chestnut horse breeds

The Ultimate Guide To Chestnut Horse Breeds

Chestnut horses are certainly not a rare sight – in fact, these reddish-brown coats are fairly common in dozens of horse breeds.

Although there aren’t many breeds with exclusively chestnut coats, many breeds do have this colouring, particularly those with solid base colours.

Let’s find out more about the different chestnut horses in the world – it’s impossible to list every breed with chestnut colouring, so we’ve highlighted some of the most popular with chestnut as one of their recognised colours.

The Chestnut Colour

Before we get into these handsome equines, let’s delve into exactly what “chestnut colouring” refers to.

Chestnut is a horse coat colour that can vary in hue from dark reddish-brown to an almost light copper shade. The mane and tail are typically the same colour as the coat; however, they can also be flaxen (beige).

Most horse breed associations recognise chestnut colouring, although many have different definitions for it. The American Quarter Horse Association, for example, states: “A chestnut horse’s coat has a brown tint, with the most extreme colour being an almost dark brown liver colour.

What all the associations agree on is that a basic chestnut horse has no black points (points being the mane, tail, eyes and legs) and a reddish-brown coat that ranges from dark brown to pale chestnut.

Let’s break down the different chestnut colouring:

  • Liver chestnut: A liver chestnut horse has a dark brown, almost chocolate, colouring. The mane and tail are the same dark reddish-brown. You can get a dark chestnut and a light liver chestnut horse.
Liver chestnut horse
  • Flaxen chestnut: A flaxen chestnut horse has a reddish-brown body with a light cream (or flaxen) mane and tail. It is the only recognised chestnut coat where the colour of the mane and tail differ from that of the coat.
Flaxen chestnut horse
  • Light chestnut: Light chestnut horses are sometimes called sandy chestnuts because of the reddish “sand” colour of their coats.
Light chestnut horse
  • Red chestnut: A red chestnut horse is almost copper in colour, with a metallic reddish sheen.
Red chestnut horse

Horse Breeds With Chestnut Colouring

Now that we can tell the difference between a dark liver chestnut and a red chestnut horse, let’s explore the breeds that commonly have these reddish-brown coats.

Suffolk Draught Horse

The Suffolk Draught Horse, also called the Suffolk Punch, originated in England.

What makes this horse unique is that its coat is always chestnut. It is, in fact, one of the only exclusively chestnut breeds in the world.

Suffolk chestnut horse

These strong horses are traditionally used in agriculture for ploughing and pulling heavy loads. Their calm temperaments also make them great riding horses for beginners (despite their impressive size!).

Suffolk Punches come in a variety of chestnut colours, including dark liver, dull, red, golden, lemon, bright and light chestnut.

Here’s an interesting nugget of information – when referring to the colouring of a Suffolk Draught Horse, you actually say “chesnut,” not “chestnut,” in accordance with traditional spelling.


Haflingers may be small, but you know what they say about dynamite and small packages…

Haflingers excel in various disciplines – show jumping, dressage, driving and trail riding. Despite their diminutive stature, they are popular riding horses for both adults and children.

Chestnut halflinger

Photo from Wikimedia

This horse was bred during WWII to be small, stocky and strong. Today, breeding has shifted to create versatile horses for driving and riding.

Haflingers are friendly and love people, making them popular as companion and therapy animals.

This horse breed is commonly a light, golden chestnut, with a cream or white mane and tail. They can also come in darker shades of chestnut. Typically, Haflingers have white points on their faces and legs.

American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter horse is usually either chestnut or sorrel (also a reddish colour without any black).

Quarter horses are one of the most common horse breeds in America, although they are slightly rarer in the UK. The American Quarter Horse Association recognises 17 different coat colours – with chestnut being only one of them.

Quarter horse chestnut

This breed has a long history – dating back 500 years to when Spanish conquistadors brought their Arab and Barb horses to the States. Today the horse is popular for racing, eventing and ranching.

Chestnut Quarter horses are very common, and their coats can range from light to dark chestnut. Other colours include black, bay, brown, dun, palomino and buckskin.

Welsh Mountain Pony

The Welsh Mountain Pony, also called the Welsh Cob, is a tough, adaptable pony that is very popular with children due to its smaller size.

Welsh chestnut

These all-purpose horses are used on farms, in the military, in harness, for hunts, and children can even use them for jumping. They are also commonly used in trekking, and occasionally you might spot a Welsh Cob strutting its stuff in the dressage arena.

Welsh Mountain Ponies come in a variety of colours, but they are most commonly chestnut, black, bay or grey. Sometimes they have white points on their faces and legs.

Hanoverian Horse

The Hanoverian is a German Warmblood horse with a strong, robust build. These horses have a distinct, rhythmic canter and a smooth trot, making them perfect dressage horses. Sometimes they are also used in mounted games.

Hanoverian chestnut horse

Although Hanoverians are not exclusively chestnut, it is one of their most common coat colours. Other common colours are black, bay and grey. Rather interestingly, the breed association does not recognise white, buckskin, palomino or cremello horses.

Morgan Horse

Morgan horses are popular in both Western and English riding disciplines. These stocky horses are incredibly versatile; just as comfortable on a farm as in the dressage ring.

Dark chestnut morgan

This breed is one of the oldest American horse breeds, dating back to the foundation sire “Figure” in 1789.

Like many other horse breeds, Morgan horses are not exclusively chestnut, although it is one of their main coat colours, along with bay, brown and black.

Thoroughbred Horse

If you’re interested in horses you’ve probably heard of the hero of the racetrack – the Thoroughbred. This horse breed dates back to the 1700s. Despite their origins in England, most Thoroughbreds today are found in the US.


Thoroughbreds are not used solely for racing; they are popular dressage horses and showjumpers. They are also used for trail riding and horse riding lessons (but aren’t recommended for beginners because of their lively nature!).

Thoroughbreds have solid coat colours, with bay, brown and chestnut being the most common.

Belgian Draft Horse

Belgian Draft Horses originate from – you guessed it – Belgium. They are used as working horses and are popular in pulling competitions, but the breed can be traced back to medieval times, when they carried knights into battle.

Chestnut belgian draft horse

Belgian Drafts (or “draughts,” as we call them in the UK), usually have chestnut, sorrel or lighter blonde coats. If you visit enough stables, you might even be lucky enough to spot a roan Belgian Draft. These horses tend to have white markings on their faces (called a blaze), as well as some white on their legs.

Peruvian Paso

The Peruvian Paso is a sight to behold. This striking horse exudes elegance and is most at home parading around the dressage arena. Despite their regal appearance, Peruvian Pasos are actually mild-tempered and friendly horses.

Chestnut peruvian paso

Image from Wikimedia

They are often used as trail riding horses and can be seen in parades.

The Paso originated from the Barb horse, which means you can find a variety of gorgeous coat colours. Chestnut and bay are the most common, but Peruvian Pasos can also be grey, roan, dun, palomino or buckskin.

Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking Horse is incredibly popular in the US. It was originally bred for work on farms, but today these horses are often used in parades and eventing, thanks to their unique gait.

Chestnut tennesse walking horse

Image from wikimedia

This breed has a running walk, a flat foot walk or a canter. All these gaits are very smooth, making them popular riding horses.

Tennessee Walking Horses have solid coat colours; usually chestnut, bay, brown, black, grey or pure white.

Falabella Horse

Falabellas are not exclusively chestnut horses, but it is one of their main coat colours.

These horses have a rather unique origin story. The small Falabella originated in the isolated Argentine Pampas a few hundred years ago. The Spanish settlers abandoned their Andalusian steeds in Argentina, and the horses managed to survive in the harsh environment.

Chestnut fallabella

Over time they adapted and became smaller in size due to inbreeding. The Falabella family stumbled upon these hardy horses and started a breeding program, creating the much-loved horse we know today.

Falabellas are the smallest horses in the world, and can live up to 45 years!

Although not an exclusively chestnut horse, it is one of their main coat colours, along with bay, brown, black, palomino and pinto. Coat colours are not the primary concern for breeders; they instead focus on conformation and quality of the horse.


Most – if not all – horse lovers will have heard of the Arabian horse. These horses are ancient – rumoured to have originated in 3,000 BC in the Arabian Peninsula.

Chestnut Arab

Today, these distinguished equines are used in a variety of disciplines, but their hot-blooded temperament means only experienced equestrians should ride them.

Purebred Arabians come in a variety of colours. The reddish-brown chestnut colour is popular, as are bay, black, roan and grey. They might also have white markings on their faces and legs.

Arabians have pitch-black skin to protect them from the harsh desert sun, with the exception of their white markings.


You may not have heard of the Budyonny before, as this breed is not very popular in the UK.

Budyonny chestnut horse

Image from wikimedia

The Budyonny originated in the former Soviet Union. Marshal Budyonny crossed a Russian Don with an English Thoroughbred to create this military horse.

Today the Budyonny is used for riding, jumping and pulling light carriages.

Around 80% of all Budyonny horses are chestnut, and they have a gorgeous metallic sheen thanks to their Russian Don genes. Other colours include brown, grey, black and bay.


What is the most expensive chestnut horse ever sold?

The most expensive chestnut horse ever to be sold was a gelding named Palloubet d’Halong. The Selle Francais horse was a top showjumper and sold for $15 million in 2013.

What is the most famous chestnut horse?

The most famous chestnut horse is undoubtedly Secretariat. This Thoroughbred won the Triple Crown in 1973 and was the inspiration for the movie of the same name.

After his racing career ended, Secretariat was sold for over $6 million – a record-breaking figure at the time.

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