Palomino Horse: All You Need to Know About This Golden Horse

Palomino horse being led from the coral

As a kid, you might have dreamt of having a horse. Their majestic stance and appearance leave most people in awe, not to mention their intelligence and extreme loyalty to their masters.

Many noble people and horse enthusiasts find one particular color breed to be their favorite. Known for their golden hue, palomino horses are among the most visually appealing horses anyone can set eyes on.

If you are curious about these golden beauties, you can learn more about their origin, characteristics, and everything in between in this article. Let’s begin!

9 Little-Known and Interesting Facts About Palomino Horses

Before we go deep into detail about the palomino horses, let’s first find out some fun and interesting facts about them.

  1. Palomino is not a horse breed. It is commonly mistaken as a separate horse breed, but palomino is just a description of their coat color.
  2. Their coats can be a variety of shades, not just gold. Aside from their infamous gold-like coat, palomino horses come in other bright and brassy colors.
  3. Their coat color is caused by two genes. The palomino color is created from the chestnut color gene and cream dilution gene present in the horse’s genetic make-up.
  4. They change their color with the seasons. During the summer and winter, the shade and tone of their coat color change significantly.
  5. Most of them are Quarter Horses. Around 50% of registered palomino horses are Quarter Horses. This breed of horses is known for its muscular body type and ability to sprint at short distances.
  6. They are produced from careful breeding. Horse breeders can only produce palomino horses from several pairings of specific horse colors.
  7. Other golden horses are mistaken as palomino horses. Not all golden horses are considered palomino horses. Chestnut horses with white manes are not considered palomino horses.
  8. They were favored by Spanish royalty. They were reserved for noble people to ride, especially during the Spain monarchy in the 1500s.
  9. They were featured in several Hollywood shows and movies. Because of their majestic appearance, they are often chosen to be featured in several Hollywood movies starring Roy Rogers, a famous cowboy actor in the 1940s and 1950s.

What Is a Palomino Horse? Is a Palomino Horse a Breed?

Beautiful palomino horse walking at the field

A Palomino horse is a color breed that commonly exhibits a yellow or gold coat and a white or cream mane and tail color. They are not a separate horse breed and only named due to their coat color. They are also assumed to have originated in Spain during the 1500s.

Many people confuse them for an individual breed due to their distinct appearance. However, they will be surprised to know that they fall under other American horse breeds such as Quarter Horses.

Palomino horses are just a distinction of their popular golden coat color. This doesn’t make their behavior any different from most horse breeds. Their unique gene pool is what sets them apart from regular-colored horses.

What Does Palomino Mean in Horses?

In Spanish, the word ‘palomino’ means a ‘young dove.’ It became the general term used to describe the special coat color of these beautiful horses. It is a specific golden hue produced from combining cremello (cream) with chestnut.

In symbolism, however, a horse can signify different aspects of life like power, freedom, and beauty. Different horse colors also carry various messages. For instance, the palomino horse represents spiritual awakening.

Other Horse Coat Colors Often Confused With Palomino

As mentioned, it’s easy to mistake every golden horse for a palomino horse. They may have a gold, yellowish-tan coat color, but they are produced from mixing two different genes.

Here are some of the common coat colors often confused with palomino:

Chestnut Horse

Other colors confused with palomino - Chestnut horse

Unlike palominos, these horses carry a flaxen gene that creates the light chestnut color along with a light cream mane and tail. The Haflinger horse breed commonly has a chestnut coat color.

Cremello Horse

Other colors confused with palomino - Cremello horse

Horses with a cremello coat carry two cream genes that are responsible for their cream-colored coats, rosy skin and blue eyes.

Champagne Horse

Other colors confused with palomino - Champagne horse

The champagne gene also produces a similar golden shade as palomino horses. The only difference is that they have distinct spots or patches on their skin.

Chocolate Horse

Other colors confused with palomino - Chocolate horse

These horses are known for their liver-chestnut coat color and flaxen mane and tail. This is often the result of the silver gene that dilutes the black base coat to chocolate brown.

Buckskin Horse

Other colors confused with palomino - Buckskin horse

When horses have a golden coat color but a black or dark mane and tail, they are said to be buckskins. This is the result of the cream gene diluting the horse’s bay coat color.

Dun Horse

Other colors confused with palomino - Dun horse

A tan-colored body and dark mane and tail often characterize the Dun horses. They also typically have primitive markings down their spines and forearms.

Horse Breed Registries for Palomino Horses

Similar to owning cats and dogs, horses need to be recognized and registered by horse registries. This will allow them to join various sprint competitions and performance events.

Two of the most popular registries in the United States are the Palomino Horse Association (PHA) and Palomino Horse Breeders of America (PHBA).

The PHA began in California in 1935. They are a non-discriminatory registry that recognizes all horse breeds that conform to the color and standards of a palomino horse.

To register your horse in PHA, you should consider these different conformation requirements:

  • The horse’s coat should be a gold coin color, although the shade can vary from light, medium, to dark gold.
  • The mane and tail should be in the shades of white, ivory, or silver. They can be 15% darker with a mix of sorrel.
  • Recently, they started accepting cream-colored horses with blue eyes.

The PHBA, on the other hand, is another horse registry founded in 1941 with the goal to preserve and improve the palomino breed. They currently have over 88,000 horses and members.

PHBA is known to have stricter rules and guidelines in registering palomino horses. Aside from having a golden coin coat color, the horse should conform to the following standards:

  • The horse’s skin must be dark-colored without pink spots around the nose and eyes, under the tail, and between the hind legs.
  • The eyes can either be black, brown, blue or hazel.
  • The mane and tail must be a minimum of 75% white and no more than 25% darker-colored hair.
  • White markings and pink skin underlying these markings should be within the specified range as stated in their registration rules.

Palomino Horse History and Origin: Where Did Palomino Horses Originate?

Before being popularized in the United States, palomino horses were first known to originate in Spain. During her reign in the late 1400s, Queen Isabella was known to keep 100 palomino horses just for the nobility’s use.

At the beginning of the Spanish New World, she sent out a palomino stallion and five mares to an expedition. This is how the palomino horses ended up in American lands. Palominos are even called Isabellas in Spain until today.

In 1519, a Spanish conquistador named Juan de Palomino was gifted a golden horse by Hernan Cortez, another Spanish conqueror. The horse was later named Palomino after Juan de Palomino.

Furthermore, during the Mexican War in 1848, many palomino horses found their way to new territories, particularly in Texas and California, where they gained extreme popularity as racehorses and used by rich men as a symbol of power and high status.

Palomino Horse Characteristics: What Does a Palomino Horse Look Like?

Palomino horse and her colt

You know by now that palomino horses have coats that range from light to darker shades of gold, but what other distinct features do they have? Let’s find out.

The skin of a palomino horse is also golden or in a darker shade. Their mane is light-colored, mostly in the shades of white, ivory, and silver. Some palominos also have some streaks of chestnut or darker shades of hair on both the mane and tail.

Furthermore, their coat should also exhibit an iridescence shine, which is quite unique to this color breed.

Palomino horses also have distinct white markings on their face, which are either shaped like a star, snip, or blaze. These markings may also appear on their legs, but they should not extend above the horse’s hocks and knees.

They usually have hazel eyes, but black, brown, and blue irises are also acceptable. With regards to height and weight, they normally stand at 56 to 68 inches tall and weigh roughly 1,250 pounds.

Are Palomino Horses Rare?

Palomino horses can be found across many horse breeds, including Quarter Horses, Morgans, Saddlebred and others. Although not too common, they are definitely not a rare horse color.

Since being introduced to American land, they were greatly desired by many natives. These golden horses were known to join herds of wild Mustangs, which could be the explanation for the abundance of palomino horses in the country until today.

The most common coat color of horses is bay, which is the base color of most horses.

Palomino Horse Color Genetics: What Makes a Horse a Palomino?

Equine coat color genetics is the key explanation for a horse to have a palomino color. Since this subject can get a bit too technical, I’ll try to lay it out in simpler terms.

The base coat colors of horses, including chestnut, bay, and black, are controlled by two genes: Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) and Agouti Signaling Protein (ASIP). They are further affected by various dilution genes, which reduce the pigment of the base coat color.

These genes can either affect the red or black pigment and sometimes both. Some gene variants dilute only the mane, tail, lower legs, and ear rims of the horse. These dilution genes include cream, champagne, dun, pearl, silver, and mushroom.

Now that we have an overview of how coat color genetics work, it’s time to find out how palomino horses get their unique golden shade through these genes.

A palomino horse is produced from having a chestnut base color and a cream dilution gene. This gene is responsible for diluting the red pigment to a yellow pigment, resulting in a light to a darker shade of gold.

Their white markings on the face and legs are caused by white spotting pattern genes. These markings can appear in distinct shapes and patterns.

Do Palomino Horses Change Color as They Grow?

Most horses kept the color they have when they were born until they reach old age. However, you may notice that their coat colors change at some point in their lives. Depending on several factors, their coat may appear to have a lighter or darker shade.

For palomino horses, one of the main factors that affect their coat color is their diet. Because of certain minerals and proteins, the hair will lighten, darken, or look shinier than usual. Aside from their coat, it can also influence their mane and tail color.

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.

When you give them a high-protein diet, it can result in the appearance of small spots and patches on the palomino’s coat. Some minerals cause the mane and tail of the horse to have a reddish tint.

Coat color change is also evident when the seasons change. During winter, palomino horses shed their summer coat, revealing a much lighter shade.

Palomino Horse Temperament and Personality: Are Palominos Good Horses?

There is no direct correlation between temperament and coat color, so a palomino horse will exhibit the same behavior as its breed.

A Quarter Horse palomino is usually laid back and docile. Their high intelligence paired with their gentle disposition makes them very easy to train and well-suited as family horses. Beginner riders will also be at ease with a Quarter Horse palomino.

Another palomino horse breed is the Saddlebred which is known to be smart and sociable horses. They enjoy learning new things, so training is never a problem. They are also strong and very reliable for work.

Ultimately, a palomino’s temperament will be influenced by its genetics and environment. If a horse is raised in harsh surroundings, you can expect them to show aggressive behavior.

Palomino Horse Lifespan and Health Issues: Are Palomino Horses Healthy?

Palomino horse for sale

The palomino horse is known to have an average lifespan of 25 to 30 years. They are generally healthy, so you can expect them to live until their maximum age. With regular veterinary checkups, you won’t have to worry about unexpected diseases.

Nevertheless, they are also prone to several health issues. Most horses are likely to experience these conditions and illnesses:

  • Arthritis: Also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), arthritis is characterized by the inflammation of the joint tissues. This causes swelling, stiffness, and lameness of the affected area. Warming up before training and cooling down after exercise is strongly recommended to prevent this condition.
  • Gastric Ulcers: This condition causes the formation of ulcers on the lining of the stomach. This is known to generally affect athletic horses that engage in racing, shows, and performance events. Gastric ulcers can be avoided by following a scheduled feeding routine and providing them with a well-proportioned diet.
  • Colic: This term is used to describe abdominal pain in horses. Colic ranges from mild stomach aches to severe displacement of the intestines. This often results from the accumulation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract, dehydration, or ulcers. Different forms of treatment can be done, including analgesics or, in worst cases, surgery is needed.
  • Desmitis: This refers to the inflammation of the limbs that causes lameness. The most common type of desmitis is suspensory desmitis which results from an injury affecting the forelimbs and hindlimbs of horses. Training your palomino horse to have good foot balance and doing exercises to strengthen the ligaments can prevent desmitis.
  • Laminitis: When the soft tissue found in the hoof called laminae becomes inflamed, it results in a condition called laminitis. In severe cases when the pedal bone penetrates the sole, the horse may need to be euthanized. Monitoring your horse’s weight can help avoid this condition.

Palomino Horse Prices and Expenses: Are Palomino Horses Expensive?

If you decide to fulfill your equestrian dreams, you should be prepared for the initial investment and other expenses of owning a horse. You should expect to spend around $3,000 to $15,000 in buying a palomino horse.

Because palomino horses are not a breed on their own, their final price will depend on the breed, pedigree, conformation, health, and training they received.

Aside from the initial costs, you should also consider the ongoing expenses once you purchased your palomino horse:

  • Food: Your palomino horse will enjoy nibbling on hay and grain. The cost for food can reach up to $3,300 a year.
  • Farrier: For your horse’s shoeing and trimming needs, you need to hire a farrier that can perform maintenance every eight weeks. This can cost around $25 to $45 per horse.
  • Medical Care: To ensure your horse’s general health, they need to undergo regular examination, vaccinations, deworming, and dental care. This can cost roughly $250 to $500, with charge rates varying from one vet to another.
  • Training: Basic training sessions for your palomino horse can start at $25 per hour. For specialized training, the rate can go as high as $850 per month.
  • Horse Insurance: For medical and mortality coverage, you can invest in equine insurance that can cost between $175 and $300 per year, depending on the chosen policy.

Here is a table summarizing the yearly expenses of owning a palomino horse:

Type of ExpenseYearly Estimate
Food$3,300
Farrier$150 – $270
Medical Care$250 – $500
Training$10,200
Horse Insurance$175 – $300
Total Annual Cost$14,075 – $14,570

You can expect to spend $14,075 – $14,570 yearly for owning a palomino horse. However, this figure can change significantly depending on the type of training you enroll your palomino horse in.

Places to Find Palomino Horses for Sale and Adoption

Now that you’ve learned about the costs, it’s time to find out where you can purchase these golden horses. Depending on your preference and budget, you can choose to buy from a local breeder or adopt a palomino horse from a rescue center.

This short list of directories can lead you to the palomino horse most suitable for you:

  • EquineNow – This is a platform where horse breeders can post an ad for their available horses. You can easily filter your search according to price, breed, and of course, set it to display only palomino horses. You can select from different breeders across different states and locations.
  • Horse Clicks – This is another marketplace for different horse breeds, including the palomino color breed. Their website is equipped with an intelligent moderation and monitoring system to ensure that you won’t see scam ads and dealers.
  • Dream Horse – This is a classified ad website focused on selling, trading, and adopting horses since 1998. You can view their success story page for reviews and testimonies from old and recent buyers.
  • ehorses – Founded in 1999, this horse market website has been placing horses to families and enthusiasts worldwide. They are selling around 2,500 horses of all breeds per month. Like the previously mentioned websites, you need to sign up to purchase their available palomino horses.

You can adopt a palomino horse from this list of registered rescue organizations:

  • Habitat for Horses – HFH is a horse rescue located in Texas that aims to rehabilitate, protect, and provide a home to rescued horses from different situations. They have a wide variety of available horses on their website, including palominos.
  • Horse Plus Humane Society – Since 2003, this rescue has saved over 6,500 horses from slaughter, abuse, and neglect. They take in every breed regardless of their medical condition and temperament. Pricing for their available horses depends on the horse’s level of readiness to be adopted (i.e., the horse does not require further rehab or training).
  • Redwings Horse Rescue & Sanctuary – This rescue based in California began in 1991 with the mission to rescue horses, ponies, donkeys, and other species. They have a foster to adopt program that runs for a year to ensure that the horse will be placed in the most suitable home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Palomino horse grazing

What Is the Rarest Horse Coat Color?

The rarest horse coat color is white with pink or unpigmented skin. These horses are white at birth and remain white for the rest of their lives.

They also have blue or brown eyes. Most white horses are actually gray in color but with a full white hair coat.

Can Arabian Horses Be Palomino?

No, Arabian horses cannot be palomino in color. Purebred Arabians can never carry dilution genes. This is why they cannot produce colors like dun, cremello, buckskin, or palomino.

To produce palomino horses, they have to be crossbred with other breeds with the cream dilution gene.

Are There Palomino Thoroughbreds?

There are palomino Thoroughbreds, but they are very uncommon. They normally have a golden yellow coat with flaxen manes and tails. Thoroughbreds are considered to be “hot-blooded” but best known for their speed, agility, and high spirit.

Can You Breed Two Palomino Horses?

Breeding two palominos will result in a 25% chance of producing a chestnut foal, a 25% chance of a cream foal, and an overall 50% chance of having a palomino foal.

This occurs because palomino horses are heterozygous for the cream dilution gene, meaning that they have one copy of a dominant gene trait and one copy of a recessive gene.

What Is the Difference Between a Buckskin and a Palomino?

Buckskin horses get their colors from a single cream dilution gene affecting a bay color coat. This results in a tan coat with black or dark points in the mane, tail, and lower legs.

Their coat is generally duller than palominos, with their dark spots being the most noticeable difference since palominos generally have a white mane and tail.

What Color Is a Palomino Horse at Birth?

A palomino foal can be born with a dull palomino color ranging from shades close to their adult color to a more peach-like color.

Some foals are even cream-colored at birth. When they reach a year old, their coat begins to darken and turn into their cherished golden color.

Final Thoughts

Palomino horses have been admired for centuries for their glistening gold coat and alluring white manes and tails. They are commonly seen bagging ribbons in horse shows and performance events or running wild with wild Mustangs.

Knowledge about this unique color variety of horses will help you decide if they are the most suitable shade for your preference. Just keep in mind that a horse’s coat color won’t dictate its temperament or any other characteristic aside from its appearance.

The owner’s way of upbringing and treatment will determine the behavior that these amazing horses will show throughout the years of service and companionship.

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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