The Palomino horses are considered to be one of the most good-looking horses out there. And if you are here, then I’m sure you agree. Now, if you’ve got a ranch and are looking to buy a new horse or just curious to know more about this majestic breed of horse than you are definitely in the right place. So, what is a Palomino horse?
The palomino horse is a color breed that displays a lustrous golden coat with a light cream tail and mane. It is not a true horse breed but rather any breed with this coat color can be a palomino. Palomino horses come from horse breeds such as Quarter Horses, Tennessee Walking Horses, Arabian horses etc.
The color of the coal is not the only trait that distinguishes a palomino. Moreover, the palomino has various color variations except golden. Hence, there is a lot to know about palomino horses. In this article, you will find a general overview of palomino horses.
What Breed of Horse is A Palomino?
The term Palomino does not refer to an equine breed, rather it refers to a color breed. Generally, yellow or golden horses with white or cream mane are called Palomino horses. There are also other color variances of the palomino that fall under different shades of gold and cream.
A palomino does not have to be a pure horse breed or a certain breed. Since the term refers to the appearance and color of a horse any horse breed can be a palomino horse. Plus, the palomino coat color is common in many different horse breeds.
Although Palominos are not a true horse breed there are color registries that register them. But registration of palomino horses is purely based on their coat color and not their breed. Hence, many pure breeds or combinations of many breeds can qualify as a palomino.
Palomino representatives can be found scattered amongst various horse breeds. The American Saddlebred, Morgan horse, Fox Trotters, Appaloosa, Quarter horse and Tennessee Walking horse are all breeds that have produced palominos. But not all equine breeds have palomino representatives.
For example, the palomino color is rare in Thoroughbred horses but not non-existent. Again, some Arabian and Haflinger horse breeds may seem palomino but they are actually chestnut in color and gene. But registries may accept such horses if the coat color meets the criteria of palomino shades.
Origin and History of Palomino Horse
The origin of the palomino horse is still debated about. But the consensus is that the palomino originated in the desert. Moreover, the history of the Palomino horse is tied with its origin, the horse appeared in ancient Asian and European paintings and tapestries.
While some experts believe that the birthplace of Palominos is the desert, others believe that they originated from Spain. Hence, the history of the origin of palomino is quite complex. Let’s look into and simplify the origin and history of the palomino horses,
Living beings evolve with time to adapt to their changing environments. The same may have happened to the Palomino horse. The ancient palomino’s coat got its golden shade through evolution.
The coat of the palomino may have turned light and golden to adapt to the sun and heat of the deserts. Light colors do not absorb much heat as dark colors do.
Moreover, the golden coat of palomino may have helped them protect themselves from desert predators. Their golden coat helped them to camouflage with the desert sand. It is believed that the palomino horse traversed from the desert to the rest of the world.
Although the whole desert origin theory of the Palomino’s makes sense, the origin of the palomino was also traced back to the Spanish middle ages. Around 1519, during the reign of Cortez and at the beginning of the Spanish New World, palomino horses appeared.
Moreover, palomino horses were popular amongst Spanish Royals and nobles. The golden coat of the palomino symbolised status and wealth. In Spain, it was called the “the horse of the queen”.
Queen Isabella was known for highly favouring the palomino horse and had hundreds of them. It is recorded in history that she gifted 5 mares and a stallion palomino to her viceroy in Mexico, then New Spain.
Although Spain has a long history of rearing palomino horses that does not necessarily mean that they originated there. Plus, Palominos were traced back to other regions of the world too.
For all we know, the palomino horses could have originated from anywhere. Because we can find traces of Palomino in different pages of history. The history of palominos is linked to the Crusade, Spanish royals, Arab high military officials, different myths and legends.
During the Crusades, palomino horses were spotted with the desert chiefs of Emir Saladin. He gifted a golden Palomino warhorse to Richard-Coeur-de-Lion. Again, the golden palomino horse appeared in tapestries and paintings of China and Japan.
While we can never be sure about where the palominos originated from, we can trace the history of how the modern palomino horse came to be. The modern-day palomino horses descended from Mexico to Texas to California.
“Palomino” is a Spanish word. The golden horses got their name from Juan Alonso Palomino. He is the Spanish captain who took the palomino horses Queen Isabella gifted to New Spain, now known as Mexico.
From there the palomino horses spread to the plains of Texas and California. The Indian natives captured the palomino horses. They trained the palominos for hunting and warfare.
After the United States acquired California through the Mexican War in 1848, they discovered the palomino horses. There were plenty of palomino horses in California back in those days.
Today, there are two color horse breed registries in the United States of America that accept palominos. One of them is the Palomino Horse Breeders of America and the other is The Palomino Horse Association.
What are the Characteristics of Palomino Horse?
The golden coat of the Palomino horse is not the only characteristic that distinguishes it from other horses. Along with basic color variations, palomino horses are distinguished by different patterns, their easy-going temperament, their size and weight.
1. Size and Weight
The size and weight of palomino horses vary from one horse breed to another. But generally, the size of a palomino horse is about 14 to 17 hands that are, 54 to 68 inches.
Most palomino horses weigh between 1000 to 1250 lb. The average weight of most palomino horses is 1250 lb. Though a palomino horse can grow very big, tall and heavy depending on its diet.
Hence, most palomino horses are pretty tall and muscular. They are similar to some racing horses such as the Arabian and Barb horse.
2. Coat Color Variations
Although the quintessential coat color of palominos is golden, the horse has three other basic color variations. The light palomino, chocolate palomino and pearl palomino are the three other basic variations except for the golden palomino. Sometimes champagne coated horses are considered palominos too.
The light palomino horse has a sandy colored coat with a white mane and tail. They lack the golden sheen of the classic golden palomino horses. They are also often mistaken with a cremello horse due to their light creamy white colored coat.
The difference between a cremello and a light palomino horse is their skin color. The skin of the cremello has pink pigmentation whilst the light palomino’s skin has brown pigmentation. Moreover, the light palomino horse carries only one crème dilution gene. A cremello horse carries two crème dilution genes.
Golden palomino is the classic palomino with the most recognizable coat. It is also the most desirable palomino. These are the palominos with gold coin coats and white manes. Sometimes the golden coat color of golden palominos’ dim or brighten depending on their diet.
Chocolate and Pearl palomino horses are uncommon. The chocolate palomino horse has a white mane and tail with black or brown streaks in between. A chocolate color coated horse is accepted as a palomino because it has the crème dilution gene that all palomino horses have. The chocolate coat is obtained by breeding a liver chestnut and a palomino.
Pearl palomino horses have a shiny light cream coat. They feature blue or green eyes. In most cases, Andalusian and Lusitano horse breeds produce pearl palominos.
Champagne palomino horses are not considered as true palominos. Their gold chestnut coat makes people mistake them as palominos. But they are not real palominos as they have pink skin and lack the crème dilution gene that all palomino horses have. Plus, these horses are blue-eyed, which is extremely rare on palomino horses.
While palomino registries accept any horse breed, they need to qualify the pattern criteria. Other than the coat color palomino horses have distinct characters that distinguish them from other horses. Any run of the mil light colored horse cannot qualify as a palomino.
The palomino color is not just a simple yellow or gold, rather the coat color should be like a new gold coin. The mane and tail should be light cream, white or ivory. Some palominos have chestnut streaks on their tail and mane. But at least 75% of the horse’s body hair should be pure white.
A palomino horse’s coat color may change with time. Seasonal change and diet influences the coat color. Plus, there are various variations of palomino coats. So other distinct patterns of palomino need to be identified.
In the case of most palomino horses, their skin should be dark underneath their coat. Some palominos have pink spots around their eye region. Pink color anywhere else in the horse does not qualify as a palomino. But in exceptional cases, palominos have pink skin which darkens later on, when they are older.
Most palomino horses have white marking patterns on their pasterns and ankles. If they have any other marking or pattern on their face or body, it has to be white. These markings don’t need to be a certain pattern, but they have to be white.
The iris of the palomino horses is usually hazel. Black and brown irises also pass for palomino horses. Horses with blue or partially blue horses are usually not considered palomino.
But in certain circumstances blue-eyed or glass eyed horses are accepted as palomino. Other than these traits, the palomino horse has to meet the height and weight requirements too.
Most palomino horses have a sociable or calm temperament. It is easy to gain their trust as most palomino horses are approachable. That’s why palominos are great as a family horse.
Moreover, palominos are not difficult to train and are great for people learning to ride a horse. You can also train them for racing or farm work.
Although palomino horses are intelligent and calm, they can be very sensitive. They need a lot of love and care. Hence, a life-long strong bond can be made with a palomino. But if you train them indifferently, they tend to become rebellious.
The equine breed also plays a role in the palomino horses temperament. For example, a thoroughbred background explains the high-spirited nature of a palomino horse. Again, the Quarter Horse Palomino makes a good family horse due to its sociable nature.
In some cases, the temperament of the palomino horses reflects the temperament of their parents. But in most cases, according to specialists, the breed of the horse does not affect the temperament of Palomino horses.
When you adopt a Palomino horse, you are in for the long haul. You can trust this color breed for its longevity because most palominos’ liver is longer than other horse breeds.
The palomino horses can live for 25 to 35 years, which is longer than the average lifespan of most horses. The average lifespan of most horses is 20 to 33 years.
What are Palominos Used for?
Due to their genetic diversity, palomino horses are versatile and can be used for many purposes. Historically Palominos were used as a sign of wealth and for hunting or warfare. Today the palomino horses are used in various equestrian competitions, farm work and even in show business.
Historically the palomino horses were used in warfare during the Crusades, a sign of wealth in the Spanish middle ages and hunting partners of the native Indians of North America. The Native Americans were attracted to their golden coat and trained them as hunting mounts, war horses and transports.
The history of palomino horses indicates that these horses are multi-talented. Moreover, their genetic diversity makes it so that they are agile, versatile, beautiful, speedy and can boast high endurance. Thus today, these horses are not only used as workhorses and pleasure horses but also in various equestrian competitions.
According to the rule book of The American Horse Shows Association, palomino horses can compete in the following categories, parade, pleasure or stock horses. They can also take part in competitions such as saddle racing, horse walking, jumping, barrel racing, trail rides and more.
In such competitions, they are judged for both their performance and their beauty. A quarter (25%) of their score depends on their coat’s quality and color. They are also used in parades, rodeos and fiestas. It has become a tradition to fit palomino horses with silver saddles in parades.
Other than shows and parades, palominos make a great family horse or a pasture buddy. Palomino horses are great at farm work and ranching as they are easy to train. In recent times, palomino horses are also seen in television shows and movies.
For example, Roy Roger’s Trigger, the talking horse Ed from the American sitcom Mister Ed. and Elvis Presley’s horse were all palomino horses. The talking horse Ed even had a stunt double although it was a Quarter horse. Plus, the palomino, Trigger worked with Roy Rogers in films for around 20 years.
Are Palominos Rare?
Palomino horses are not that rare. Because palominos are a color breed that is found across various horse breeds. But just because palominos are found across various breeds doesn’t mean they are super common either.
Quarter horses are the most common palomino color breed. About 50% of all the registered palomino horses are said to be Quarter horses. Similarly, the most prevalent and desired palomino is the golden palomino horse.
Palomino color breed is hard to come by from the Thoroughbred horses. Palomino horses such as the pearl and chocolate are also rare. Moreover, not all palomino horses have ivory white manes.
Some chocolate palominos have a dark grey or sooty mane. This is due to their sooty gene. Again, although most palomino horses have hazel eyes, rare ones have blue or glass blue eyes.
If you are lucky, you might find a palomino horse amongst your local breed. But just having a similar colored coat will not tick all the boxes. If a horse features most of the accepted characteristics and patterns of palominos, only then will they be considered as one. In that sense, palomino horses are not that common.
How Do You Get a Palomino Horse?
You can get a palomino horse by purchasing one or by breeding one. A palomino horse can be produced by breeding horses that have a crème dilution gene and a chestnut base. Plus, the price of a palomino horse ranges from 5000 to 30,000 USD.
The Golden Dorado palomino horse, which is said to be the closest to a true breed was produced through breeding between Spanish, Moorish and Arabic horse breeds. Today, many more different horse breeds can produce a palomino.
It is not the horse breed, but the color gene it is carrying that creates the palomino color breed. To get the palomino coat color in a horse, a certain combination of genes is required. You will need a horse with a chestnut base and another horse with a crème dilution gene.
The chestnut base color is created by the genotype “ee” at the extension locus. The crème dilution gene is the genotype C Ccr at the locus C. This gene lightens the “red” pigment of the chestnut base into yellow. Thus creating the golden coat color of the palomino horse. Genetically, this is how you get a palomino horse.
When two palomino horses are paired, there is a 50% chance a cremello foal will be produced instead of a palomino foal. Breeders also pair a palomino horse with a chestnut horse to increase the chance of producing palomino foals than cremello ones. But even then the chances of producing palomino horses are 50%.
The only way of getting a palomino foal for sure is to pair a red chestnut horse with a cremello horse. Hence, there is not a high guarantee that a palomino horse can always be bred. If you want, you can also purchase a registered palomino horse. It can cost from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousand dollars.
Diet and Grooming for Palomino Horses
Looking after a palomino horse is similar to most horses. So, I won’t go much deep into the whole process of maintaining one. If you have any experience with keeping horses then you’ll be able to look after these Palomino horses easily.
But special care needs to be taken to maintain the beauty and lustre of the palomino’s coat. That’s why you need to focus on providing a proper diet and grooming your palomino. Here’s how you can do that,
Without a proper diet, a palomino horse will start smutting. That is, dark patches and other variations of it will appear on their coat. Moreover, the quality and shade of their coat can change for the worse without a balanced diet.
The diet of a palomino horse consists of grains, salts, grass, hays and lots of clean water. Shadows or smutting can appear on your palomino’s coat if it is eating grains with a high protein content regularly. Again, smutting or the formation of red shadows on the white mane and tail of your palomino can occur with high iron intake.
Smutting occurs when you are feeding your palomino horse a diet rich in proteins, oils, vitamin A and minerals such as iron, selenium or copper. To avoid smutting, you should cross out the following food items from your palomino’s diet,
- Sunflower Seeds
- Rice Brands
- Clover Chaff
- Excessive Protein Meals
Instead, you should provide your palomino horse with a cereal-based diet to prevent smutting. You can provide your palomino horse with a diet consisting of pollard, grains, cereal chaff, grass hay and mill-run cereal hay. That way you can prevent smutting and also improve the coat of your palomino horse.
Not all palomino horses carry the gene that causes smutting. But many sensitive palomino horses are vulnerable to smutting. In either case, it is best to provide a proper diet to your palomino horse.
Grooming a palomino horse is not much different from grooming other horses. But daily grooming of your palomino horse is necessary to keep its coat healthy and shiny. Moreover, to keep the coat clean from any sort of debris, dirt or loose hair, daily grooming is required.
You need to invest in some good quality brushes for grooming your horse. To clean the dirt, dust or any other debris from your palomino’s coat, you should use a good medium-bristled brush. You should use a stiff-bristled brush to further remove dirt that is caked on the coat of the palomino. Moreover, if your palomino has a rough coat, you should opt for the stiff-bristled brush.
With a smaller and more delicate brush, clean the legs and face of the Palomino horse. Then using a curry comb brush your palomino horse’s coat in a circular motion. That way, not a single scrap of dirt will be missed. Moreover, the consistent circular motion will ensure that the horse is comfortable.
Remove any rocks, pebbles, sand or mud stuck on your palomino’s hoof with a hoof pick. You also need to detangle and brush the mane and tail of your palomino horse regularly. Detangle the mane and tail hair with your hand before brushing it with a suitable comb.
Never use bleach or any other chemically harmful product to whiten the mane of your horses. There is a special whitening shampoo made just for horses like the palomino that has been tested as safe.
As owners are responsible for keeping the palomino horse’s hair bright and white, you can opt for a whitening shampoo than using bleach.
Although not a true horse breed, palomino horses are wonderful and multi-talented. Palomino horses are just a part of the larger and more beautiful equestrian world. I hope this article properly introduced you to at least one breed, the palomino horses, of the large world of horses.
If you were looking for the answers to questions such as, “Are palominos rare?” or “What are palominos used for?”, I hope this article answered all your questions. Moreover, I hope you found this general review on the palomino horse helpful.