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There is a saying that you will often hear paint horse owners use -

"On the seventh day, God created the horse. On the eighth day, he painted the great ones".

While this is just a nice saying, it IS true that we feel blessed to have been able to share part of our lives with these colorful horses. The Good Lord has never painted a lovelier picture than paint horses grazing on lush green rolling hills. We would like to share with you some of the history of the paint horse breed and interesting facts.



Decorated by nature, the origins of the Paint Horse in North America can be traced to the two-toned horses introduced by the Spanish explorers, descendants of horses from North Africa and Asia Minor. In 1519,  the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes sailed to the North American continent to find his fame and fortune. Along with his entourage of conquistadors, he brought horses to help his men travel across a new world in search of riches. He left behind a profound legacy - the bloodstock that would provide the foundation for a variety of unique, distinct, American-bred horses. According to the Spanish historian Diaz del Castillo who traveled with the expedition, there were two uniquely marked horses. One of the 16 war horses that carried Cortes and his men was a pinto with white stockings on his fore feet. The other was described as a dark roan horse with white patches. These were the first known recorded descriptions of early Paint Horses in the New World. These horses bred with native American mustangs and by the 1800's  the foundation was laid for what is today the American Paint Horse breed.  

Captured and gentled, they raced along the vast herds of buffalo and traveled hundreds of miles on cattle drives. Cherished by the finest horseman of the Western Frontier, both Native Americans and cowboys sought the hardy horses that were loudly splashed with color. Many Native American shamans and warriors revered the Paints, in particular, the "Medicine Hats" with blue eyes. They believed these animals possessed sacred powers. The Comanche Indians, considered by many authorities to be the finest horsemen on the Plains, favored loud-colored horses and had many among their immense herds. Evidence of this favoritism is exhibited by drawings of spotted horses found on the painted buffalo robes that served as records for the Comanches.

Over time, breeders gradually improved the conformation and athletic ability of the rugged descendants of the wild mustangs and cow ponies. Each generation passed on the unusual and unique coat patterns to the next, creating the American Paint Horse. Today, the stock-type conformation, natural intelligence and willing disposition make the American Paint Horse an ideal partner for pleasure riding, ranch work, rodeo, trail riding, racing, showing or just a gentle friend for kids - of all ages.


The American Paint Horse is an intelligent, stock-type horse that is extremely versatile, powerful and athletic with unequalled beauty. Paints are stockier and more powerfully muscled than some of the other light horse breeds. Though generally short coupled, strong-boned and well-balanced, American Paints also exhibit exceptional refinement and beauty especially about the head and neck.

The colorful coat patterns differentiate the Paint Horse from other stock-type breeds. Each horse has a unique combination of white and any one of the colors of the equine rainbow: black, bay, brown, chestnut, sorrel, duns, grulla, palomino, gray, buckskin, perlino, cremello, and the roans - red, bay and blue. 

While the colorful coat pattern is essential to the identity of the breed, American Paint Horses have strict bloodline requirements and a distinctive body type. To be eligible for registry, a Paint must come from stock registered with the American Paint Horse Association, the American Quarter Horse Association or the Jockey Club (Thoroughbreds).

                                                            PAINT OR PINTO?

One of the most frequently asked questions is "What is the difference between a Paint and a Pinto?" Simply put, the Pinto Horse Association is a color registry. The Paint Horses, registered by the American Paint Horse Association, are limited to documented and registered Paint, Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred breeding. While most Paint Horses can be double registered as Stock or Hunter type Pintos, the Pinto Horse Association (PtHA) also allows for the registration of miniature horses, ponies and horses derived from other breed crosses such as Arabian, Morgan, Saddlebred, Tennessee Walkers and Missouri Fox trotters to name a few.

                                                          COLOR PATTERNS

For registration and breeding purposes, American Paint Horses are categorized by three distinctive coat patterns:

(pronounced: tow be yah' no)

The dark color usually covers one or both flanks. Generally, all four legs are white, at least below the hocks and knees.

Generally, the spots are regular and distinct as ovals or round patterns that extend down over the neck and chest, giving the appearance of a shield.

Head markings are like those of a solid-colored horse--solid, or with a blaze, strip, star or snip. A tobiano may be either predominantly dark or white. The tail is often two colors.


                                                                            (pronounced: oh vair' oh)

The white usually will not cross the back of the horse between its withers and its tail. Generally, at least one and often all four legs are dark.

Generally, the white is irregular, and is rather scattered or splashy.

Head markings are distinctive, often bald-faced, apron-faced or bonnet-faced.

An overo may be either predominantly dark or white.

The tail is usually one color.

         Pictured is a Framed Overo mare. Within the overo category, there are three distinctive patterns. While the frame overo is the most common, there are also Splashed White Overos and Sabino Overos. Information on these color variations can be viewed at



(pronounced: tow vair' oh)

Dark pigmentation around the ears, which may expand to cover the forehead and/or eyes.

One or both eyes blue.

Dark pigmentation around the mouth, which may extend up the sides of the face and form spots.

Chest spot(s) in varying sizes. These may also extend up the neck.

Flank spot(s) ranging in size. These are often accompanied by smaller spots that extend forward across the barrel, and up over the loin.

Spots, varying in size, at the base of the tail.

            Tovero horses carry a tobiano gene as well as an overo gene and therefore they can produce tobianos, overos, toveros and solids. In general, they are 80% color producers.

            Solids  (Breeding Stock)

While they are not mentioned as a color category, solid paint horses are produced. Like diving for treasure, not every oyster shell produces a pearl, not every breeding of two paint horses results in a colored foal. While they may lack the loud, splashy markings, they maintain the stock-type conformation, intelligence and great disposition and can be valuable assets in a breeding program or make an ideal riding horse. They are registered in APHA as Breeding Stock Paints.  What is especially fascinating about breeding Paint horses is the genetics. While today we are able to test our tobiano horses to see if they are homozygous for the tobiano gene, there are no tests available for the overo genes. When breeding overos and toveros, as well as heterozygous tobianos, there is always a chance that the foal produced will be a solid. 


                             AN ASSOCIATION AS SPECIAL AS ITS MEMBERS

The American Paint Stock Horse Association was formed in 1962 by horsemen and women who loved the abilities of the Western stock-type horse, but also treasured the unusual color patterns of the American Paint. Although the APHA's primary mission is to record pedigrees, the association is also dedicated to promoting the history, breeding, training, showing, racing, sales and enjoyment of American Paints. 

Visit the APHA Website

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The information contained on this page was provided courtesy of the American Paint Horse Association and the Pinto Horse Association.

 Photographs are horses owned by Lovin 'R' Paints.