This guide is written to help identify horse colors. It does not explain the genetics behind the colors. If you would like to know more about the genetics of these colors please visit Dilutions in horses
Palomino is ideally a bright gold with a white mane and tail. However, expression can vary from almost white to a dark chocolate. The mane and tail will be white although darker hairs are sometimes present. In vary rare cases a palomino can be unusually dark with an almost black body and many dark hairs in the mane and tail. There are however, very few of these exceptionally dark palominos and most people will never see one. Very light palominos are sometimes confused with cremello, however, the difference is that cremellos have light colored eyes and pink skin, while a palomino's eye and skin will be dark (unless a white patterns is present). Palomino foals are often born a peachy color with pinkish skin. The skin will darken within a few weeks of birth. The mane and tail will turn white and the body golden with the foal shed.
A Buckskin’s body is also ideally a golden. However, like palomino, It can vary from almost white to a smutty gold. The difference between buckskins and palominos is that a buckskin will have black lower legs and a black mane and tail (points). A Buckskin’s skin and eyes will be dark (in the absence of a white pattern). Buckskins sometimes have body colored hairs along the edge of the mane and at the tail head. This is called "Frosting". Like Bays, Buckskins are often born with very little black on the lower legs. The leg black will develop as the foal matures.
Smoky Brown (Brownskin)
A smoky brown will look very similar to the brown horse. In fact, most people will not differentiate between the two. However there are some slight differences. The areas that would normally be red in a brown horse, such as the muzzle and flanks, will be golden or tan in a smoky brown. The areas of darker pigment will remain unchanged. Light smoky brown horses may resemble a buckskin with black pigment along the topline. Very dark smoky browns can be difficult to distinguish from black.
A dark Smoky Brown: During the winter he looks black and during the summer he fades to a burnt tan with black points. You can see his color changes here Smoky Brown Album
A very light cream colored horse with light eyes and pink skin. The eye color is usually blue but some variation from light blue to a greenish blue or amber can occur. Cremellos will often look white although truly they are not. As foals, white markings can usually be seen against the slightly darker body color but in some adult horses it is difficult to distinguish white markings. Some freckling can be present in areas where the skin is exposed to sunlight such as the nose and around the eyes. The horses body should be a uniform color with no points. The mane and tail will be white.
Dapples on a cremello showing that the color is not truly white. If the color was truly white dapples would not be present
A very light cream colored horse with light eyes and pink skin. The eye color is usually blue but some variation from light blue to a greenish blue or amber can occur. Some freckling can be present in areas where the skin is exposed to sunlight such as the nose and around the eyes. The mane, tail and lower legs will be a slightly darker color than the body although how much darker will vary greatly.
A perlino foal with Dominant White (A white pattern), if you look closely you can see the white makings against the slightly darker coat
A very light cream colored horse with light eyes and pink skin. The eye color is usually blue but some variation from light blue to a greenish blue or amber can occur. Some freckling can be present in areas where the skin is exposed to sunlight such as the nose and around the eyes. The horse should be a uniform color with no points however they will be (should be) darker than the Cremello above.
A smoky cream Irish Cob that also has tobiano genetic tested EE aa CrCr Compare her non-white areas to the cremello and perlino photos above
NOTE: Cremellos, perlinos, and smoky creams can be difficult to distinguish from each other without genetic testing. Even those who have experience telling them apart sometimes get it wrong. Using pictures makes it even more difficult as the true hue of such light coloration often does not translate well to photos.