Those Golden Horses

Whether in a parade, a show ring or a Western movie, the palomino horse is a superstar. With its golden coat and creamy white mane and tail, palominos possess a near-magical beauty, all the more magical because the way it comes about is a genetic toss of the coin—a lucky accident.

The palomino isn’t a breed, it’s a color—a color as rare and precious as gold itself. The true palomino color is caused by a single color-diluting gene, usually working on a chestnut (red) coat. But the gene is rare and elusive. Even two palomino parents may not produce golden foals.

The color-diluting gene works on other colors, too. For example, on a bay coat, the gene will produce a buckskin, with a golden body but a black mane and tail. A double gene will produce a very pale horse, not a palomino at all.

I’ve simplified the explanation here. The reality is so complicated that breeding palomino horses is like throwing dice in Las Vegas. If some breeder ever finds a golden stallion that will always sire golden colts, then the palomino will become a breed instead of a color. Meanwhile, breeders wait with high hopes for foals to be born. Only about half of the expected palominos will turn out to be the real thing.

Palominos may appear by surprise among breeds like American Saddle Horses, Tennessee Walkers and Quarter horses. This accounts for the fact that palominos have been around for hundreds of years, long before the gene was known. They came to America by way of Spain (as did the ancestors of our wild horses).

A California rancher named Don Esteban is credited with owning the first known palomino in America. In 1800, as the story goes, he offered a reward for the most beautiful horse in the country. His peons looked at horses, but the ones they saw were covered with dust and mud. A little Indian boy saw a glint of gold. He captured the colt, washed it clean and presented it to Don Esteban for the reward. In the Mexican version of the story, Indians stole a pure white stallion and a buckskin mare from a hacienda. A year later the mare escaped and returned to her owner with a little golden filly.

Whatever the real story, palominos continue to be show-stoppers, and their golden color is a true treasure.

The hero in my January Desire does ride a palomino—but I really wanted an excuse to show you my new cover, which I love. The book isn’t available yet but can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Here’s a link to more, along with an excerpt.

I can’t claim to be a horse expert. But if you can add to the information here, or if you’re a fan of palominos, we’d love to hear from you.

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45 thoughts on “Those Golden Horses”

  1. Oh, how beautiful. Thanks for sharing these palominos and their unusual background.

    Congrats on reaching the #40 milestone in your career, Elizabeth. 🙂

  2. I love to watch horses. They’re such gracious animals. But I don’t know a lot about them, so thanks for sharing the info. 😀

  3. Thanks, Cathy, Vickie, Dora, Amy, Lillian and Stephanie. I’m not a horse person either, but I love them. Have ridden just enough to get good and sore. But the idea that getting a palomino is a matter of luck has always intrigued me.
    Good luck in the drawing!

  4. Really interesting information. I grew up on a ranch so I am used to horses and love to ride them. My grandfather had a buckskin and of course, his name was Buck. Your book sounds good too.

  5. I’ve long loved palomino horses, since my days of adoring Roy Rogers. ? A neighbor about half a mile from us has one of the most gorgeous palominos I’ve ever seen. I always slow down when I pass their pasture so I can admire the horse.

  6. Big congrats, Elizabeth, on the new book!! It looks great. Love the big cowboy on the cover. He looks so tall next to the little boy. And you can see the love between them.

    Palomino’s are my one of my favorite horses. They’re so beautiful. Here in Texas we have Palomino clubs who ride in the rodeos and parades. But, you told me lots I didn’t know about them. Thanks for the info.

  7. Hi Elizabeth- Oh, you must be thrilled with that cover!! I adore it! And I loved your info on palomino’s. Right now I’m writing a series for Desire about a horse farm and my second hero has difficulties with the palomino. I didn’t know about the color/changing into a breed if they sire a golden horse. How cool!! Can’t wait for your book to come out!!

  8. We always called the Palomino the ‘Parade Horse’. I know, that’s rude, but it seemed that the other horses and mules would act like that one was different. Everybody else was a darker color to black, and here was the ‘show off’ getting all the attention.LOL.
    They are beautiful horses and I am always reminded of Roy Rogers when I see one, too.
    But to keep one to it’s true color you do have to help them with a bath and keeping that mane in good shape and the cockles out of the tail. That will spoil the effect in a minute.
    I never knew how they got that color, even being around stock for so long, that information never filtered through. Thanks.

  9. Thanks for your comments, ladies (sorry I’ve been gone and will be in and out today). I love my cover. The little boy is so perfect, I wish I could grab him and hug him.

    I wanted to include a photo of the most famous Palomino of all, Roy Rogers’ Trigger, but couldn’t find a copyright-free image. When Trigger died, Roy had him mounted. Years later when items from the Rogers estate were sold Trigger was bought by a collector. Does anybody know where he is now? I’ve forgotten.

  10. I love this Elizabeth. I remember reading a book about a teenage girl who wanted to prove that she could breed paleminos. Wow, it was so many years ago I have no idea the title. But it’s just like the things you’re saying, how HARD it was to get a true palemino.
    AND I love that new cover and the title. Oh. My. Gosh. I have to get this book and read it.

  11. Thanks, Lori, Karen, Liz and Mary. I remember a movie way, way long ago about breeding palominos, Mary. Maybe it was based on the book you read. The only scene I remember is when the hoped-for foal was born and it was dark brown.

    I’ve wished I could ride again, too Lori. I never did enough of it to be good. Would like to learn.

  12. Very interesting blog today. I’m afraid I don’t even know the difference between bay, chestnut, roan, etc. I read about horses of these colors but don’t really know what they are describing. And yes, palomino means Trigger to me.

  13. I don’t know a lot about horses, but I’ve always loved their beauty. I was one of those kids that wanted a pony as a kid but I live in the suburbs lol. I have a friend that I’ve made online from England that rides show horses and have picked up a few tidbits from her. I do know they are hard work and expensive but they seem worth it apparently!

  14. Wonderful post, Elizabeth. The palominos are so, so beautiful. Well, all horses are, but the colors and the variations are just, like the little Indian boy said, glints of gold!

  15. The horses are beautiful. I have gained such an appreciation for these animals from reading Western and historical stories. One day I want to experience horseback riding.

  16. Paliminos are a beautiful breed of horses… thanks for sharing.. Will be putting this book on my tbr list..

  17. Sorry, I’ve been gone for a couple of hours, now back. Thanks for your delightful posts all of you ladies. I appreciate our readers so much.

    Wishing you luck in the contest and Palominos in your dreams.

  18. Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth! I loved your article and the pictures. Also, congrats on your 40 books.

    I have only ridden a horse twice in my entire 60 years, so I don’t know very much about horses.

  19. Love your blog today. Palominos are so beautiful! Also love the cover of your new book coming out. I look forward to reading it.

  20. When we were teenagers there was a big Palomino horse show held at our county fairgrounds. Beautiful horses.

  21. Thanks to all of you for your comments on the beauty of palominos. We hope you’ll come back to Petticoats and Pistols and visit us often. We have a great community of readers and writers here, and I’m honored to share it with you.

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