The term “Buckskin” refers to color and not to a breed. However, buckskin registries do exist to promote the breeding of this color. A true buckskin horse has a color like that of a tanned deer hide, with a black mane and tail, black socks on the legs, a black muzzle and black tips around the ears. The shades of the body can range from a light yellow to a dark gold and the points (mane, tail, legs, etc) can be black to dark brown. There are other color variations including dun, grulla, red dun, and brindle dun that is included in most of the buckskin registries.
A horse with dun coloration has much more pigmentation in the body hairs. It tends to be darker in color, and has much more black hair throughout the body which can give it a “sooty” appearance. In general, duns have dark points like the buckskin. What really distinguishes a dun from buckskin though is the presence of “dun-factor” points which are a dorsal and shoulder stripe and striping or “barring” on the legs.
A Grulla coloredhorse is generally a mousy gray that ranges from bluish to slate. They can also have a warmer brown pigmentation. Like duns, the Grulla horse generally has the dorsal stripe, the shoulder stripe and the leg barring.
The coloration of a red dun horse ranges from a lighter peach color to a darker red. In general, the points of a red dun are a darker shade of red or a chestnut color which provides a great contrast to the body. To be considered a red dun, the horse must have a dorsal stripe. Shoulder stripes and leg barring are usually present but not required.
The brindle dun is a very rare color. It has most of the “dun-factors” including the dorsal stripe, shoulder stripes and leg barring, but what sets it apart is the striping found all over its body. The striping can be anything from tear drop in formation to zebra like.
Part of the appeal of buckskin breeding is the genetic factor resulting in a horse of a different color. All horses possess two locations in their genetic code where a color modification can occur. These genes go by the name of “creme” genes. They have the capability to lighten the horse by one or two shades depending on whether one or two of the genes are present. Horses that are bay, sorrel, or black do not have a “crème” gene present and are called base colored.
Horses with palomino, smoky black or buckskin coloration have one “crème” gene, and are called “single dilutes.” If a horse is cremello, pearlino, or smoky cream in color it is said to be a “double dilute” and has two of the “crème” genes present. A buckskin horse is essentially a bay horse with one “crème” gene. A dun horse has the “dun” gene which dilutes color the same as the “crème” gene, but it adds the “dun factor” or the dorsal and shoulder stripes and leg barring. The dun gene is thought to be a much more primitive gene, reflecting the coloration of many of the ancient breeds of horses.
The largest buckskin promotional organization in the world is the International Buckskin Horse Association (IBHA). It was incorporated in 1971 in the United States (Indiana) and serves to promote and preserve the breeding of buckskin, dun, grulla, and red dun horses. This organization is also an AQHA alliance partner. It maintains the pedigrees and show records of any horse in its registry.
It promotes the breeding and use of buckskins through a national point standing program, a World Show, a national convention, a queen’s contest, a scholarship program, and many other activities. To be registered with the IBHA, a horse must be buckskin, dun, grulla, red dun or brindle dun.
Another important world-wide registry in the American Buckskin Registry Association. Founded in 1963, this association is also an AQHA alliance partner. It is actively involved in the promotion of the buckskin, dun, red dun and grulla colors as well. It has a World Show, national point standings and scholarship program. This registry is only open to light bodied horses and will not accept any of draft type. It will accept horses with white markings, as long as they are confined to legs and face (such as socks or stockings, and facial markings like a stripe or star). The applicant must provide eight photos to register a horse. It does not allow any horses with pinto or appaloosa coloring.
Since buckskins can be of any breed, you will find them performing in a multitude of disciplines such as western and English pleasure, halter, showmanship, cutting, reining, dressage, driving, roping and rodeo, jumping, endurance and ranch work.