Written by Brad Heath
There’s something about a horse with blue eyes. Growing up, we had a Paint horse with the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen. My whole life, I was told that my blue eyed horse had the ability to see better than the other horses we owned who didn’t have blue eyes. But, what’s the real truth here?
Horses that have blue eyes are pretty rare. The science isn’t clear as to what exactly causes blue eyes to appear on a horse, but they believe that it’s closely related to their coat color. Typically, horses that have a light coat color from a single-dilute color gene, such as Palominos or Buckskins are more prone to have blue eyes.
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While the single dilute coat colors can have blue eyes appear, the double-dilute coat colors almost always have blue eyes. An example of these double-dilute colors include Perlinos and Cremellos. There is a direct correlation between coat color and eye color in horses. Scientists do believe that it’s related to the overall pigment of a horse. So, a darker horse that has more pigment (or melanin), should have darker colored eyes, and vice versa. There are of course exceptions to this correlation rule.
Although blue eyed horses are not limited to a particular breed of horse, they do tend to appear more in a few breeds. The most common breeds that have horses with blue eyes are Paint horses and Quarter horses. However, blue eyes are also common across Tennessee Walking horses, Appaloosa’s, and some Miniature horses.
The most common rumor about blue eyed horses is that they can see better. Although this is a fun thought, it’s not true. Blue eyed horses have the same dichromatic vision that dark eyed horses have. The only vision difference that blue eyed horses can possess is sensitivity to light. All the blue eyed readers of this article can agree and attest, sometimes the sun and bright lights are a little rough on our light colored eyes. This is because of the lack of melanin in comparison to darker eyes.
Fortunately, the second rumor that circulates concerning horses with blue eyes that they are more prone to diseases, is also untrue. The one exception to this is a particular Ophthalmic Disease. A study conducted in 2014 found that horses with blue eyes are more likely to develop SCC (Squamous Cell Carcinoma) than horses with dark eyes. This is because blue eyed horses usually have very light skin right around their eyes, causing them to be more susceptible to this form of cancer. SCC can be prevented by keeping blue eyed horses guarded from UV radiation.
There is a big misconception about the attitude and temperament of horses with blue eyes. A lot of people in the horse community have notioned blue eyed horses as being crazy. The fact of the matter is, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to back this claim. There is no correlation between the eye color of a horse and their temperament.
In fact, the horse I had growing up with blue eyes was one of the most docile horses that we owned. Now, there are other things that can determine the temperament of a horse, but eye color is not one of them. Some factors that will play a role in horse temperament include:
Horses are born predisposed to their temperament. While you can train a horse and help them to control their behavior, ultimately, you cannot change their temperament.
As mentioned earlier, there are many coat colors and breeds where it’s very common to see blue eyed horses. So, what breeds do we rarely see horses with blue eyes?
It’s also fairly rare to see blue eyes appear on a dark horse, particularly a black horse. Black horses with blue eyes are a unique phenomenon.
While these horses can be a little spooky or unnerving to some, I personally think that black horses with blue eyes are very majestic in their appearance.
Although blue eyed horses are most common in horses with light colored coats, they are not common in white horses.
White horses typically have darker eyes. White horses with blue eyes are still very rare, although not as rare as black horses with blue eyes.
Since horses with blue eyes are so rare, horse owners have a lot of fun giving them names that live up to their unique appearance. The most common blue eyed horse names often play off of the blue color. Some of the most popular names include:
Blue Eyed Bandit
There are a lot of misconceptions about blue eyed horses out there, and this article debunked them all. Horses with blue eyes certainly are rare, but these horses aren’t crazy, and they don’t come riddled with medical concerns, either. If it’s your first time owning a horse, you may want to check out our beginner horse ownership guide.
Not all blue eyed horses are deaf. However, congenital deafness in horses shows up more frequently in horses that have blue eyes in combination with a white face.
Quite the opposite! Blue eyed horses can't see any better than horses that have dark eyes. However, horses with blue eyes see the same as any other eye color.
Some people believe that horses with blue eyes have a significance. Blue eyed horses are often nicknamed “Heaven’s Eyes” and are noted to have spiritual meaning, particularly in Indian culture.
A horse with blue eyes will not always have both eyes be blue. When this occurs, it’s from a genetic trait called complete heterochromia. Complete heterochromia causes a horse to have only one blue eye because of a genetic mutation that affects the pigment of their iris.
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