Identifying Lip Tattoos

Let’s say you just got a new horse and you have no papers on him. But looking in his mouth, you see a lip tattoo inside either his upper or lower lip. You now know this horse has a racing history of some sort. Tattoos are used for identification purposes on the track. While it takes skill and knowledge to read these markings, you can use them to identify your horse.

Lip tattooing is found on Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, Appaloosas, Arabians and Quarter Horses, because these breeds also race. A horse with an official tattoo is necessarily registered, meaning he has papers out there somewhere.

If you have an Appaloosa, contact the Appaloosa Horse Club. An Appaloosa’s tattoo will be the same as his registration number. There’s no fee, but you’ll be asked to provide photographs so that officials can check them against the original ones filed with the number in question.

If your Arabian has a tattoo, the Arabian Jockey Club will tell you who your horse was last owned by and, for $25, you can get a certificate with the horse’s pedigree.

Quarter Horse owners can call the AQHA. If the horse matches the age, sex, and color that the AQHA has on file for that tattoo number, they’ll give you information on the phone.

New owners of Standardbreds are in luck, as they can look up their horse’s information online. You simply enter the tattoo number on the website. For $20, you can receive a login name and receive information about the horse’s racing information. We hope that someday other breed organizations will follow suit.

If your horse is a Thoroughbred, contact the Jockey Club Information Systems, a subsidiary of the Jockey Club. JCIS offers two types of tattoo research for fees from $30 to $50. JCIS will take the tattoo that you provide, and match it up with the horse. Fees give you not only the horse’s name but his pedigree and other information. You can order the service online, but you can’t look it up yourself.

If you aren’t sure of your tattooed horse’s breed, contact the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, an agency affiliated with the Jockey Club that deals with other breeds as well. This organization is also your best bet if your tattoo is illegible and you need help searching. Their fees are higher: If the search is from the Jockey Club they charge $60 for the initial search. (Presumably it’s a tough search if the Jockey Club can’t come up with it.) For other breeds, the cost is $50 and then $10+ for racing history.

• Appaloosa Horse Club, 208-882-5578,
• Arabian Jockey Club, 303-696-4568,
• Quarter Horses, 806-376-4811,
• Standardbreds, 614-224-2291,
• Thoroughbreds, 859-224-2700,
• Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, 410-398-2261,

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