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"Napoleonic cavalry horse colours?" Topic

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Chortle Fezian20 Apr 2008 10:38 p.m. PST


I'm compiling a list of horse colours for Napoleonic cavalry regiments mainly from information culled from the internet. I have the following (most of it due to link

I'm OK on the French but far weaker on other nations so I'd appreciate any feedback. I'll put up a page with this information on my web site once I'm done (with appropriate credits and back links).

Obviously this list doesn't take into account campaigning where a unit would pick up any horses, or ponies, it could get.

French Cavalry Horses

Line Cavalry: Dragoons, Lancers, Chasseurs à Cheval, Hussars by company (Trumpeters on grays)
1st company on blacks,
2nd company on bays,
3rd company on chestnuts,
4th Squadron on grays and whites
5th company on browns and blacks
6th company on bays
7th company on chestnuts
8th company on grays and whites

Horse Carabiniers

Black horses. Later on blacks, browns and dark bays. Trumpeters on black?


Blacks, browns and dark bays. Trumpeters on grays.

Regiment of Horse Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard

blacks and a few browns. Trumpeters on black?

Regiment of Guard Dragoons

Chestnuts and some bays. Trumpeters on grays.

1st Regiment of Lighthorse-Lancers (Polish) of the Imperial Guard

1st squadron on chestnuts 2nd Squadron on bays 3rd Squadron on blacks 4th Squadron on dark greys.

2nd Regiment of Lighthorse-Lancers (Dutch) of the Imperial Guard

Chestnuts and bays.

1st Regiment of Horse Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard

Bays (mostly dark bays). One squadron on chestnuts.

Squadron of Guard Mamelukes

Bays (mostly dark bays). Trumpeters on grays.

Russian Cavalry Horses

No uniformity except for the Imperial Guard.

Guard Cavalry Regiment
1st squadron on bays, 2nd squadron on chestnuts, 3rd squadron on grays, 4th squadron on blacks.

Lifeguard Uhlan Regiment
1st squadron on dark bays, 2nd squadron on light bays, 3rd squadron on chestnuts, 4th squadron on blacks.

Austrian Cavalry Horses
Dark bay, brown or black. Squadrons tried to limit colour variation.

Prussian Cavalry Horses

8th Hussar regiment before 1807
chestnut horses. Trumpeters on white horses.

Prussian Guard cavalry
black horses

British Cavalry

Household cavalry on black horses
Scots Greys on grey horses
2nd Dragoon Guards (Queens Bays) on bay horses
Some RHA batteries have the same colour draft horses



Byrhthelm20 Apr 2008 11:07 p.m. PST


RHA 'A' Troop – Chestnuts (Still known as 'The Chestnut Troop' today!

I have seen a photo of 'F' (Sphinx) Bty RHA on Greys, but this is from a much later date (1930-ish), as far as I am aware (as an ex-Horse Gunner) these are the only two troops with distinctively coloured horses – however… I may be wrong!

Fish21 Apr 2008 1:04 a.m. PST

KGL had different colored horses in each squadrons. Or were at least supposed to have…

IIRC the info was from one of the Osprey books. As it has been some years since I read it I can't recall off head which book it was.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Apr 2008 1:14 a.m. PST

All very nice but what exactly is a 'Chestnut' or a 'Black' horse ? Even modern sources seem to imply that there is no real agreement as to what is meant by the colours.

I really do applaud your effort here but does anyone have some good paint colours that they use for horses to share ?

I'll start the ball rolling but I do mostly 6 & 10mm so they may not work at larger scales. Colours are Vallejo and the wash I add over the top is given in brackets.

Black – German Camo Dark Brown (black wash)
Dun – English Uniform (black or brown wash) or German Camo Ochre (dark brown wash)
Dark Brown – Black mixed with about 20-30% Cavalry Brown or Hull Red (black wash)
Chestnut – Orange Brown (brown wash – quite heavy)
Greys – Sky Grey, Silver Grey or White Grey (black wash plus highlights)
Browns – Flat Brown, Burnt Umber or Saddle Brown (black or dark brown wash)
Bays – Buff or Green Ochre (thin brown wash)

Any other ideas ?

Tony H

ccmatty Supporting Member of TMP21 Apr 2008 3:21 a.m. PST

I am fascinated by this. How would a squadron replace its horses lost in battle? Was there really such an emphasis on horse breed or after losses/casualties would replacement horses be whatever breed was available?

For painting purposes, I rather like the "varied" look and feel with different colors and breeds mixed in.

I am painting mostly Prussians (post-1806) right now. Any ideas on typical colors?

raducci21 Apr 2008 5:28 a.m. PST

Im sure the wartime reality fell short of the peacetime ideal.
But I would also think the cavalry regiment depots would have tried to get the right size & breed for their particular branch of the cavalry. And maybe even tried to get the right colours with a bit of horse tradingwith other regiments.

Cerdic21 Apr 2008 5:51 a.m. PST

I have read that it depends on the supply of horses. During peacetime units had time to pick and choose their horses. Towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars the whole of continental Europe suffered a massive shortage of horses. I would imagine that cavalry units would be grateful for anything they could get in the way of remounts.

Apparently the only army that had access to a good supply of quality horses in the later years of the wars was the British. Smaller army, home country not ravaged by enemy armies marching accross it.

Swampster21 Apr 2008 7:47 a.m. PST

I've taken to using the Foundry horse colours with a brown or chestnut ink wash over the base colour. I also use the shades from coat'arms.

As for horse colours, while the effects of campaigns would spoil the ideal mix, the heavy regiments would often try to get hold of the darker coloured horses as these were believed to be stronger.

donlowry21 Apr 2008 1:28 p.m. PST

I use a variety of brands and shades of paint, but here is how I define the colors of horses:

A black horse is very black to blue-black.
A brown horse is very very dark brown. (Use a black wash or just prime with black and dry-brush some brown on the high spots.)
A chestnut horse is brown, but not quite so dark, on down to milk chocolate brown and red-brown, including:
liver chestnut, a greenish dark brown, like fried liver, and
sorrel, a terra cotta red. Mane and tail will be of similar color to the body or lighter.
A bay is like a chestnut but with black mane and tail.
A dun horse is very light tan/khaki, with black mane and tail.
A palomino is the same with near-white mane and tail.
A gray horse is anything from charcoal to white, but usually a light to medium gray, and usually with dappling on the hips and neck. (I don't do roans, piebalds or stewbalds, too much trouble.)

All of these may or may not have white faces (blazes) and/or 1 or more white stockings. Those that have black mane and tail often have black legs from the knees down, with or without white stockings.

Noses are often gray to flesh-pink, especially on the lighter-colored horses. Same for the insides of the ears, and sometimes the eyebrows.

seneffe21 Apr 2008 2:15 p.m. PST

Having knocked about with horses for a long time, I'd say that Donlowry and Gildasfacit's descriptions of horse colours are pretty much spot on. Except that 'stewbalds' are actually 'skewbalds'.

A few other details-

British cavalry from 1796. Black Horses- Lifeguards, Royal Horseguards, 1st King's Dragoon Guards, 1st Royal Dragoons, 3rd King's Own Dragoons. Bays only 2nd Dragoon Guards. Greys 2nd Dragoons. Mixed browns, bays and chestnuts (sometimes sorted by troop/squadron) all other cavalry regiments. In the Peninsula, this might vary a bit, but in the Waterloo campaigns the horse colours would be very close to regulation.

Russian Line Cavalry. Quite correct that regulations laid down no set colours, but some Colonels seem to have sought uniformity in horses purchased. Captain Mercer, referring to the allied occupation army in France in 1815 mentions a Russian Cuirassier Regiment (years ago someone told me it was the Empress Regiment) mounted on "Isabels". Isabel was a creamy brown colour.
Again, years ago, someone told me that this colour was named after a medieval lady who vowed not to change her underthings until some fortress fell, or some other military objective was achieved. However, as the story goes, this operation took several years……..

donlowry21 Apr 2008 8:03 p.m. PST

Ewwwww! Too much information! :)

Mike Petro22 Apr 2008 5:08 a.m. PST

Browns for light and medium. Blacks for most heavies. There, my list is done.

Lord Ashram22 Apr 2008 5:22 a.m. PST

Very useful; I go single colors in most of my cav regiments as I think it looks sharp.

BTW; does everyone hate painting 25mm horses as much as I do?

Off to work on limbers! *rolls eyes in disgust*

donlowry22 Apr 2008 1:42 p.m. PST

I enjoy painting 15mm horses, as compared to men, as I have more freedom to be creative.

When I used rules that called for multi-stand units I used one color per unit so that I knew at a glance which stands went together. Now that I use Grande Armee, in which each unit is on a single stand, I try to vary the horses in each unit somewhat. For instance, if it is a unit that used bays and chestnuts, have some of each, in slightly differing shades of brown, some with white "stockings," some without, etc.

Lord Ashram22 Apr 2008 3:15 p.m. PST

I find 15mm horses are a piece of cake; they take a highlight very well. But 25mm… ugh. I am in the process of painting 14 of them for some limbers, and blech, it stinks.

donlowry22 Apr 2008 9:56 p.m. PST

That's strange. Why the big difference?

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