’s bred with a horse with a creme gene. 

The only difference would be the likelihood of producing double creme dilute foals. Smoky black horses are more likely to do so because of their single-copy creme dilution gene. Whereas a black horse has none. 

On the other hand, a black horse would be more likely to breed pure-black horses with a wider color combination of mates.

Regardless, both horses are wonderful and the only difference lies in their genetics.


Smoky black is simply a horse coat color, which is determined by its genetics. The manifestation of the color can be easy to understand once you know the basics of color genetics. They’re just various gene combinations of black and red and dilution. 

In fact, most colors are just variations and dilutions of the three base colors: black, chestnut, bay. A smoky horse is simply a diluted black horse. 

Despite having specific genes, a horse’s fur can fade from weather or bleach from the sun. The dull coats can make it more challenging to figure out the horse’s genetics. 

Luckily, with genetic testing, you can quickly figure out the color combination of your beloved horse. 

Whatever the case, now you’re armed with better knowledge of determining your horse’s proper genetic color!


  1. https://www.horse-genetics.com/horse-color-genetics.html
  2. https://www.horsesandus.com/what-are-the-3-base-horse-coat-colours/#black-foal-color
  3. https://www.westwoodfarms.net/genetics/cream.html#Smokey_Blacks
  4. http://www.thinglink.com/scene/565649578020306944

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