Rabicano is a pattern of white hairs sometimes confused with roan. It consists of white hairs interspersed in a faintly brindled pattern along the flank area, belly and up between the front legs. It also causes a "coon tail" of white banding at the tailhead. Rabicano horses can have such minimal expressions of the pattern that it is missed.
The rabicano gene is dominant, so rabicano horses will have at least one rabicano parent. Rabicano is
comparatively rare in the Morgan breed.Click on any picture to enlarge
KATHARINE SERENITY (UVM Tennyson X Run Brook Tiffany), 1994 brown rabicano mare owned by Buffy Tarr. The photo on the right shows
a classic expression of the rabicano "coon tail" or "squaw tail". Photos by Erin White.
ANCAN ALLIANCE OF DANGER (Fiddler's Blackriver X Ancan Lil Miss Dangerous), 1997 chestnut rabicano mare owned by
Judith Kuntz. Photos by Debbie Uecker-Keough.
DIA H SNOW GOOSE (DJB Yukon Jack X Dia H Dark Sprite), 1999 flaxen
chestnut rabicano mare, shown here with her 2003 bay Morab filly, RGR Dance of Joy. Notice how the roaning starts on "Glory's" underside in the flank area, and becomes faint brindling along her sides. She has the white
hairs at the top of the tailhead, aka "coon tail" or "squaw tail", that are typical of rabicano as well. Photo courtesy of Susanna Schaenzer.
Roan is a pattern of white hairs over the horse's body, mixed in with the base color hairs.
The points and head remain the base color. As with all the patterns of white, there are degrees of expression, so that some roans
are nearly white on the body while others remain fairly dark. Roan is dominant, so all roans have at least one roan parent.Click on picture to enlarge
In Morgans, there are two known sources for roan, the 1964 chestnut roan mare Doll Rose (out of the roan mare Rosemont), and the 1940 chestnut roan mare Torchy (out of a roan, X registered daughter of Mansfield). Doll Rose's roan
line was represented by the late Caduceus Herod, a blue roan gelding pictured below. Torchy's
line comes down to us through the Double J prefixed horses, and their only
recent roan descendant was the
1985 bay roan mare Viv LaMae (Double J Apollo X Carlyle LaMae), who was never
bred. As a result it was thought that the roan gene might be extinct in our breed.
There are a few documented cases in other breeds of KIT mutations resulting in what are known as “de novo”—or spontaneously occurring—true roans.
These horses do not have a roan parent; their coloring is due to a random mutation in KIT. The New Zealand bred bay Thoroughbred stallion,
Catch A Bird, is the most well-known example of this phenomena. Catch A Bird had what looked like white brindling over his body,
which is not a typical roan phenotype. Roan is not known to exist in Thoroughbreds, but four of Catch A Bird’s foals had the classic look
of a dark headed roan. Would it be possible that the same thing could happen in Morgans, potentially bringing roan back to our breed?
For many years that has been the hope for fans of the colorful Morgan. Last year, at Caroline Tarr’s Belvue Stud in South Australia, it actually happened.
Watching Moonshadows (Mt Tawonga King (black) x Mt Tawonga Sophia (bay)) appears to be a true dark headed roan, and it is hoped that she will pass on her roan when she is eventually bred,
returning this beautiful color to the breed.
To learn more about the history of roan in our breed, and see some interesting historical roans, read
this article, originally published in the Winter 2011 Rainbow Morgan Horse Association newsletter, and updated March 2018.
A more thorough article that includes information about Watching Moonshadows is
slated to appear in the October issue of THE MORGAN HORSE magazine. A PDF of it
should be added to their website shortly thereafter.
CADUCEUS HEROD (Wyoming Flyhawk X Doll Rose), a 1987 blue roan gelding
who was owned by Barbara Putnam of N. Liberty, Iowa.
Herod was Reserve Champion at Third Level and fourth at Second Level
in the 1996 USDF All-Breeds Awards.
TOP- WATCHING MOONSHADOWS (Mt Tawonga King x Mt Tawonga Sophia), 2018 bay roan mare bred by Caroline Tarr and owned by Eva Hornung,
S. Australia. BELOW Moonshadow's sire, Mt Tawonga King (black) and
dam Mt Tawonga Sophia (bay). Neither are roan or have any roans in their pedigree.
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