The Palomino Horse – Breeds, Characteristics, Genetics & Facts


The palomino horse is always a favorite in movies, TV shows, and in the show ring. But what make’s them so special? Find out everything you need to know about these golden horses!

Palomino Horse

What breed of horse is a palomino?

Palomino is a horse color, and not a particular breed. Therefore there are palomino horses found in all builds and sizes, that are bred for different purposes.

Palomino Horse Breeds

Quarter Horse

Quarter horses are commonly seen with a palomino coat, and make up almost 8% of all American Quarter Horse Association registrations.

Also see: American Horse Breeds

Paint

The American Paint Horse Association allows palominos to be registered with a variety of different coat patterns.

Also see: All About the American Paint Horse.

Thoroughbred

Although the color is rare in Thoroughbreds, it does occur and is recognized by The Jockey Club. You can learn more about the cream dilution gene in Thoroughbred breeding here.

Also see: Fastest Horse in the World (2022)

American Saddlebred

Saddlebreds can be registered in any color, including palomino.

Also see: All About the American Saddlebred Horse

Appaloosa

Appaloosas can be registered with palomino as a base color and an overlaid spotting pattern.

Also see: All About the Appaloosa Horse

Morgan

The American Morgan Horse Association states that coat color has no bearing when judging the Morgan horse, but palomino is not common in this breed.

Missouri Fox Trotter

Missouri Fox Trotters can be registered in any solid color, including palomino.

Rocky Mountain Horse

Rocky Mountain Horses can be any color, but a chocolate coat with a flaxen mane and tail is preferred over a true palomino.

Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association allows palominos to be registered.

Warmblood & Sport Horse

Although not common, some warmblood breeders such as Blazing Colours Farm, have cremello stallions that produce palominos (or buckskins).

What’s considered a warmblood? See Types of Horses & Ponies.

palomino Falabella

Falabella

The miniature-sized Falabella can be registered with a palomino coat color.

Also see: Smallest Horse & Pony Breeds

Akhal-Teke

The Akhal-Teke is a rare breed that produces a palomino coat, often with a metallic sheen.

Also see: Rare Horse Breeds

Canadian

Although the breed is typically black or dark bay, there is a Canadian horse stallion, Sarrabelle Pharraud Kondor, with the creme gene that has produced palomino offspring.

Also see: Canadian Horse Breeds

Palomino Horse Characteristics

How do you tell if a horse is a palomino?

A true palomino horse has a golden coat and white mane and tail. The coat can range from a light cream to a dark, sooty gold, and the mane and tail varies from bright white to yellow.

Because of these variations, it can be difficult to diffeinciate palomino from other similar coat colors.

Here are some of the most common palomino shades:

light palomino horse

Light Palomino

This sandy colored coat is very close to cremello, but the difference is in the pimantation. Palominos have dark skin, while cremello has pink skin.

Golden Palomino

Golden Palomino

By registry standards, this is the ideal palomino coat colour and resembes a newly minted gold coin.

chocolate palomino

Chocolate Palomino

This rare color is the result of crossing a palomino and a liver chestnut. The resulting offspring has a dark brown coat with a white mane and tail.

pearl palomino Akhal-Teke

Pearl Palomino

Another rarely seen color, this variation has a metcialic sheen on a light creme base.

History of Palomino Horses

Although there is no official record, it is believed that palomino horses deccded from Arab and the Barb bloodlines. They were a favorite among the desert of chiefs of Saladin and appear in ancient paintings of Europe and Asia, as well in Chinese and Japenese art from past centuries.

Palomino horses were first sent to North America by Queen Isabella (Ysabella) de Bourbon of Spain in the 1500s. Her palomino stallion and five mares began a breeding program that evetually spread from Texas to California.

Where does the name palomino come from?

Palomino is a Spanish word meaning “juvenile pigeon” and refers to the color of these young birds.

Palomino Horse Genetics

Which color genetics make palomino?

Cremello x chestnut (will produce 100% palominos)
Cremello x any color (results vary)
Palomino x palomino (will produce 50% palominos)
Palomino x chestnut (will produce 50% palominos)
Palomino x any color (results vary)
Buckskin x any color (results vary)
Black x any color (results vary and only if the black parent has a hidden cream gene).

To find out more about what two horses make a palomino, you can check out the Coat Color Calculator.

Palomino Horse Q&A

How rare are palomino horses?

Because this color is found in so many breeds, palominos are not considered rare.

What are palominos known for?

There have been many famous palominos throughout history, and they were particularly popular throughout the 40s and 50s. One famous palomino was Trigger, known as “the smartest horse in movies”, and another was Mister Ed who starred in a 1960s TV show.

Can Arabian horses be palomino?

No, because purebred Arabians don’t carry dilution genes, they cannot be palomino (or buckskin, dun, or cremello).

Can a palomino be born chestnut?

No, however palomino foals are often born with a dull, muted, coat color that may be mistaken for light chestnut. They may also have a peach or cream coat that darkens around their first birthday.

Can palominos have blue eyes?

Yes, although rare, it’s most often seen in palominos with white facing markings or pearl coloring. Dark brown is the most common eye color, but they can also be light brown or amber.

Can a palomino have a black mane or tail?

To be registered as palomino, a horse must have at least 75% white mane and tail hair.

How old do palomino horses live?

This can vary greatly depending on size, breed, and general health. To find out more about the lifespan of specific breeds, check out How Long Do Horses Live?

Which colors are often confused with palomino?

Palomino Horse Breed Registries

Palomino Horse Breeders of America (PHBA)

The Palomino Horse Breeders of America, Tulsa, OK was formed in 1941 as a member owned, non-profit organization for the purpose of registering and improving horses standing between fourteen and seventeen hands tall, and exhibiting body color, with variations from light to dark, of a newly minted U S fourteen karat gold coin.  There are more than 38 Affiliate Palomino Associations network associations on the state or local basis. APAs host horse shows, fundraising projects, clinics, futurities and family activities.

Palomino Horse Breeders of America

Palomino Horse Association

The Palomino Horse Association is the Original Palomino Registry incorporated in 1936.  Today’s Palomino Horse Association is the continuation of the registry which officially began in California in 1935, when Dick Halliday registered the golden stallion El Rey de los Reyes. Mr. Halliday researched the golden horse for many years.  He started writing magazine articles that brought the Palomino into public attention.  His articles created a great deal of interest in the Palomino, and within a few years, hundreds of breeders were specializing in the production of this color.

Palomino Horse Association

Australian Palomino Horsebreeders Association (Dilutes Australia)

In 1948 a group of palomino enthusiasts met in Sydney at the Royal Showgrounds and from that meeting one of Australia’s first breed societies – the Australian Palomino Horsebreeders Association, was formed.  The head office was originally located in Sydney but was later moved to Melbourne where it remained until 1996. The first horses were quickly registered with the renowned palomino stallion Silver Sails (pictured), owned at the time by Ron Metherall, issued registration number S0001 in the studbook. 

Dilutes Australia

What’s your favorite breed of palomino horse?

Palomino pin

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