All About Palomino Horses (Facts, Origins & Characteristics)

Featuring a golden-colored coat and a white or silver mane, the Palomino horses are some of the most elegant horses.

They’re common in horse shows, parades, were once ridden by nobles, and they were a favorite of some Hollywood stars in the 20th century.

Do you want to know more about these horses? Join me as I explore the Palomino horse, the horse breeds that can be Palominos, and many other facts you probably didn’t know about them.

CHECK: Friesian Horse Facts

What Does A Palomino Horse Look Like?

a running palomino horse

A Palomino horse is a horse with a golden coat and a white mane and tail, which results from a dilution gene (more on this later).

The color of the mane and tail may range from white, silver, or cream.

The coat color is almost similar to a US gold coin, but its shade may vary from light to darker, depending on the season, age, diet, or the parent’s color.

For instance, some Palominos can have a lighter shade during winter and a darker shade in warmer months. Older Palominos may have darker skin.

Also, high protein foods may cause dappling on the horse’s coat.

Below are the most common variations of the Palomino coloring;

  • Gold Palominos – These are the most common, and, as mentioned earlier, the coat color resembles that of a gold coin.
  • Light Palominos – They aren’t as striking as the gold Palominos, and their coat color appears sandy or creamy white instead of golden. That’s because their base color is brown. They may resemble the cremello, but the cremello has pink skin and two cream dilution genes.
  • Chocolate Palominos – When the dilution gene acts on a liver chestnut horse, it produces the chocolate palomino, which is slightly darker than the golden Palomino horse. But not all chocolate palominos have the gene, some are just chestnut horses with a flaxen mane and tail, and some registries may accept the horses based on the color.

READ MORE: Different Kind of Horses

Is Palomino a Horse Breed?

two palomino horses eating grasses

The Palomino is not a horse breed; it’s more of a color category.

A color category is where horses are grouped into one breed based on their coat color regardless of their breed.

Genetics Responsible for the Palomino Coloring

palomino horse with creamy mane and tail

The gold color results from a “cream” dilution gene acting on a chestnut base color.

While the coat is always golden-colored, the skin ranges from light to dark. Some may have pinkish skin, but it gets darker over time.

However, it’s pretty challenging to produce a Palomino foal because the mutation that occurs to form a Palomino is known as “Incomplete Dominance.” – the horse gains characteristics different from the parent phenotypes.

As a result, you will not always get a Palomino if you attempt to cross two Palominos. The chance of getting one is about 50%. Chestnut and Cremello may also result from this crossing.

According to the International Museum of the Horse, you’d have better luck if you crossed a chestnut and a cremello.

That’s why when the organizations are setting standards for registering Palominos, some of them don’t set strict standards.

I will review the requirements later in the article. But first, let’s see how the Palominos have appeared throughout history.

History OF Palominos

It’s not clear where the Palominos originated, but some researchers believe that the Palomino coloring may have existed for as long as the horse.

One theory has it that they descended from the Arabian horses, which would make sense since the golden color can help them camouflage in the sand to avoid predators.

This color is also bright, which is well suited for the desert’s high temperatures. However, Arabian horses lack the coloration gene, so it’s still unclear where they came from.

The Palomino Horse Registry traces the origin of Palominos to a horse of Spanish origin. According to this registry, golden-colored horses were common in Spain, and the Palominos that existed in those ages were related to Moorish and Arabian Barbs.

Regardless of where they came from, one thing’s for sure, Palominos have been adored throughout history. For instance, they are depicted in Botticelli’s 1481 painting “The Adoration of Magi.”

They also appear in the Greek Mythology, Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, and Rome cultures. They are associated with The Crusades and many other wars.

Another reason the Palominos are quite popular is that it was a favorite among the royalty in Spain. In the 1500s, Queen Isabella bought several of them strictly for use by the royal family.

This love for Palominos may be the reason Palominos are still referred to as “Isabellas” in Spain.

Cortez, a Spanish conquistador, offered a Palomino horse to Juan de Palomino, a conquistador. Palomino also means “dove, ” which may symbolize the Palomino’s coat or mane.

During the exploration of the New World, Queen Isabella shipped five mares and a stallion. They landed in Mexico and were introduced to the Native Americans, who appreciated them and incorporated them into their culture.

They went ahead to use the Palomino horses in hunting and even in war.

Horse Breeds That Can Be Palominos

haflinger horse

Several horse breeds can be a Palomino. As mentioned earlier, all you need is a Chestnut horse and a dilution gene.

However, Palominos tend to occur more in the American Quarter Horse than in any other horse breed.

At least 50% of the Palomino horse population are Quarter Horses.

Other popular horse breeds that can be Palominos include the Tennessee walking horse, Morgan, American Saddlebred, and the Thoroughbred. Some Arabian and Haflinger horses may resemble Palominos, but these two breeds lack the dilution gene.

Palomino Lookalikes

cremello horse

Cremello and chestnuts are some of the variations I’ve mentioned that are similar to the Palomino but aren’t Palominos.

Cremellos have a creamy or pinkish color and have two cream genes.

Some chestnuts have flaxen manes and tails but lack the cream gene.

A good example is the Haflinger horse breed. Other mimics include;

  • Champagne gene – This is another confusing variation that occurs on chestnut horses. It results from a champagne gene that also causes a golden-colored coat. Unlike the Palominos, the skin of golden champagne becomes mottled (develops marks) over time.
  • Buckskins – Buckskins have a golden coat and a black tail and mane, instead of white. They feature the same dilution gene as the Palominos, but the gene acts on the bay color in this case.
  • Pearl gene – This gene dilutes the coat, just like the cream gene or the champagne gene, but it doesn’t exempt the mane or the tail. When it acts on a chestnut-colored horse, the pearl gene produces an apricot-colored horse, including the tail and the mane. The pearl gene can also exist alongside the cream gene, and they’ll both create what’s known as a pseudo-double-dilute, a pale coloring that resembles that of the cremello. Some horse breeds that feature this gene include the quarter horses, Lusitanos, and Andalusians.
  • Dun – This is another type of horse coat-color dilution that dilutes all parts of the horse’s body, excluding the mane, tail, and legs. Dun dilution can produce a wide range of colors, including golden, apricot, and olive.

Palomino Horse Registries

The first registration and improvement of Palomino horses began in the United States, but they have now spread to other parts of the world. In the US, there are two, and I discuss the requirements to join each below.

Palomino Horse Association (PHA)

PHA was the first registry to be created, and it was inspired by Dick Haliday in 1936. Dick Haliday was an avid researcher who was passionate about the golden color in horses. He wrote several pieces about it and inspired several breeders worldwide.

The PHA started when he registered the first Palomino horse named El Rey de Los Reyes. The PHA accepts all horse breeds as long as they have the golden-colored coat and a white, ivory, or silver mane and tail.

They even accept horses that are rejected by other breeds as long as they have these colors.

Palomino Horse Breeders of America

Established in 1941, the PHBA offers stricter requirements for a horse to be registered as a Palomino. In addition to the gold-coin color, the horse should be light and 14 to 17 hands tall.

These requirements exclude ponies, which are relatively small, and draft horses which can be pretty large.

A horse also has to qualify to other individual horse breed registries before being accepted by the PHBA.

The horse should have a pure gold-coin color, white mane, and tail, no marks on the coat, dark skin, and if the horse has a leg-white, it shouldn’t go past the elbow.

They do have some exemptions on the coloring for some breeds, so check their website or consult them for clarification.

Palomino Horses in Mainstream Media

Besides being revered by most cultures, the golden color also earned them a place in Hollywood. Below are some examples.

Roy Rogers’s Trigger

Roy Rogers, a famous cowboy Hollywood actor, owned and rode a Palomino horse named Trigger in most of his movies.

At first, this horse was named Golden Cloud, but he renamed him Trigger because of his speed. Trigger descended from a Thoroughbred stallion and a Palomino mare, though at that time, registering of Palominos had not begun.

Mister Ed

Mister Ed is a popular sitcom from the 1960s that featured a talking horse named Bamboo Harvester. This horse was also a Palomino that was famous for its coat color and mane.

Xena: The Warrior Princes

In the 1995-2001 show, Xena rides a horse named Argo. Argo was a Palomino mare named Tilly.

What Are Palominos Known For Today?

As mentioned earlier, Palominos are famous show horses, but they can also be trained to race and pleasure riding. They are spread across several horse breeds, so their use will depend on the breed’s characteristics.

Some popular Palominos in horse-show history include Plaudit, a palomino Quarter Horse who sired several champion show and racehorses such as Hank Wiescamp’s Scooter W, Boyer De Ro, and Skippers Lad.

Another popular Palomino is Buzzie Bars that had an exemplary show career, garnering several show points and siring several other show horses.

Palomino Horse FAQs

Are Palomino Horses Expensive?

a beautiful palomino horse running

Not really. Palominos aren’t rare, and even though their color is gorgeous, you can’t choose a horse based only on the coat color. Other factors that may determine a Palomino horse’s price include the breed, pedigree, talent, and conformation.

How Do You Get A Palomino Horse?

You’ll have the best chance when you have a red chestnut parent and a cremello parent. With such a combination, all the foals will be Palominos. Since their color results from incomplete dominance, crossing two Palominos results in some foals being Palominos, chestnuts, and others will be cremellos.

Are Palomino Horses Born Palomino?

Not all Palominos are born with the golden hue. Some are born with other solid colors such as gray, cream, or peach. They gain the golden color when they are at least a year old, but the darkness may vary based on seasons, diet. They tend to have a light winter coat and a darker summer coat.

Does a Palomino have a good temperament?

a running palomino horse

A Palomino horse temperament depends on the horse breed they belong to. Since the Palomino is a coloration, the dilution gene doesn’t alter their overall personality temperament. So, they’ll have the same temperament as the breed they correspond to. If the Palomino horse is a Thoroughbred, they’ll mostly be high spirited, and hot-blooded.

Can Arabian Horses Be Palominos?

No. Purebred Arabian horses lack the dilution genes, so they can’t be Palominos, Duns, cremellos, or any other coat color caused by a dilution gene.

What are the differences between Palominos and Buckskin?

Both palominos and buckskin result from a creme dilution gene, but Palominos result from a chestnut-colored horse while buckskins result from a bay colored horse.

Conclusion

Below is a quick summary of the Palomino horse facts.

  • They are characterized by a golden-colored coat and a white mane and tail.
  • The shade of the golden color can vary with seasons. Dark palomino horses are common in warmer regions.
  • The palomino coloring is caused by a Cream Dilution Gene diluting a chestnut-colored horse.
  • Several breeds can be Palominos, but most of them are Quarter Horses.
  • Crossing two Palominos may not always result in Palomino foals. The best combination is a chestnut and a cremello.
  • Other types of dilution genes that may sometimes produce a golden horse include champagne, pearl, and Dun.
  • Buckskins have the same dilution gene, but it acts on a bay-colored horse.
  • Palominos have been adored throughout history, but Queen Isabella of Spain popularized them.
  • Roy Rogers’ Trigger, Mister Ed, and Argo are some of the popular Palominos in mainstream media.

References

  • “Buzzie Bars Quarter Horse.” Www.allbreedpedigree.com, www.allbreedpedigree.com/buzzie+bars. Accessed 9 July 2021.
  • Cook, Deborah, et al. “Missense Mutation in Exon 2 of SLC36A1 Responsible for Champagne Dilution in Horses.” PLoS Genetics, vol. 4, no. 9, 19 Sept. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2535566/, 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000195. Accessed 9 July 2021.
  • “Cream | Veterinary Genetics Laboratory.” Vgl.ucdavis.edu, vgl.ucdavis.edu/test/cream. Accessed 9 July 2021.
  • “History.” Palomino-Horse-Assoc, www.palominohorseassoc.com/history. Accessed 9 July 2021.
  • “Palomino Horse.” International Museum of the Horse, imh.org/exhibits/online/breeds-of-the-world/north-america/palomino-horse/. Accessed 9 July 2021.
creamy palomino horse

What do you think of Palomino horses? Aren’t they beautiful? Share your thoughts below!

Peter
Peter

Peter was always been fascinated by horses. He got his first horse, a Morgan Horse, when he was 13 and he has been learning about them since then. He loves contributing on this blog to share what he learned so far. Find him on: FACEBOOK AND LINKEDIN.
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