Palomino Horses: Facts, Characteristics, Origins, and Colors


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A group of us ride horses through the Bogue Chitta state park, one friend always leads the way on his palomino stallion. The calm nature and surefootedness of his horse made me wonder if there’s more to palominos than their captivating color.

The palomino horse is a color breed, exhibiting a yellow or gold coat, and a white or light cream mane and tail. Their color is created from a chestnut base coat gene influenced by a creme dilution gene. Their beautiful coat color makes them highly desired.

Palomino’s are one of the most visually appealing horses. Royalty and Hollywood stars have treasured them, but there is much more to a palomino horse than just a pretty coat.

Picture of a palomino horse,

Palomino horses originated in the desert.

Many different horse breeds produce palominos, such as Arabian, Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Morgan, to name a few. But are golden coats common, and has palomino coloring always been in the equine color palette?

The answer to those questions isn’t clear, palominos may have existed for as long as there have been horses, or they may have evolved the light shiny palomino coat thousands of years ago in the desert areas of the middle east; researchers aren’t sure.

I tend to believe the desert theory because it makes sense; it is based on Darwin’s theory of evolution and species adaptation. Horses in the desert evolved the golden color to protect against predators by blending in with the sand’s color.

And to continue my support of the evolution theory, palominos light shiny color evolved to survive the desert sun’s extreme heat. Darker colors absorb more heat from light sources than lighter colors.

Light colors like the yellows of a palomino’s coat, are highly reflected and absorb little heat. Color is the primary factor affecting how colors absorb heat but not the only one, its sheen is also important.

Shiny coats reflect significant amounts of light and heat compared to dull coat colors. A shiny palomino coat is the most reflective equine color and just coincidently originates from the desert?

I believe they developed their color in the desert. Regardless these golden horses subsequently spread from the deserts to all ends of the world.

We know palominos existed in ancient empires such as Rome, Greece, Persia, Mongolia, China, and Japan because of their depictions in art and literature.

Picture of a palomino horse with a blaze face.

Spanish nobility rode Palominos.

The royalty in Spain fell in love with Palomino horses. Queen Isabella in the 1500s kept 100 palominos reserved for nobility to ride. The Spanish conquistador Juan de Palomino received one of the Palominos as a gift from Cortez, and the horse was named after Juan de Palomino.

When Queen Isabella sent out her exploration to the New World, she included a palomino stallion and five mares. These horses provided the stock for the Palominos in North America. Her influence on palominos continues today, in Spanish, palominos are called Isabellas.

Palomino coat color is created by a dilution gene.

A palomino horse has a body coat color that ranges from cream to dark gold. Genetics determines the color of a horse’s coat, and that remains true for the palomino horse. Without getting too deep, I’ll attempt an explanation of the genes needed to create the palomino color.

To create the palomino color, you need a chestnut base and a cream dilution. The genotype ee or a variation of ee at the extension locus creates a chestnut base coat color. The genotype C Ccr at the C locus is the cream dilution gene, and it dilutes the red coloring in the chestnut to a yellow pigment.

There are many variables to this general explanation of palomino genetics. The variances will result in deeper gold or yellow coloring in the horse’s coat.

Specific colors are crossed to produce palomino foals.

If you hope to increase your chances of producing a palomino your best bet is to cross a palomino with a cremello or perlino. Other interesting crosses with the creme gene include:

  • Creme gene x Bay: Buckskin
  • Creme gene x Chestnut: Palomino
  • Creme gene x Black: Smoky black

If you are interested in reading an entertaining story about how palominos got their golden color, click here.

Palominos have four basic color variations.

The palomino breed is considered the golden horse. The quintessential color of a palomino is that of a shiny gold coin. The tail and mane must be at least 85 percent white, and the skin must be primarily dark in color.

There are four basic variations of palomino colors. The colors are light Palomino, golden Palomino, chocolate palomino, and pearl palomino. There is one more color referred to as a palomino but is not a true palomino, the champagne palomino.

Picture of a sandy palomino horse,

Light palomino horses are sandy colored.

The light Palomino is a light sandy colored body with a white mane, and tail. Their coats are a creamy white colored that can be so light as to be confused for a cremello. The difference between the two horses is the color of their skin pigmentation.

A cremello has pink skin, and a light Palomino has brown skin. A cremello carries two creme dilution genes compared to a Palomino which takes only one. Light Palominos do not have the golden sheen expressed by most Palomino horses.

Golden palominos are the most recognizable color of palomino horses.

Picture of a golden palomino horse,

Pictured above is our neighbor’s palomino yearling; he’s out of a Frenchman’s Guy stud and a Mr. Jess Perry mare. They intend to train him to be a barrel horse.

He is looks light in the photo but is a golden palomino. Golden palominos have a coat the color of a gold coin with a white mane and tail. This color is the most desired and recognizable of the palomino colors.

A palominos coat color will change with age and diet. There will be periods when a golden palomino will have the perfect balance of colors, and other times, he may be much lighter or darker.

With time this young cold will develop a luxurious deep golden coat, like his father.

Picture of a chocolate palomino horse,

Chocolate palomino coat colors are not common.

A chocolate palomino is a rare color. This palomino color is derived from paring a palomino and a liver chestnut. It is classified as a Palomino because it has the creme dilution gene seen in all Palominos.

The chocolate Palomino has a coat that is dark almost brown with a white mane and tail. They often have a small quantity of black or brown hairs in their manes or tails — the brown and white combine to make a beautiful color combination for the palomino horse.

Pearl palominos have a radiant look.

The pearl palomino is a rare color. The coat has a lustrous sheen on a light cream coat. Pearl palomino will have green or blue eyes. Andalusian and Lusitano breeds are the most likely breeds to produce a pearl, palomino.

Champagne palomino is not a true palomino color.

Some people refer to a gold chestnut as a palomino, but this reference is incorrect. The gold color in a chestnut horse is created by the influence of the champagne gene dilution on the chestnut gene.

Although these horses look similar, there are differences. A palomino will have brown skin, and a gold chestnut skin will be pink. Another difference is eye color, and most palominos have brown eyes. All gold chestnuts have bright sky blue eyes. Palominos can have blue eyes but only a very dark navy blue.

Palominos’ color can change.

Diet will influence the hair color of palomino horses, mane, tail, and coat. By adding certain minerals and proteins to the palominos diet, the hair will darken, lighten, and look shinier.

High protein diets create dapples in a palominos coat. Certain minerals will cause a red tint in the white mane and tail of a palomino.

Temperature also influences the color of a golden palomino. In the winter the golden palomino will shed its summer coat and become a much lighter color.

The change in color can be so drastic from the horses’ summer color; it looks like a different horse. The shampoo used to wash a palomino can influence the color of the horse’s mane and tail. Be observant to only wash a palomino with a product you trust.

Does a palomino have a good temperament?

The palomino that leads our trail rides has a calm, even temperament. His temperament and dashing good looks have made him one of the most sought after studs in our area. His calm demeanor made me wonder if Palomino’s typically have a good temperament.

Temperament is the overall nature of a horse breed, their general approach to life. Palominos are a color breed. They will exhibit the disposition of their kind, which is no different than any other colored horse in that breed.

If the palomino is a Quarter Horse, its temperament should be rather laid back and willing to please its owner. If, however, the palomino is an Arabian, it would be quite spirited and higher strung.

Temperament should follow the breed more than the horse’s color. But it all goes back to genetics. Most horses display the temperament of one of their parents.

For example, Easy Jet was notorious for producing ill-tempered offspring that were hard to train but could run like the wind. Some experienced horsemen I knew owners wouldn’t own an easy jet horse no matter how quick the horse was.

Roy Rogers horse Trigger was a Palomino.

Roy Rogers was a famous movie start in Hollywood, and so was the palomino horse he rode named Trigger. Although Trigger was a movie star, he was not a registered horse. Unregistered horses are called “grade horses,” and Trigger was a grade horse.

Trigger was born in 1932, his sire was a registered thoroughbred, and his dam was unregistered. The director of some of Roy Rogers’s films claimed Trigger was a registered palomino. However, this had to be an error because palomino registrations had not begun at the time of Trigger.

Trigger was originally named Golden Cloud.

Trigger remained a stallion throughout his life. His original name was Golden Cloud but his name was changed to Trigger after an actor said the horse was quick as a trigger.

Roy Rogers became so fond of Trigger that he purchased him for 2,500 dollars, a large sum in those days. Trigger worked in films for 20years and played in all of Roy Rogers 81 movies and 100 of Roy’s T.V. episodes. Trigger died at 33 years old.

What are the differences between buckskin and palomino?

When we were recently at a race track, a buckskin pony horse escorted a palomino Thoroughbred to the starting gates. The horses looked similar, prompting my granddaughter to ask about the differences between their coat colors, so I researched her question to provide an answer.

Buckskins have dark points and a duller coat than palominos. A buckskin is created from a bay coat color base which means the horse has black points. Palominos have a white mane and tail and a chestnut base. Buttermilk buckskins look like a palomino with dark points.

Buckskin is a color breed created by a single creme dilution gene affecting a bay color coat. The classic buckskin color is a tan coat with black points (mane, tail, and lower legs).

If you’re interested in learning more about buckskin horses, click on this link.

Palomino is also a color breed like the buckskin but occurs when a single allele dilution gene works on a chestnut horse. A palomino is golden with a white mane and tail.

Palomino horses have their own associations in the U.S.

There are two associations of palomino horses in the United States, the Palomino Horse Association and the Palomino Horse Breeders of America.

You should contact these organizations to check if your horse qualifies for registration. The Palomino Horse Breeders of America association has stricter requirements to register than does the Palomino Horse Association.

To qualify for registration with the Palomino Horse Association requires only that your horse has the palomino coloring. For registration, the coloring requirements are: not any more than 15% dark colors in its mane or tail and be gold in color. They do not distinguish eye or skin color.

The palomino horse is used in many equine activities. They’re admired for their beauty, versatility, maneuverability, and endurance. You can find them used in ranching, racing, rodeos, pleasure riding, parades, and all other equine activities.

FAQ

What are Palominos known for?

Palomino horses are known for their flashy coloring which coat is often a bright, rich gold. In the sun it glimmers and contrasts starkly with their white mane and tail. When they are born these horses typically have dull a coat which brightens to golden as they grow up.

What kind of horse is a palomino?

Palominos are horses with a chestnut base and one dilution gene, this combination results in a golden horse with a light mane and tail. Palomino can be found in many different breeds.

Related articles:

https://www.gse-journal.org/articles/gse/abs/2003/01/g350107/g350107.htmlCreme gene x/2003/01/g350107/g350107.html” target=”_blank” title=”A mutation in the MATP gene causes the cream coat colour in the horse”>Gene X

Miles Henry

I love animals! Especially horses, I've been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn't make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines. Miles Henry

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