Myths concerning blue eyed horses are legendary and range from health issues to temperament. Most horses are born with dark brown eyes but colors can include a range of amber, blue, hazel and green hues. Blue eyes in horses are typically associated with pale cream colored coats but, as with the horse in the photo above, horses with brown coats can also have blue eyes. One can understand how myths could form surrounding something as simple as a blue eyed horse since they are not common and may seem striking unusual. Let's take a look and debunk some of the myths!
Myth: Horses with blue eyes have bad eyesight.
Fact: Equine vision problems do not necessarily coincide with blue eyes. Blue eyed horses can have excellent vision. The likely connection to equine vision problems, may lie with coat coloring, not eye color.
Myth: Foals born with an all white coat and blue eyes have a very short lifespan.
Fact: All white foals with blue eyes can be born with Lethal White Syndrome. The foals with this syndrome are carried the full 11 month gestational time period but die within a few days with death is caused by a non-functioning colon. Painful colic develops within a few hours after birth and the foals are often euthanized to avoid the painful death process. However, not all foals with white coats and blue eyes are born with Lethal White Syndrome. LWS requires that both parents are a carrier for the foal to be affected.
Myth: Horses with blue eyes have an uncontrollable temperament.
Fact: To date there has been no scientifically proven connection between eye color and temperament. Some horses with blue eyes have a feisty temperament, while others are gentle.
Myth: Blue eyes in horses are caused by white markings across the brow.
Fact: The majority of horses with blue eyes have a double dose of the cream gene. The cream gene can produce a light chestnut-colored horse, rather than a solid white horse. Either may or may not have blue eyes. It is possible for a brown horse with white markings to have blue eyes. Coat color does not necessarily determine eye color. Frame and splash may cause blue eyes, but the placement of white on a horse does not determine blue eyes.
Myth: Skin cancer is rampant in blue eyed horses.
Fact: Squamous cell carcinoma is seen more often in horses with pink skin and the myth exists because many pink-skinned horses have blue eyes. A horse with pink eyelids should be protected from UV rays with a UV blocking fly mask.
*Photo courtesy of Old Blue Eyes by Brian Smith, Flickr Creative Commons.