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Chocolate Palomino Horse Genetics

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With their deep brown coat and white mane and tail, chocolate palominos are some of the most striking horses you can find. However, chocolate palominos can often be confused with other dark brown or chestnut color horses.

To find out if your horse is a true chocolate palomino, you need to look at its genetics. Read on for more information on this beautiful horse!

Palomino horse wandering in the greenfield

Like all palominos, genetically, chocolate palominos have a chestnut base coat and a copy of the creme gene.

The creme gene “dilutes” the chestnut base and creates a golden color that ranges from light gold until the dark “chocolate” of chocolate palominos.

Chocolate palominos are not very common, but it’s worth learning about this wonderful color horse and how to distinguish it from other dark chestnut horses.

What Is a Chocolate Palomino Horse?

A palomino horse has a deep, dark golden coat with a white or very light yellow mane and tail. Often, however, chocolate palominos may have a few black or brown hairs in their mane and tail.

Like all palominos, chocolate palominos are a color type, not a breed.

A solid color chocolate palomino is rare to find. More commonly, a chestnut horse that has very pronounced sooty markings will be called a chocolate palomino.

Sooty marks are darker shadings along the face, rump, topline, and shoulders that look as if the horse has been covered in soot! As the horse ages, the markings may spread from the toplines to the rest of the body.

Chocolate Palomino Horse Genetics

Palomino stallion in green grass pasture at sunset - ss230524

The genetic composition of chocolate palominos consists of a chestnut base coat (ee) and a copy of the cream dilution gene (nCr).

Horses that carry one copy of the dilution gene are identified as single dilutes. For example, a bay horse carrying a single copy of cream will be a buckskin, while a black horse carrying this single cream gene will be known as a smoky black.

A single dilute chestnut is known as a palomino. There is only a 50% chance that a single dilute horse will pass the cream gene to its offspring.

Chocolate palominos may also result from a pairing between a liver chestnut horse and a palomino.

Chocolate Palomino Imposters

Silver Black

Silver black horses are often confused with chocolate palominos. Silver blacks are uniform gray or brown with manes and tails that range from a bleached appearance to silver or white. However, silver black horses’ genetics are quite different from those of chocolate palominos’.

Silver black horses carry the silver gene, which has the effect of lightening the tail and mane and diluting the horse’s uniform black color to a chocolate shade. While chestnut horses can carry the silver gene, it doesn’t show in their appearance (source).

Liver Chestnut with Flaxen Mane and Tail

Liver Chestnut Horse standing in a field with yellow flowers

Another horse that may be confused with a chocolate palomino is a liver chestnut horse with a flaxen mane and tail. Liver chestnut is the darkest shade of chestnut you can find on a horse.

A chestnut horse that carries the flaxen gene (F) will have a light blond mane and tail. The flaxen gene can make the mane and tail of this horse appear flaxen (light blond), honey, ivory, or white (source).

Though the contrast between the dark coat and light mane and tail of this horse may remind one of a chocolate palomino, genetically, it cannot be classified as a palomino because it does not carry the cream gene (nCr).

Breeds Where You Can Find Chocolate Palomino Horses

Almost every horse breed can produce a palomino. In fact, the Palomino Horse Breeders of America (PHBA) recognizes 17 different blood breeds of horses (source).

Some of the most common breeds where you can find palominos include:

  • Quarter Horses
  • Tennessee Walking Horses
  • American Saddle Horses
  • Arabians
  • Thoroughbreds
  • Standardbreds 

As palominos and chocolate palominos are much sought-after horses due to their incredible colors, they are often found in Western riding events such as rodeos in the US and Canada.

A group of horses standing in a green field under the clear sky

Among palominos, chocolate palominos are rare, so it may be more difficult to find chocolate palominos among any of these breeds.

A well-known chocolate palomino in the United States is Gold Sultana, an American Saddlebred and breeding stallion owned by Antigo American Saddlebreds in Bow, Washington. (source)

If you are the lucky owner of a chocolate palomino, you may be thinking of a great name for your horse. Take a look at this comprehensive list of palomino horse names to help you get inspired!


When learning about horses, it is important to consult a wide variety of sources. These are the sources we used for this article.