The striking golden hue called palomino is the result of the cream-colored gene working on the chestnut-colored gene, causing a dilution in the chestnut coat color of the resulting foal. Because the color is caused by dilution, a palomino horse isn't always born with that shiny golden color. Instead, a foal's color can change with age and the passing seasons.
Birth to Weanling
At birth, a palomino foal can be born in one of several colors. They may be a dull palomino color that ranges from close to their adult color to an odd shade of peach. Some foals are born cream-colored. Their eyes are blue-gray, which changes to amber or brown as the foal matures. They may have white markings on the face or legs.
Yearling to Maturity
As a palomino horse passes his first birthday, his coat begins to darken and take on the famous golden color treasured by palomino enthusiasts. The adult palomino's coat color ranges from a cream color to a dark color close to a clay dun, called a sooty palomino. The mane and tail are almost always white or cream colored in an adult palomino horse.
A palomino foal's coat color lightens and darkens seasonally. The winter coat often grows in one to two shades lighter than the summertime coat. A cream colored palomino foal can look white, while a lighter palomino foal can turn cream-colored when his winter coat grows in. The spring and summer coat of older foals and mature palominos can also develop dapples.
Distinguishing Palomino from Champagne Foals
Palomino foals are often confused with another golden hued color, champagne. There are genetic tests to absolutely identify a palomino foal, but there are also distinguishing characteristics of palominos that set them apart from other colors. The underlying skin of a palomino foal is dark, while other colors such as champagne have pink skin. This is easiest to see near the eyes or genitals. The muzzle on both champagne and palomino horses tend to be pink skinned.
Jeanne Grunert has been a writer since 1990. Covering business, marketing, gardening and health topics, her work has appeared in the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books, "Horse Illustrated" and many national publications. Grunert earned her Master of Arts in writing from Queens College and a Master of Science in direct and interactive marketing from New York University.