Is there a correlation between eye colour and temperament in horses?Most horses have brown eyes but other eye colours are seen. These include blue, green, yellow, amber, or hazel. Whilst it is mostly horses with light coats which have blue eyes, you will see horses with dark coats with wonderful azure eyes. There are few old wive's tales about blue-eyed horses. These suggest that the animals can be a little crazy and may have issues working in bright sunlight. It has also been suggested that blue-eyed horses are more prone to skin cancer and that they may go blind prematurely. So, is there any truth to these warnings?
A Study of Blue Eyes
A study conducted by the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital set out to discover the truth about blue eyes. The researchers looked at the medical records of hundreds of horses. 164 of these had been diagnosed with ocular disease and 212 were without any known eye ailments. By comparing the two groups it was possible to establish whether or not the horses with blue eyes were more prone to issues.
Debunking the Myths
The team discovered that blue eyes were just as common as brown eyes in both groups of horses. They found no significant difference between the proportion of blue and brown-eyed horses with problems such as corneal disease or disease in the eye or eye socket (including equine recurrent uveitis, glaucoma, cataract, intraocular neoplasia, orbital cellulitis, and orbital neoplasia).
Squamous cell carcinoma
Blue-eyed horses were no more likely than brown-eyed horses to suffer from any issues with their vision. However, the study did reveal that blue-eyed horses appear to be more susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). This is due to the skin pigmentation around the eye and eyelid rather than the eye-colour itself. This fact also explains why some breeds are more prone to developing the cancer than others. SCC is a non-melanoma skin cancer which is caused by exposure to UV rays. It is important to protect any horse from the harmful effects of UV rays. Fly-masks can help shield the face, and sunscreen obviously also helps to protect a horse. Shade should always be available in turn-out areas.
Blue Eyes and Behaviour
There is no scientific evidence that blue-eyed horses have suspect temperaments. If your blue-eyed horse is a little feisty, this has nothing to do with their eye colour. It is hard to imagine how this myth developed. Perhaps people have found that the striking blue eyes simply look a little crazy!