Identification Using Signalments in Horses

Horses September 27, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Signalments – Colorings and Markings

There are two types of identification methods used by the horse industry that enable individuals to keep track of their horses. One uses the horse's natural markings and colorings, called signalments, and the other uses permanent markings. Every horse owner should keep a detailed record of the specific coloring and markings of his or her horse. Some breed associations and other groups require that a horse identification record be kept on file.

This serves two purposes:

  1. To ensure that the horse performing is actually the horse that is registered under a specific name and
  2. To allow the owner to have an identification record in case of theft.

Not only should the colorings and markings be recorded, but pictures of the horse should be taken and kept on file. Front, side, and rear views of the horse should be taken, with the horse filling up as much of the picture as possible. Unique characteristics should also be photographed. Here is a list of what every horse owner should record about his or her horse's colorings and markings (described in detail in the sections that follow):

Examples of 3 different Equine Head Markings
  1. Body color
  2. Head markings
  3. Eye color
  4. Leg markings
  5. Chestnuts
  6. Cowlicks, or whorls
  7. Scars and blemishes
  8. Brands (see permanent identification)

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.