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Is the Palomino a breed or a colour? Well, like the Appaloosa, it is probably both. There are some breeds that feature the palomino coat colour amongst other colours such as the Welsh breeds or the Haflinger, where palomino is almost the dominant colour.
The palomino arrived in America from Spain and, as with many golden objects, it had a lure, desirability and a cachet which only such a striking coat colour can bring. There is no more detailed knowledge of the exact origins of this colour although the word is certainly Spanish. Some people think the term was taken from a pale yellow Spanish grape of the same name. Others think that the horse was named after Juan de Palomino, a Conquistador who rode a golden stallion. There is an American Palomino Horse Association and the colour is prevalent in many American breeds as there was prolific importation of the palomino into North America in previous centuries. This association require any potential animals to have lineage which includes at least one of the parents with Quarter Horse, Arabian or Thoroughbred bloodlines. Oh, and the potential registrant must of course be palomino. A minimal amount of white is permitted, on the leg not above the knee or hock and on the face, a snip, star or blaze but nothing greater and no wall eyes.
Breeding for colour, particularly this one, is a complex gene mix of chestnuts, cremello and palominos and in the UK the colour is seen in almost every discipline other than racing, although the Jockey Club do recognise the colour in their list of acceptable coat colours. The registration of a 16.2 palomino Thoroughbred with Weatherbys under the name ‘Arumba’ which means gold in Latin was reported in 2008. This horse did go into pre-training at a race yard in Epsom but was then diverted to an eventing career. There is no doubt that a successful horse seems to be even better known and photographed if it is palomino. Stallions such as Treliver Decanter, who has been very successful in dressage and who has superb bloodlines must be sent a high percentage of mares because he is also palomino. You have to know your colour genetics though as he is not necessarily guaranteed to throw a palomino foal.
The British Palomino Society interestingly is based in Wales and one wonders the connection with and influence of the Welsh breeds in this. Their stated aim is to encourage and assist the advancement of palominos and to maintain breed registers to support this. To be eligible for registration, all animals must have a gold body colour and white mane and tail. Like other societies that are based around a colour, the British Skewbald and Piebald Association for example, eligible animals could have their principal registration with another organisation and the BPS may just over stamp that passport. For those interested in breeding palominos, the British Palomino Society also offer two other registers for cremellos and cream dilutes so put simply, palominos that carry the gene but not the actual colour.
So a palomino horse or pony can come in many forms and is not restricted to a certain conformational type as long as the colour is true. So looking for a palomino to buy opens up all sorts of different types of horses and ponies, although it is fair to say that the colour seems to prevail in certain breeds such as the Welsh.
A horse with such a striking colour was clearly going to be popular, not only as a show horse and display horse but also in film and television. There were two iconic palomino horses on American television in the sixties called Trigger and Mr Ed. And the name palomino has even been used for a fragrance, name of a book and as a title for restaurants around the world. It conjures up an image of luxury, opulence and quality that is recognised far outside the equine world.