Are Chestnut Horses Crazy? Not Necessarily, Scientists Say

But, they were more likely to display “bold” behaviors (i.e., approaching unfamiliar objects) than bay horses.

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Are Chestnut Horses Crazy
Researchers found no evidence that chestnut horses were any crazier than bay horses. | Photo: iStock
Is your chestnut mare a hothead? Or maybe you steer clear of red horses, following the age-old adage, “chestnut mare, beware”?

Whatever you’ve learned through tradition or horse culture about chestnut horses, it’s time to put the stereotypes aside. European researchers recently reported that there’s no scientific basis to these preconceived notions—and they might even be endangering these horses’ welfare.

“I have no idea where the stereotype came from, but I’d imagine all it took was a couple of high-profile chestnut horses that misbehaved,” said Brandon Velie, BSc, MSc, PhD, a researcher in the Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, in Uppsala, who was previously affiliated with the University of Sydney, in Australia.

“From a welfare perspective, my concern is that instead of re-evaluating equipment fit, training practices, stabling practices, etc., people will continue to assume a chestnut horse is kicking and rearing and so forth just because ‘that’s what they do

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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