So, you’ve recently thought of buying a horse and have seen this one stunning, regal creature, with a beautiful, thick mane, and a perfect gait… but it has blue eyes.
And, you’ve heard all the rumours about horses with blue eyes – they’re deaf, prone to eye diseases, and sensitive to light – and you are not sure whether to sign on the dotted line.
Don’t worry – horses with blue eyes are no less a great investment than their brown-eyed counterparts.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about blue-eyed horses and get you ready to welcome this unique equine companion into your stable.
Horses With Blue Eyes
Though not very common, horses can have blue eyes.
The blue colour in their eyes is caused by the low melanin pigment density in their irises and is related to their coat colour.
Blue eyes, however, irrespective of coat colour, can occur in any horse breed, but are more common in horses with light colour coats or white markings. Coloured horses often have one blue and one brown eye.
Our mini cob Smartie has one blue eye and one brown eye
Horse Breeds With Blue Eyes
Although blue eyes can occur in just about any horse breed, this unique characteristic is a lot more common in the following breeds:
- Akhal Teke
- Miniature Horse
- Gypsy Vanner
- Quarter Horse
- Paint Horse
- Tennessee Walking Horse
Blue eyes are also found in Thoroughbreds and horses of Arabian descent.
Pepper, our cheeky Gypsy Vanner has two bright blue eyes
Myths About Horses With Blue Eyes
There are only two eye colours observed in horses: brown and blue. Some horses have both eye colours – one brown eye and one blue eye.
Because blue eyes in horses are so uncommon, many people have misconceptions about these beautiful animals.
Are these myths true?
Eye problems are common in horses with blue eyes
Horses with blue eyes are not more prone to having eye problems than their brown-eyed counterparts.
Some of the most common eye problems in horses include intraocular complications and moon blindness. All horse breeds, irrespective of whether they have brown or blue eyes, can develop eye diseases.
Blue-eyed horses have pink skin surrounding their eyes, however, and have a higher chance of developing squamous cell carcinoma; an eye disease caused by cancer of the skin. Your horse is more likely to develop this type of cancer due to the light skin colour or skin pigmentation around its eyes, rather than because it has blue eyes.
Moon blindness in blue-eyed horses can get worse over time
This autoimmune disease the inside of the horse’s eye is attacked by its immune system. It is not caused nor worsened by the moon. The different phases of the moon also do not trigger nor worsen this disease.
Scientists are still trying to work out what exactly causes this condition and how to prevent it; so for now, your blue-eyed horse (and those with brown eyes) are free to graze or relax under a full moon.
Feeding a blue-eyed horse a special diet will prevent eye diseases
Feeding your horse special vitamin supplements will not delay eye diseases such as cataracts or macular degeneration – these diseases fortunately do not occur in horses. There is, therefore, no need to feed your blue-eyed horse special foods to ward off eye-related diseases.
Just like your dog or cat, a horse that’s fed a balanced diet is a happy and healthy animal, so make sure you only feed her the best.
More Facts About Horses With Blue Eyes
Horses with blue eyes are just as special as brown-eyed horses, if not more so – who wouldn’t want to look into those beautiful blue eyes every day?
Here are some more interesting facts about horses with blue eyes:
All horses can have blue eyes
As we mentioned earlier, any horse, no matter the colour of its coat, can have blue eyes, but this characteristic is more commonly found in horses with light colour coats or white markings. Paint horses with splashed white coats, for example, typically have pink skin and almost always have blue eyes.
All horse breeds have dichromatic vision
All horses, irrespective of whether they have blue eyes or brown, have two-colour or dichromatic vision. Both types of horses have just as good eyesight as the next, no matter their eye colour.
Horses can have different coloured eyes
Horses with a condition known as complete heterochromia have mismatched eyes. This condition is often seen in the Paint Horse, where the horse has one brown and one blue eye.
Horse eyes can have different shades
Blue-eyed horses can have one eye with two different colours or different shades of colour. This condition is known as segmental and central heterochromia.
Blue Eyes And Coat Colours
The colour of an equine’s coat can determine their eye colour. There are different ways this characteristic manifests in horses.
This condition is seen in horses that have two cream genes, which results in twice-diluted base colours in their coats. They have blue eyes, their coats are light chestnut, brown, or bay in colour, and the majority have white faces.
Cremellos and perlinos are examples of horses with double-diluted creme genes.
Horses in this grouping also have blue eyes. They typically have one cream gene present and have darker coat colours, like bay, black, or chestnut. They have white markings all over their bodies.
The palomino and buckskin are good examples of horses with single-dilute colouration.
Horses with white markings and spots
These animals are characterised by the white markings and spots on their coats. Their coats may present double-diluted colours, or this may be absent. Horses with white markings and spots on their coats commonly have white faces, or white markings, that spread to one or both eyes.
Paint horses, as well as the pinto and Appaloosa, fall in this category.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Blue-eyed Horses
Even though blue-eyed horses are not more prone to eye diseases than horses with dark eye colours, or have the same vision as their dark-eyed counterparts, they are more prone to developing squamous cell carcinoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
Due to the decreased or lighter pigmentation around their eyes and eyelids, horses with pale blue eyes are more likely to develop this type of skin cancer.
SCC is caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays, and is characterised by cancerous tumours in the outer skin layers of the eye, the cells of the cornea and the conjunctiva (the thin, clear membrane that protects the eye).
Although all horses can develop this disease, horses with blue eyes are more susceptible.
Caring For Horses With Blue Eyes
Horse owners should take extra special care of blue-eyed horses – although all their horses need care, love and protection.
Horses with blue eyes need extra protection from the sun’s harmful ultra-violet sun rays, which can cause SCC. It is advised that you limit your blue-eyed horse’s exposure to the sun and avoid riding a blue-eyed horse in direct sunlight, or when the sun’s UV index is at its highest.
Blue-eyed horse owners should use fly masks and sunscreen on the sensitive skin surrounding the horse’s eyes and eyelids.
Provide ample shade for your horses to shield themselves from the sun’s rays – especially on hot and sunny days.
Can blue-eyed horses see better than other horses?
No; blue-eyed horses have the same dichromatic vision that dark-eyed horses have. Keep in mind, though, that a horse with blue eyes can be more sensitive to light because of the lack of melanin in their eyes.
Are blue-eyed horses deaf?
No; just because a horse has blue eyes, it doesn’t mean they are deaf. Although congenital deafness is more common in bald-faced horses with blue eyes, many can still hear normally.
Do blue-eyed horses have a temper?
There is no scientific evidence to show that horses with blue eyes have a bad temper. A horse’s personality type or temperament is determined by its genetics, upbringing, interactions with people and other horses, individual training and environment.
Can black horses have blue eyes?
Yes; some black horses may have pink skin beneath the areas of white hair under their coats. If these white markings cover one or both of their eyes, they may have blue eyes.