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Paint vs. Pinto

What is the difference between a Paint Horse and a pinto horse?

By Kim Abbott | March 2, 2010

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Pinto Horse

Q: What is the difference between a Paint Horse and a pinto horse?

A: The short answer is that Paint is a breed based on bloodlines, and pinto is a coat color pattern that can be found in horses of many different breeds. The longer answer is a bit more complicated.

Paints and pintos typically have one thing in common: a flashy coat featuring patches of white and a solid color, such as bay, black or chestnut. Beyond that, there are many differences.

For one, a Paint Horse is a breed that, according to the American Paint Horse Association (APHA), "has strict bloodline requirements and a distinctive stock-horse body type." Paint Horses can only have the bloodlines of Quarter Horses, Paint Horses or Thoroughbreds in their pedigrees. In order to qualify for registration with the APHA, their sire and dam must be registered with the APHA, the American Quarter Horse Association or the Jockey Club (the breed registry for Thoroughbreds). 

On the other hand, "pinto" is a term that refers to the colorful coat pattern and is not the name of a particular breed of horse. Any horse that displays one of several coat patterns is considered a pinto. Breeds that commonly produce pinto horses include the American Saddlebred, Gypsy Horse and Miniature Horse. Breeds such as the Spotted Saddle Horse and Spotted Draft Horse are exclusively pintos. 

Paint Horses traditionally have pinto coat patterns. However, horses from APHA-registered stock that do not have pinto coloring can still be registered with the APHA as "Solid Paint-Bred" horses, formerly known as "Breeding Stock" Paints.

There are two main registries for pinto horses—The Pinto Horse Association of America and the National Pinto Horse Registry—and each separates pintos into categories depending on their breeding and conformation. The Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, National Spotted Saddle Horse Association and International Pattern Sporthorse Registry also accept pinto horses. The Pintabian Horse Registry specifically registers pinto horses with primarily Arabian horse breeding. 

Pintos and Paints are described by their coat pattern. The two most common patterns are the tobiano and overo. Horses that display characteristics of both patterns are considered toveros. There are also several other pattern types, but that's another whole article in itself! For more information about pintos and their various coat patterns, check out the following sites:

Pinto Horse Association of America Inc:
National Pinto Horse Registry: 
Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association:  
National Spotted Saddle Horse Association:
International Pattern Sporthorse Registry:
Pintabian Horse Registry:
American Paint Horse Association:

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Reader Comments

Susie    International

5/4/2016 11:15:35 AM

Very interesting and I learned something new from it. In the UK coloured horses (as we call them) come as black and white being a piebald, brown/chestnut and white being a skewbald and if all three colours a pinto. All of these must have a mainly white background. We also call grey and white blue and rose coloured and white a red. So yeah all very complicated...Lol xx

ZOIE ZORN    International

3/3/2015 11:21:40 PM

I have a Sorrel Paint Overo Quarter Horse Gelding. He was a rescue out of Florida. The lady I purchased him from told me the man she got him from had papers but he could not find them. She buys and sells horses all the time and does not remember now who she purchased him from.

I want to enter him in The Alabama Horse Fair Parade of Breeds next year , so I need help in trying to find his papers , as they require you to have them for your horse.
I hope that someday these horse competitions could have a section for The All American Horse for rescues without papers like the dog people do. As I know I am not the only one with this problem.

I is there anything you can help me with on this issue. I really need some help---

Bayleigh    Red Bluff, CA

7/3/2014 3:55:00 PM

What is a three colored horse called. I saw one that was white, black and brown and it was beautiful.

stephanie    Phoenix, AZ

11/2/2012 2:45:35 PM

watchin the breeders cup. wondering if any paints have won any stakes races?

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