Who remembers the scene from The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and her friends visited the Emerald City? They saw there a most unusual carriage horse, whose colouring actually changed from one shade to another constantly.
Dorothy gasped and said to the Emerald City gate guard,
"What kind of horse is that? I've never seen a horse like that before."
The gatekeeper replied , "He's the Horse of a Different Colour, you've heard tell about."
This idiomatic expression, a horse of a different colour, usually does not refer to horses, but to something else; it usually means a matter turning out quite differently to originally expected, something of a different nature, or an out-of-place feature. In fact, this expression does not just seem to be figurative, as I have often thought that the names of the colours of horses' coats are often unexpected, and quite contradictory. To list the most common:
Black: this is one of the few horses which seems to be named literally according to its colour! This only applies to pure black horses though, where there is no other colour in the coat. They are not that common, but not exactly “rare”.
Grey: Grey horses are not just the ones that look grey, but also include the white ones. This is because white horses are, apparently, not really white, but a very light grey (The only horses that are truly white are called albinos!) Their skin is dark and they have dark pigmentation around their eyes ears and nose.
Chestnut:/Sorrel: Different shades of red or reddish brown usually, varying from quite a dark red-brown to a light coppery colour.
Dun: Usually a medium to dark shade of brown, But not to be confused with the next one! See below.
Brown: another literally-named one! Not the same as chestnut or bay, though.
Bay: Brown to red in colour but with darker points , i.e. ears, flanks, knees and hocks.
Roan: a solid colour with white flecking throughout the coat. A strawberry roan, for example, is a light chestnut, a chestnut with white flecking.
These are the main colours (the primary colours, if you like), but there are also many subcategories of these, too numerous to go into here, like palominos, dapples, cremellos, champagnes, pintos, paints, brindles and appaloosas! I love the names and the diversity of the colourings and markings. An interesting fact is that apparently the colouring of all horses is based on either black or chestnut, which are the two base colours, but then these are modified by the addition of other genes acting upon these shades, and giving rise to all the variations. Fascinating, huh?
I hope that you enjoyed this blog. Your votes and comments are much appreciated.
Picture courtesy of www.horseandponyrox.wikispaces.com