Which Horse Breeds Have Golden Coats?
All horses are beautiful and striking animals, but there’s something majestic about a horse with a golden coat. Like unicorns, golden horses may sound like something from a fairy tale. Unlike unicorns, though, there’s nothing fictional about the stunning golden horse.
What are the golden horse breeds? While you can find horses with golden coats in various breeds, these are the most common:
- Tenessee Walking Horse
- American Quarter Horse
- American Paint Horse
- American Saddlebred
- Missouri Fox Trotter
The coats of these horses will range in color depending on the breed, but all of them can be described as golden, cream-colored, or yellow. Read on to learn more about the magnificent colors of these specific horse breeds.
Golden Horse Breed #1: Akhal-Teke
If you’ve seen a picture of a shiny, exotic-looking golden horse, you were probably looking at an Akhal-Teke. These horses are stunning. This is a rare horse breed, with only around 6,000 in existence. While they are bred worldwide, they are primarily concentrated in their country of origin, Turkmenistan. The Akhal-Teke is considered one of the oldest breeds of horse in history and is known for its endurance and speed.
Akhal-Teke horses stand between 14 and 16 hands high and are lean and lightly muscled. They are desert horses accustomed to the harsh landscape and brutal heat. They are well-adapted to a warm, dry climate and have no thick manes or tails. While most Akhal-Teke horses are found in bay coloring, this breed’s second most common color is dun. They also come in black, chestnut, and grey.
What makes the Akhal-Teke stand out is not its color but its unique hair shaft. Because the opaque center of the breed’s hair shaft is narrower than the hair shaft of other horses (sometimes missing altogether), the light can shine right through the hair. This results in a shimmery sheen to the horse, giving it the glistening metallic look it is so well known for. It is easy to see why this striking sheen would cause a dun-colored Akhal-Teke to be called a “golden horse.”
Did you know that Akhal-Tekes can be some of the most expensive horses in the world? To get a complete list of the most expensive horse breeds, visit my article Top 15 Most Expensive Horse Breeds in the World.
Golden Horse Breed #2: Tennessee Walking Horse
The Tennessee Walking Horse is a popular riding horse known for being naturally gaited. This horse stands between 14.3 and 17 hands high and is known for its elegant yet well-muscled build. The Tennessee Walking Horse comes in various solid colors, including bay, black, and chestnut. The breed also comes in colors caused by the “dilution” genes, including dun, champagne, cream, and silver dapple. In addition to these solid colors, Tennessee Walking Horses can come in overo, sabino, and tobiano patterns.
Golden Horse Breed #3: American Quarter Horse
The American Quarter Horse is the poster horse for the American West. These horses are well-adapted to many disciplines but are most popularly used in Western competitions, such as roping, reining, and barrel racing. Some of the top competitors across the country in these sports have been American Quarter Horses.
These horses also come in various colors, including sorrel, chestnut, bay, brown, and gray. Many “golden” Quarter Horses are also found in dun, buckskin, and palomino.
Golden Horse Breed #4: American Paint Horse
Though the breed also comes in solid colors, the American Paint Horse is well-known for its patterned coat consisting of white with a splash of darker color. While most Paints are found in white combined with black, bay, brown, and chestnut, American Paint Horses can be found in white mixed with palomino, buckskin, and champagne. The patterns with the dilution genes can look especially striking, with the “darker” color sometimes being so light it’s almost indistinguishable from the white markings.
Golden Horse Breed #5: Mustang
As one of the largest feral horse populations in the world, Mustangs can be found throughout the American West. They are so prevalent that the Bureau of Land Management is tasked with rounding up many horses every year to keep the population manageable (with most of those going through a training program and getting adopted out.)
Because these horses are not bred under a typical program, there is a wide variation in the traits of a Mustang. They come in almost every color – including the “golden” dun, palomino, and buckskin hues.
Golden Horse Breed #6: American Saddlebred
The American Saddlebred is a breed developed in the 1800s in Kentucky. It is known for its spirited nature and its four-beat ambling gaits. In addition to excelling in several disciplines, American Saddlebreds have been well-represented in film, with the breed taking the lead role in My Friend Flicka, Fury, and one of the Black Beauty Movies. Mr. Ed also had American Saddlebred in him. They come in solid colors and pinto patterns, including palomino.
Golden Horse Breed #7: Lusitano
The flashy Lusitano is an Iberian breed found today in a variety of venues, including both dressage and bullfighting rings. This breed is known for its showy appearance and exaggerated movements. The Lusitano comes in various solid colors, including palomino and buckskin.
Golden Horse Breed #8: Missouri Fox Trotter
The Missouri Fox Trotter was developed in the Ozark Mountains in the 19th century and is used today in both the show ring and on the trails due to its smooth ambling gaits. This horse breed stands between 14 and 16 hands high and comes in various colors and patterns, including champagne and palomino.
Golden Horse Breed #9: Morgan
The Morgan is one of the earliest horse breeds created in the United States and is used in various English and Western disciplines today, including dressage, cutting, and Western pleasure. The Morgan is a solid and elegant horse that comes in multiple colors, including dun, palomino, and buckskin.
Golden Horse Breed #10: Thoroughbred
Famous for their abilities on the racetrack, Thoroughbreds are tall, athletic, and spirited. They have been used in the creation of a number of other breeds and can be traced back to 17th-century England. Thoroughbreds are often found in bay, chestnut, and black but can also throw lightened colors like palomino and buckskin.
I have personally never seen a golden Thoroughbred before, but apparently, they have found these racehorses to even show up as paints! To learn about unique looking racehorses, watch this video:
You can get Thoroughbred horses for low prices right off of the race track; however, these horses usually require rehabilitation and patience as they learn to become normal riding horses. To decide if an off-the-track-Thoroughbred is for you, visit my article Should I Get an Off-The-Track-Thoroughbred? Read Before Buying.
What Color Is A Golden Horse?
Despite the appearance of some of these animals, “golden” is not a recognized color in the horse world. Most horses that can be described as golden in color are more accurately labeled as:
- Champagne – the champagne trait is a dominant gene that dilutes the pigment of a horse’s coat. On a bay background, the gene will produce a brown or tan coat. On a chestnut background, the gene will produce a cream or gold coat. The lighter champagne horses usually have a flaxen, or blonde, mane and tail. Champagne coloring can often be mistaken for palomino coloring.
- Palomino – an authentic palomino coat can range in shade from light cream to gold or yellow. This coloring results from a “cream” gene working over a chestnut coat. Palominos have manes and tails ranging in color from white to yellow. To learn more about palomino horses, check out my article Palomino Horses – Colors, Prices, Facts, and Origins.
- Buckskin – a buckskin coat results from the same cream gene that creates the palomino coat, but in this case, that gene is working over a bay coat. This will create a horse with the same golden or yellow body but with a black mane and tail as opposed to a white mane and tail. Buckskins will also have black on their legs.
- Dun – the dun coloring is due to a dilution gene that primarily affects the red and black pigments of a base coat color. This gene will lighten the coat while leaving the mane, tail, legs, and dorsal stripe the original, darker color. This gene will produce a gray color on a black base coat, a tan color on a bay base coat, and a light tan or yellow color on a chestnut base coat.
Any breed of horse that comes in a champagne, palomino, dun, or buckskin coloring can therefore be considered a golden horse.
“Golden Horses” Can Be Found In Many Breeds
Because several different colors – including palomino, champagne, dun, and buckskin – can result in a horse with a golden appearance, you can find a “golden horse” within any breed (or mixed breed) that carries these dilution genes. If you are looking for the natural shimmer of a shiny golden coat, you will need to look at the Akhal-Teke breed, or you’ll need to put in some serious grooming hours. Products and the act of grooming itself can significantly affect the health of a horse’s coat and produce a “shine” that would otherwise not be present – until your horse decides to go roll in the dirt!