With their glistening golden coats and beautiful blonde manes, Palomino horses are an all-around favorite. They’ve been around since ancient times and have been revered for their brilliant coloring ever since. Palominos exist in every corner of the world, and it’s not unusual to see them earning ribbons at local horse shows, strutting center stage in high profile events, and even running free in herds of wild mustangs.
Palomino horses are recognized for their gorgeous good looks, but how much do you actually know about these popular horses? Keep reading to learn more and discover all the reasons why people can’t help but fall in love with Palominos.
1. Palomino refers to a color, not a breed.
The first thing you need to know about Palomino horses is that they’re not a specific breed. They’re definitely easy to spot, but a Palomino horse is identified by its coat color, not its breed.
Almost every horse breed can produce a Palomino. To be a Palomino, a horse must have a gold-colored coat with a white mane and tail. Everything comes down to individual genetics, not breed.
2. 50% of all Palomino horses are Quarter Horses.
There’s a long list of horse breeds that could potentially produce a Palomino. Out of those, however, the best odds seem to come with Quarter Horses. About 50% of all registered Palomino horses are Quarter Horses.
American Saddle Horses, Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, and Tennessee Walking Horses are also common horse breeds for the Palomino coloring.
3. You need two specific genes to produce a Palomino horse.
The gorgeous coloring of a Palomino horse is created with a chestnut base coat coupled with a single allele of a “cream” dilution gene. There are different coat colorings that appear similar to a Palomino, but a horse can’t be a true Palomino without those two genes.
Do you know the difference between a Palomino horse and a Cremello? Find out here.
4. Some horse breeds look like Palominos, but they’re not.
Without the cream gene, a horse cannot be a true Palomino, It can be hard to tell, however, when certain horse breeds produce chestnut coats that can look golden in color.
The Haflinger horse is a good example of this. This breed does not carry the cream dilution gene required of all Palominos. But looking at a Haflinger’s light coat and white mane and tail, it can be easy to see why they are sometimes confused for Palominos. They are, however, genetically chestnut horses.
5. Palomino horses come in different shades.
Palominos are always golden, but there is some wiggle room when it comes to exact coloring. Shades can range from a pale gold, to creamy, brassy, and a deep gold.
For their manes and tails, Palominos must have mostly white hair, but a few darker strands are considered okay.
6. They can change color.
A Palomino’s coat color can change based on a few factors. First, diet can affect how light or dark a horse’s coat color is. Hay or grain that is high in protein can lead to a darker coat color or even dappling.
Palominos can also undergo dramatic color changes as the seasons change. Their winter and summer coats can be so different that they look like completely different horses.
7. Palominos were once reserved for royalty.
Queen Isabella of Spain is famous for a lot of reasons, and history shows that she loved Palominos. She reportedly owned over 100 of these golden horses and kept them at her residence. She forbade commoners from owning them, and only members of the royal family and a few favored nobles were allowed to ride them.
Queen Isabella is also largely responsible for spreading Palomino love around the world. She sent horses to North America to spread her influence and add more Palominos to the native gene pool.
8. Native American culture was altered because of the introduction of Palominos.
After Queen Isabella sent her prized horses to the New World, there was a sudden increase in the local horse population. Many of those horses were Palominos, but it was the population surge itself that ended up affecting Native American culture.
With more horses available, Native Americans started trapping and taming more horses. This allowed them to hunt more effectively, travel faster, and they even influenced the tribes during times of war.
9. Golden horses were used in the crusades.
There’s no clear answer as to where or when the Palomino horse first appeared. We do know, however, that these golden horses have been revered for centuries.
During the Crusades, Palominos were considered the ideal mount. Not only did they look impressive riding into battle, they were also strong, fast, and easily trained.
10. The first Palomino horse ever officially registered was named El Rey de los Reyes (the king of kings).
The Palomino Horse Association is relatively new, and it’s mostly due to the actions of one man—Dick Halliday. Halliday researched the colorization for years and wrote magazine articles to garner the public’s attention.
In 1935, he officially registered his golden stallion named El Rey de los Reys. Halliday’s horse started a chain reaction that led many other breeders to specialize in this beautiful coloring and register their own horses.
11. Mr. Ed was a Palomino.
The famous Mr. Ed from the 1960’s comedy show is one of the most famous Palominos to ever live. The talking horse was played by a gelding named Bamboo Harvester. The show is in black and white, so it’s hard to tell, but Mr. Ed had a gorgeous golden coat and white mane and tail.