American Paint Horse

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Species group:

The basics:
Few breeds are as symbolic to the Old West as the American Paint Horse. Descended from horses brought to the Americas by Spanish Conquistadors, these two-toned horses once roamed among the wild herds of the Great Plains. They were favored among the Native Americans, particularly the skilled horseman of the Comanche tribes who valued their strong confirmation and flashy appearance.

Today the breed registry for the American Paint Horse is one of the largest in North America, and American Paints can be found in almost all equestrian pursuits. Their power and maneuverability have made them favorite choice for ranching, rodeo, and Western events, but they’re equally adept at dressage, jumping, racing, trail and pleasure riding.

There is some confusion between the terms “paint” and “pinto”, which are sometimes used interchangeably. However, pinto describes the two-toned coloration, and can refer to almost any breed, while Paint is specific to the American Paint Horse. So while American Paint Horses are pinto, not all pintos are American Paints!

Appearance / health:
The American Paint Horse is of the stock-type, muscular with a broad chest, a firm neck, short back, and powerful hindquarters. They have strong legs and a low center of gravity that gives them impressive maneuverability. The American Paint Horse stands between 14.2 and 16.2 hands.

The American Paint Horse is best recognized for the colors of it’s coat – a combination of white and a second color. Patches of black, brown, bay, chestnut and sorrel are the most common colors, but palomino, cremello, perlino, buckskin, roan, dun, and pearl are also possible.

The patches of color on an American Paint’s coat can be of any size and shape (except Appaloosa-like spotting) and anywhere on the horse’s body. The patterns can be grouped into one of four categories:

Tobiano – A coat characterized by rounded markings, and generally showing more white than dark. The legs are often white, with white across the back and withers and near the tail. The head is dark but frequently marked with white stars, strips, or blazes. Tobiano is the most common patterning.

Overo – This coat generally features more dark than white with sharp, irregular markings. The face is frequently white while the legs are often dark. Horses of this patterning sometimes have blue eyes. Overo patterns can be further broken down into three classifications.

Frame – White markings, usually along the sides and belly, that seem to be ‘framed’ by the darker color on the horse’s body. Though a common pattern, it is genetically linked to Lethal White Syndrome, a fatal condition which results in death shortly after birth.

Sabino – This coat features white to above the knees, belly spots, and a white face. There is often roaning present, particularly where white and dark colors meet.

Splashed White – Large, blocky white markings, usually originating on the belly and extending up the sides, are the signature of this coat. The head and legs are almost always white, and they typically have blue eyes. The tail is often white or white tipped.

Tovero – This coat is a combination of tobiano and overo patterning. Common characteristics of this coat are dark pigmentation around the ears (“war bonnet” or “medicine hat”) which may extend over the forehead and/or eyes, dark pigmentation around the mouth sometimes extending up the sides of the face with spots, isolated dark markings on the face or chest, spots at the base of the tail, and spots extending across the barrel and over the loin. They will often be blue or odd-eyed with blue.

Solid – This coat lacks any white that would be recognized as a spotting pattern.

The American Paint Horse is associated with the genetic disease White Foal Syndrome, also known as Lethal White Syndrome. Carriers of this disorder experience no ill effects, but offspring carrying two copies of this gene are born with a fatal condition involving the underdevelopment of the intestinal tract. This is most often associated with the frame overo pattern, and horses should have genetic testing done before they are bred.

Behavior / temperament:
The American Paint Horse is an intelligent, reliable, good-natured breed. Their strong willingness to please and their calm, level-headedness has made the successful in many pursuits, from ranch, to show, to rodeo. They are said to be easy to train, amicable, and do well with young riders.


versatile horse, family horses, Beautiful coloring, western pleasure, good movers, white markings


navicular disease, lethal white gene


average height, muscluar hindquarters, broad chest, largest breed registry, HunterJumper prospect

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