Slobbery Blur: Tips for reading your OTTB’s tat

Looking up your OTTB’s lip tattoo can unlock a world of information about your horse’s past. But sometimes, it’s easier said than done.

Lip tattoos aren’t always the easiest things to read. Here are some tips from the Jockey Club:

A Thoroughbred tattoo is a letter followed by four or five numbers. The letter represents the year of foaling (see chart). Note: In tattoos that contain five numbers after the letter, the first number will be from zero to five.

The only exception to the letter is a foreign-born horse that was imported into North America. It will have an asterisk (*) in front of its tattoo.

  • Use a cloth to blot the lip to reduce shine and massage the area.
  • Take the horse into a dim area and shine a flashlight, blacklight, or colored LED light on the tattoo from below the lip, then try the light at different angles.
  • Take a digital picture of the tattoo and enhance the contrast. Note: Do not use a flash and take the picture on an overcast day or out of direct sunlight.
  • Codes for Tattoos of Thoroughbreds
    Year Letter
    1971 A
    1972 B
    1973 C
    1974 D
    1975 E
    1976 F
    1977 G
    1978 H
    1979 I
    1980 J
    1981 K
    1982 L
    1983 M
    1984 N
    1985 O
    1986 P
    1987 Q
    1988 R
    1989 S
    1990 T
    1991 U
    1992 V
    1993 W
    1994 X
    1995 Y
    1996 Z
    Year Letter
    1997 A
    1998 B
    1999 C
    2000 D
    2001 E
    2002 F
    2003 G
    2004 H
    2005 I
    2006 J
    2007 K
    2008 L
    2009 M
    2010 N
    2011 O
    2012 P
    2013 Q
    2014 R
    2015 S
    2016 T
    2017 U
    2018 V
    2019 W
    2020 X
    2021 Y
    2022 Z

Next, click here to sign up for a FREE Interactive RegistrationTM account and begin researching your horse’s tattoo online immediately.

Need help with a difficult tattoo? Click here to complete and submit a Tattoo Research Form to Registration Services. Please allow 3-5 days for research and processing.

For further inquiries or questions about your horse’s tattoo or Tattoo Identification Services, please contact Registration Services at (800) 444-8521 for assistance.

[Jockey Club]

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