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"Napoleonic cavalry horse colours?" Topic

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Chortle Fezian20 Apr 2008 11:38 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 ā 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



Byrhthelm21 Apr 2008 12:07 a.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 2:04 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 2:14 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 4:21 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 6:28 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 6:51 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 8:47 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 2:28 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 3:15 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 9:03 p.m. PST

Ewwwww! Too much information! :)

Mike Petro22 Apr 2008 6:08 a.m. PST

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

Lord Ashram22 Apr 2008 6:22 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 2:42 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 4:15 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 10:56 p.m. PST

That's strange. Why the big difference?

Personal logo Condotta Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2008 8:10 p.m. PST

28mm horses are easy. 1. Black undercoat 2. White drybrush – horse is now mostly white/grey with black shadows in all the right places. 3. Brown ink slathered on to effect.

The inking step gives you good control over highlights. I water slightly and brush on. The highlighted areas now really come out nicely. If I want to tone down some, just add another swipe with the brush. Fast and easy and the effects can be rather nice.

I'm painting Austrian Hussars at present and painted 12 horses in about an hour, and that's with a couple of disruptions. I still need to do some socks and blazes and pink on the muzzle of the trumpter's grey, but won't take long to do that.


Widowson26 Aug 2008 8:50 p.m. PST

Back at the point,

When sqadrons had time to rest and refit, we can expect more conformity of horse colors (see above). On campaign, if a trooper had lost his horse and got another from the enemy, all the tack and hosery would be of no importantance, much less the color of the horse.

Think about those dismounted Dragoons in the 1805-1807 period. Many of them came to be mounted on captured Austrian and Saxon horses. I'll bet that all those horses were still wearing their origianl tack when the formerly

In a well prepred campaing, like 1012 or 1815. the horses could be expected to be closer to regulation. In

blucher27 Aug 2008 2:11 a.m. PST

I read somewhere that true black horse are very very rare.

Most "black" horses are just very dark brown.

donlowry27 Aug 2008 1:48 p.m. PST

In case you missed it, here is my recent photo-essay on how I paint horses:

seneffe27 Aug 2008 3:10 p.m. PST

Blucher, thats true now, although true blacks are still bred (eg for the Household cavalry), but they very common in Europe up until the last decades of the 18th century. After that a combination of changes in breeding made them progressively rarer.

Flight Sergeant Reggie18 Jan 2011 7:47 a.m. PST

If The Garde Lancers were mounted thus:

1st Regiment of 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 Lancers (Dutch) of the Imperial Guard
Chestnuts and bays.

….how should the Lancers be mounted during the Hundred Days?

In particular, would the Elbe Squadron of Polish Lancers be mounted on chestnuts? Or blacks/grays? Would the Red Lancers still be chestnuts and bays?

14Bore18 Jan 2011 8:11 a.m. PST

My last two Russian Dragoon Regt(15m) I think are the best I've ever done. went to flikr and found pictures of horses and tried my best to paint them individualy.

Correus19 Jan 2011 7:40 p.m. PST

Excellent info!!

Thanks everyone.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2011 3:08 a.m. PST

I reckon the Poles would have had black horses in the Hundred Days and the others bays. Unfortunately I painted a Nairfix Polish Lancer on a bay horse a few years ago…oh well.

pbishop1220 Jan 2011 7:40 p.m. PST

On campaign, the French would mount on anything they could find. Larger horses deteriorated fastest. With the exception of Carabiniers and Gaurd mounts, I wouldn't concern myself too much with horse colors.

As for Prussia, and to a lesser degree Austria, they were stripped of their mounts by the French, so there again, I'd not overly concern myself about colors.

The Brits, I'd be more attentive to the colors

Caliban Supporting Member of TMP21 Jan 2011 2:53 a.m. PST

Gildas Facit asked about paints for horse colours; I use Coat d'arms horse tones. They do an especially nice Roan and their dun is good too. Roan is a really difficult one to simulate; I used light grey washed over with brown before I saw the Coat d'arms colours at a show in Scotland.

Dave Crowell21 Jan 2011 5:17 a.m. PST

One further note on horse: dark legs have dark/black hoofs, white legs/socks have light hoofs.

OK two notes: your local riding stable or the internet can provide much photographic documentation of real horses, study them. Horses will look much better when patterened after the real thing, same for cows.

And i hate painting horses too.

Femeng231 Jan 2011 1:27 p.m. PST

I have used Howard's Hues for years. They have black, Equine brown, Chestnut, Equine grey, White, Bay, Roan, and grey acrylics. I paint regiments alike to tell them apart. You can vary by different colored manes, feet.

Rusty Gold10 Dec 2016 6:16 p.m. PST

I just picked up Vallejo Game Colour 72.049 Stonewall grey the other week . It is perfect for Trumpeters Horse , Greys etc

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