The palomino is considered a colour breed (i.e. a genetic colour in horses) rather than a specific breed. The US-based Palomino Horse Breeders Association, formed in 1941, accepts Quarter Horses, Paints, Holsteiners, Pintos, Appaloosas, Thoroughbreds, American Saddle Horses, Arabians and half-Arabs, Morgans, Mountain Pleasure Horses, Morabs, Quarabs, Missouri Fox Trotters and Rocky Mountain Horses registered with their respective US associations as long as they meet the colour and white rules. The Palomino Horse Association, established in 1935, also does not discriminate against any breed, and registers based on colour and conformation.
The distinctive palomino colouring consists of a gold coat and white mane and tail. Genetically, this colour is created by a single allele of a ”cream” dilution gene and a “red” (chestnut) base coat. Golden horses with ivory manes and tails, believed to have descended from the Arab and Barb, appear in ancient Japanese and Chinese art and Asian tapestries. Stories of golden horses abound in Arabic and Moorish lore, as well as reports from the Crusaders who fought the desert dwellers.
Queen Isabella I of Spain (who funded Christopher Columbus’s expedition to the New World in 1492) owned 100 Palominos and send a stallion and five mares to New Spain (now Mexico). The golden horses spread into Texas and eventually other US states.
As Palominos can be found within many breeds, their conformation varies, but generally they must show refinement of head, bone, and overall structure. Ideally, they should be the colour of a gold coin, varying from light, medium, to dark. The mane and tail should be white, ivory, or silver, with a small percentage of dark or sorrel hair mixed in. Preferred height is 14-17 hands.
Because of their striking colour, Palominos are popular for parades and exhibitions, as well as rodeos, pleasure riding, ranching, jumping, racing, and English and Western shows. Famous celebrity palominos include Roy Rogers’ Trigger; Mister Ed, the talking TV horse; and Xena: Warrior Princess’s horse Argo.