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Fleabitten Greys with "rub marks"

I am going to take a slight detour before we look at the actual colors of fleabites. I wanted to point out a feature that observant readers may have noticed in the first picture of Papillon.

That pale patch is even more visible in one of the photos linked in that post. 

I started this series of posts on fleabitten greys talking about the things that artists notice. Going through my photos for images of heavy fleabiting, I found some pictures of an older gelding that stayed a short while at my barn. (I wish I had taken more.)

a grazing fleabitten grey gelding with a white patch on the hip

If you look closely, he also has a pale patch near the point of his hip. It is the sort of detail an artist notices. I can tell I noticed it at the time because the next few pictures are detailed shots of it.

the other side of the horse in the previous image, also showing a white patch on the hip

Notice that is his other side. I must have walked around him to see if there was a similar mark there. Right and left symmetry are almost always of interest when it comes to unexpected markings. Sadly, I did not get a closer, more direct shot of the first side. (These are older photos taken before I learned I would always want a conformation shot and as many close-ups as possible!)


The funny thing is that I also came across photos shared with me by fellow artist Kimberley Smith. As you can see from the sequence of her shots, she noticed the same detail on a different horse.

another densely fleabitten grey gelding with a white patch on the hip

a close up of the white patch from the horse in the previous image

The Wielkopolski mare from the previous post has a similar marking. This Arabian mare seems to have a small one, too. It’s not something I would tend to include when I was painting a fleabitten grey because “rubs” on the high points of a sculpture would tend to look like damage.


Not all heavily speckled greys have these patches with fewer speckles, so it isn't wrong to omit them. However, the frequency of white patches in that specific area is interesting. It may be that living horses are prone to “rubs” here as well, so the hair grows back white over time. Although the dapple grey horse pictured below has not developed fleabites, the white hairs appear to be due to some type of damage to the skin. In other images from this same session, he can be seen repeatedly biting the area. If he later develops a fleabitten pattern, it may be that the white areas remain while the rest of him gets increasingly speckled.

a close up of the side of a dapple grey horse, showing clusters of white spots on the barrel

Artists might notice unusual marks like these, but they are not the only ones. Other people who notice details about individual horses are owners. Scientific curiosity and artistic activities drive people to notice small details; so does love. People who love their animals spend a lot of time with them. This puts them in a great position to see interesting variations—and they tend to take a lot of pictures!


A great example of this comes from pictures shared by Diana Dubbeld. You’ll see more of her Thoroughbred gelding, Zorillo, in the upcoming post on fleabite colors. For now, I want to share pictures of another form of white spotting over an otherwise fleabitten horse. That’s because Zorillo had birdcatcher spots before he developed fleabites. On the left, Zorilla is pictured as a young horse with visible white spots. On the right is a close-up of those spots after he developed fleabites.

On the left: a dark grey Thoroughbred with white birdcatcher spots; On the right: a close-up of fleabiting with white birdcatcher spots

As you can see, the fleabites cluster around each white spot, forming a darker ring. In dogs, a darker edge around a white marking is called “watermarking.” Although I did not know the trait had a name at the time, I posted about it shortly after I started the blog. The effect here reminds me of watermarking – just on a tiny scale.


I’d love to hear from readers who have seen similar patches on greys—or any other interesting details you have noticed. My email is listed on the Contact page.

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