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Are Palomino Horses a Breed, Expensive, Purebred, or a Color

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Our neighbor owns a young barrel prospect; the horse is a palomino with flashy coloring and exceptional conformation. My granddaughter fell in love with the horse and asked me if palominos are an expensive horse breed and purebred.

Palomino is a term used to describe a horse’s color, not a specific breed. They have a yellow or golden coat with a white or light cream mane and tail. Many people love Palomino horses, but they are not typically more expensive than similar horses and are not rare.

Many novice horse owners choose a palomino horse based on its color. But, talent, conformation, and pedigree are the primary factors for setting a horse’s price.


Palominos are not a horse breed.

Horse breeds have distinct characteristics they pass to their offspring. The features parents give to their offspring distinguish the animal from other equine breeds. Palomino is an equine color, not a breed.

These traits may be color patterns, such as those found in the Appaloosa breed, or the hair type, like the feathers seen around Clydesdale’s lower legs. Some breeds have distinctive conformation, and other ones have special abilities.

Even though I mentioned Appaloosa, these horses have other common traits than the color that makes a horse an Appaloosa. Most horse breeds have a registry that documents their members’ lineage.

Horses that are members of the registry are referred to as registered. For example, a horse could have the physical traits of an American Quarter Horse but actually be an offspring of a Thoroughbred and Standardbred.

The foal would not be eligible for registration with the American Quarter Horse Association. Also, some people have offspring eligible for registration that never bothers registering their animals.

Their horse is still an American Quarter Horse but not registered. Some people decide not to register their horses because they don’t intend to breed it or the bloodline isn’t worth wasting time or money.

When valuing a horse, whether or not it is registered is considered, especially if you intend to breed the animal. Palomino coat colors are prevalent in many horse breeds, and some people consider them a color breed.

However, this is a stretch; palomino is no more of a horse breed than sorrel, bay, or buckskin. However, there are two palomino horse associations in the United States, the Palomino Horse Association and the Palomino Horse Breeders of America.

These associations accept horses of any breed so long as they meet color standards. Now, this is an essential difference between palominos and horse breeds.

The palomino associations take horses based solely on color without regard to paternity. On Wikipedia, they have a list of horse breeds; you can click here to see it. 


Some palomino horses are expensive.

The price of palomino horses varies.

There are expensive palominos, but it is not because of their color alone. Since palominos aren’t a real horse breed, their price is based on their breed, pedigree, conformation, and training.

My neighbor’s barrel prospect is an excellent example of this. The horse is the grandson of Frenchmans’ Guy. Frenchmans Guy is the leading sire of barrel horses for those not familiar with barrel racing sires.

His progeny has won over seven million dollars. The dam to the colt is also from a successful racing and barrel family. She is the granddaughter of Mr. Jess Perry and competed in top barrel futurities.

The horse is double bred to run and win. Not only does he have an outstanding pedigree, but he also has the desired conformation for a barrel horse. He has powerful hindquarters, a short back, and nice sloping shoulders.

Only time will tell how the horse develops, but he shows potential and is expensive even at this early stage of his life. And once he gets some time under the saddle and displays talent, his value will increase tremendously.

Does the palomino color increase his price? Yes, this horse is worth more because it’s a palomino. Barrel racers want to win, this is the priority, but if you can do this sitting on a flashy palomino, that is the icing on the cake.

Picture of a palomino pony horse.

Palomino is an equine color, not necessarily a purebred horse.

Palomino is one of many different colors of horses. And like all horse colors, it’s created through a specific gene combination. For a palomino coat color, the animal must have a chestnut base and a cream dilution gene.

A chestnut base coat color is represented genetically by ee or a variation of ee at the locus extension. The genotype C Ccr at the C locus is the cream dilution gene. The cream dilution gene combines with the chestnut base to make the palomino color.

That’s a basic description of the color sequence; however, many genetic combinations influence the shades of a horse’s coat colors. Some palominos are bright yellow, and others are deeply golden.

The palomino color most recognizable is shiny gold with a white tail and mane. But there are four primary variations of the color, pearl, chocolate, golden, and light palomino.

Pearl palomino is rare.

The pearl palomino has a luxurious sheen on a light cream coat. Pearl palominos have either green or blue eyes. They are found in some Andalusian and Lusitano strains; however, they are rare in all breeds.

Chocolate palomino

Chocolate-like pearl palominos are a rare color. It’s created by crossing a palomino and a liver chestnut. It meets the genetic classifications of palomino horses in that it has the creme dilution gene and chestnut base.

A chocolate palomino has a coat that looks dark brown with a white mane and tail. They often have small amounts of black or brown hair in their manes or tails. The color pattern of a chocolate palomino is beautiful.


Golden palomino

Golden palominos are the color pattern most of us envision when palomino horses are mentioned. Their coats are the color of gold coins, and their manes and tails are white.

Sandy or light palomino

A light palomino horse has a light sandy-colored coat with a white mane and tail. They look similar to a cremello, without the pink skin.

A cremello has pink skin, and a light Palomino has brown skin. A cremello has two creme dilution genes compared to one in a palomino.

A champagne palomino is a gold chestnut.

Gold chestnut is often mistakenly called champagne palominos. The gold color in a chestnut horse is created by a champagne dilution gene, not a creme dilution gene.

The effect of the champagne dilution gene creates similarities to a palomino; however, there are differences. Palominos have brown skin, and a gold chestnut has pink skin. Also, all gold chestnuts have blue eyes, and most palominos have brown eyes.

Palominos can change color.

The minerals and proteins your feed your animal can affect its coat colors. The effects are most prevalent in light-colored horses. Diets with a lot of protein will cause dapples, and some minerals will create a red tint in white hair.

I love seeing dapples on horses; they exude health and vitality. Seasonal changes also influence color; in the winter, golden horses lighten when their coat thickens and darken when they shed in the summer.

Picture of a palomino horse eating.

Palomino facts

Palominos are not rare.

Palomino coloring is found across many breeds, including the Quarter Horse, Arabian, Morgan, Tennessee Walking Horse, and American Saddlebred.

Thoroughbreds have palomino horses; however, because of the Jockey Clubs’ strict registration standards, they are registered under the umbrella of chestnut.

A band of palomino horses was sent to Mexico by the Spanish Queen Isabella in the 1500s. These are thought to be the foundation of palominos in North America.

Many horses owned by the Spanish conquistadors were allowed to run free, and indeed some joined the many herds of wild mustangs and eventually migrated north to the U.S.

Along with paint horses, the palominos were the desired mount of Native Americans. The prevalence of golden horses in herds of wild mustangs could be why the U.S. breeds have an abundance of horses with palomino coloring.

Picture of an Akhal Teke horse.

Palominos descended from desert breeds.

Most species evolve based on environmental influences. Desert heat and lack of water caused the Arabian horse to develop into a lean animal with thin hair that could endure vast distances with minimum water.

The same can be said of the Akhal Teke, with its gleaming coat and thin body. Palominos likely evolved thousands of years ago in middle eastern deserts.

There is no hard proof for this theory; however, I believe it is true. The golden coat of a palomino blends with the sand color for protection against predators and is cooler than most other colors.

In ancient art and historical literature, palomino horses are referenced in wars and battles, most often in connection with Arabian and Barb horse breeds. However, they are depicted in every significant empire and all corners of the globe.

palomino,queen isabella
British (English) School; Elisabeth de Valois (1545-1568), Queen Isabella of Spain;

Palomino horses were favored by royalty.

During the 16th century, royalty in Spain loved golden horses. Queen Isabella had a stable of 100 palominos reserved for nobility to ride. A palomino was gifted to the Spanish conquistador Juan de Palomino by Cortez, and the horse was named after him.

However, in Spanish, a palomino color is called Isabella because of Queen Isabella’s devotion to the horses. Even Spain’s great painter, Diego de Silva Velazquez, recognized the bond between the Queen and her horses.

He used the palomino horses many times in his paintings, and some of his art depicted King Phillip VI and Queen Isabella of Spain riding on beautiful golden horses.

Diego de Silva Velazquez’s paintings of war scenes often depicted gold horses with huge flowing manes. When Queen Isabella sent an expedition to Mexico, she included a palomino stallion and five mares.

These horses are believed to be the foundation of palominos in North America. Many historians consider that some of these horses’ offspring traveled from Mexico, north to Texas, and west to California.

Another story about how Isabella came to be used for palomino has nothing to do with horses. Queen Isabella was a warrior queen and united her armies with Ferdinand of Aragon, and together they conquered vast regions of Europe.

The legend goes that when Queen Isabella’s husband went off to battle, she promised not to change her undergarments until he returned victorious, which was expected to be a few days.

However, the battle waged on for months, and when he finally returned, the Queen’s undergarments were brownish-yellow; subsequently, the term “Isabella” was synonymous with light beige.

The following YouTube video has some great pictures and interesting information about palomino horses.