A bald face horse does not mean a horse that is literally bald. It is a black or gray horse with a white face that you may have seen before. So, why is that horse purely black but his face? Are other horses with white marks on a partial face called “bald face horses” as well? This article will help you answer.
What are bald face horses?
Bald face horses are those who have white markings that cover most of their face and even their eyes. If the white markings cover just a small part of the horse’s face, it has other names which will be mentioned later.
The most common types of horses with bald face horse markings are Overo, Paint, and Pinto horses. Many bald-faced horses also have blue eyes.
Bald face horse marking & the Lethal White Syndrome
Lethal White Syndrome
Lethal White Syndrome (LWS) is an autosomal genetic disorder which is most prevalent in the American Paint Horse. The other names of LWS are Overo Lethal White Syndrome (OLWS), Lethal White Overo (LWO), and Overo Lethal White Foal Syndrome (OLWFS).
An affected foal is born after the full gestational period and externally appear normal with all-white or nearly all-white coats and blue eyes. However, within a few hours or days, affected foals will die because of their non-functioning colon.
Since death is so painful, they are often humanely euthanized when identified. To me, it is truly devastating to see a seemingly healthy foal who is carried to the full term dies.
Actually, the bald face is one of the white-spotting patterns called “frame”, or “frame overo”. This is exhibited by horses heterozygous for the Ile118Lys mutation on the equine EDNRB gene – carrier of LWS.
The frame is white patches that run along the neck, shoulder, flank, and hindquarters but the back, legs, or tail of a horse. However, it often produces bald faces and blue eyes.
As the white markings appear with a dark-colored border (like a frame), here comes its name “frame”. Nowadays, horses who carry heterozygous mutations do not have health concerns associated with carrier-only status.
Common horse facial markings
As mentioned above, the bald face is just one of many facial markings on horses. The white pattern can be abundant in shape and appear in different parts of the face. So, what are the others called?
A white spot on the horse’s forehead, between the eyes is called a star.
Sometimes, a star is called a faint which appears on a few white hairs. Or the star can be large and cover the whole forehead. Also, the shapes of stars are different. Some can be symmetrical (like spots or diamonds), but some can be irregular splotches.
On gray horses, the star can be seen easily when the horse is young but disappear into gray hair coat when he is growing. The star may blend into the hair color, but the skin under the star has lighter color.
A stripe is a band of white that extends down the bridge of the nose. A stripe may connect to the star and run down to the white markings on the horse’s nose.
Sometimes, they appear into 3 separate facial markings which is called interrupted stripe. The stripe is quite narrow, only one or two inches, and locates on top of the nasal bone.
A blaze appears on the whole bridge of the horse’s nose, from the forehead to the nose.
Similar to the star, blazes can be symmetrical or unevenly. Comparing to the stripe, the blaze is much wider. And that is the only difference between the blaze and the stripe. The former covers most of the horse’s face between the ridges of the bone, while the later stays on top of nasal bone.
If there is a patch of white on the horse’s nose, it is called a snip. Sometimes, it appears like a small spot between the nostrils. Or, it can widen over the whole nose.
A snip may connect to a blaze or a stripe.
Bald is white marking that covers much wider than a blaze. It appears from the forehead to the nose, from side to side beyond the eye area to the cheekbones, which means a majority of the horse’s face.
There are some specific names of bald face horse in some breeds, such as apron face horse or medicine hat.
Horse facial appearance can be a combination of those above markings. This makes horse’s face unique and easier to identify individual horses. Some common combinations are star & stripe, star & snip, and star, snip & stripe.
To conclude, I would like to say that some of you may find a bald face horse ugly, but I personally find it interestingly beautiful.
I hope this article helps you know how to name different white markings on horses. And, please pay attention to the LWS. It is good to learn more about LWS in further articles to protect your foals.