Horse Facts: The Pinto

Pintos and Paints are two distinct breeds.


The American Pinto breed has its origins in the wild Mustang of the western plains. The 17th and 18th Century Native Americans bred color into their ponies, using them for warhorses and prizing those with the richest colors. When the Westward Ho pioneers captured wild Mustangs with flashy colors, they bred them to all different breeds of European stock horses. Thus, the Pinto has emerged as a color breed, which includes all different body shapes and sizes today.

The Pinto Horse Association of America was formed in 1956, although the bloodlines of many Pintos can be traced to┬áthree or four generations before then. The association doesn’t register Appaloosas, draft breeds, or horses with mule roots or characteristics. Today there are more than 100,000 Pintos registered throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia.

Pintos have a dark background with random patches of white and have two predominant color patterns:

1.Tobiano (Toe-bee-ah’-no) Pintos are white with large spots of brown or black color. Spots can cover much of the head, chest, flank, and rump, often including the tail. Legs are generally white, which makes the horse look like he’s white with flowing spots of color. The white usually crosses the center of the back of the horse.

2. Overo (O-vair’-o) Pintos are colored horses with jagged white markings that originate on the animal’s side or belly and spread toward the neck, tail, legs, and back. The deep, rich browns or blacks appear to frame the white. Thus, overos often have dark backs and dark legs. Horses with bald or white faces are often overos. Their splashy white markings on the rest of their bodies make round, lacy patterns.

The Paint Horse

Perhaps youve heard the term “Paint” and wonder if that kind of horse is the same as a Pinto. Well, amazingly, the two are different breeds! A true Paint horse (registered by the American Paint Horse Association) must be bred from pureblood Paints, Quarter Horses, or Thoroughbreds. The difference in eligibility between the two registries has to do with the bloodlines of the horse, not its color or pattern.

So, if you’re shopping for a flashy mount and don’t care about a specific body type of horse, then set your sites on a Pinto or Paint. You might just find a well-trained registered or grade horse that has the crazy colors you’ve been dreaming about for a very long time!

Marsha Hubler
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

2 thoughts on “Horse Facts: The Pinto

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s