What Is A Pinto Horse? (A Complete Guide)

A Pinto horse is a patched horse. Pinto was often referred to names like ink and partial color, pie or piebald, along with calico and skewbald. These are words often used to identify differences in color including marking.

A pinto horse comes with a coat color, which comprises big patches of white, as well as, any other color. Several horse breeds have pinto patterns. However, pinto coloring that is also referred to as “colored” has the highest popularity in the United States of America.

It is interesting to note that experts do not consider white pinto-colored horses as a “breed.” Many rival color breed registries have been set up to promote pinto-colored horses’ breeding. At times, the word “paint” is used to define a pinto horse.

What Do Pinto Horses Look Like?

At the outset, it is imperative to point out that pinto horses are a color breed and are distinguished from many other breeds that are typically described by their genetic ancestry. A pinto horse has a dark background coloring and there are random patches of white markings upon this color.

These horses lack consistent information as they are bred for color. If the darker shade is black, a pinto horse is often referred to as Piebald. On the other hand, when the darker color is not black, it is defined as Skewbald. These horses may originate from different kinds of breeds starting from Miniature horses to Thoroughbreds.

However, there are four types of these horses acknowledged by experts. These are Hunter type, Stock type, Pleasure type, and Saddle type. It is interesting to note that the background and conformation of each pony or horse determine the type.

The Hunter type pinto is typically Thoroughbred breeding and conformation. Stock type pinto is mostly Paint and Quarter breeding and conformation. The Saddle type pinto is American Missouri Foxtrotter, Walking, Tennessee, and Saddlebred breeding and conformation. Finally, the Pleasure type pinto is mostly Morgan or Arabian breeding and conformation.

A pinto horse is also registered and classified based on its size. If an animal has a height of more than 56” in height on maturity, they are horses. On the other hand, a pony is an animal whose height is more than 34” but less than equal to 56”. Any animal whose height is 34” or less on maturity is defined as a miniature. Every division has its own standards and rules.

Hunter Type

  1. Horse- An English horse mostly of Thoroughbred breeding.
  2. Pony- It reflects conformation linked to the Connemara Pony and Thoroughbred horse.

Saddle Type

  1. Horse- An English horse, which is mostly Tennessee Walking Horse, Hackney, or Saddle breeding exhibiting high head carriage. They also demonstrate high and animated action of these breeds.
  2. Pony- English type pony demonstrating the animation, action, and carriage of the Tennessee Walking Horse and Saddle, as well as, modern style Hackney and Shetland Ponies.

Pleasure Type

  1. Horse- These are predominantly Morgan breeding or/and Arabian Horses.
  2. Pony- Reflection of conformation and carriage linked to Welsh pony and the Morgan and Arabian horse.

Stock Type

  1. Horse- A Western horse mostly of Quarter and Paint conformation and breeding.
  2. Pony- A Western-type demonstration conformation with original Shetland Pony and Quarter Horse.

As far as breeders are concerned, pinto breeders are of the opinion that conformation is a crucial factor to determine the ability of a horse.

Where Do They Come From?

Pinto horses are usually linked to the Native Americans for their iconic qualities in battlegrounds. European explorers first introduced this horse to North America. These explorers most were of Spanish origin who brought their Barb stock. These were already crossed with the stock of native Europeans before. Many believe that the pinto patterns came to Europe through the Arabian strains. That is because pinto coloring is often referred to in the Middle East’s ancient art.

At the same time, the proof of a dominant Tobiano pattern has been also observed among the Russian Steppes’ wild horses. That insinuates the origin of Pinto coloring to European nations during Roman rule.

When these European horses arrived, flashy color patterns were infused with great wild herds to develop across the United States. Eventually, these horses were domesticated by the native Americans. Several of the stylish and well-established European breeds were imported by the white man as their foundation stock.

As time passed, the Native Americans became more civilized and the white man migrated to the frontier. They felt a growing need for crossing the untamed mustang stock with these less suitable yet fancy breeds of the Eastern seaboard. The aim was to enhance the attractiveness and increase the size and create a horse that is better equipped for tough working conditions.

Americans got smitten with this Western-bred horse, particularly of the pinto horse with its unique coat patterns. Their colorful appearances in movies and parades always had that extra glamor.

What Does A Pinto Horse Mean In Spanish?

A pinto horse in Spanish is referred to as “Caballo pinto.” It means a calico or spotted or painted pony horse in the Spanish language.

Pinto Vs. Paint

Pinto horses similar to Paint horses have a coat color, which is typically white patches with any secondary color. There is a difference between these two horses because a pinto horse can belong to any kind of horse breed. On the other hand, a Paint horse is actually a breed of horse.

It is imperative to note that an American Paint Horse features the pinto coat color. However, they should also possess a verifiable pedigree. An American Paint Horse should have American Quarter or Thoroughbred lineage to be eligible under the prevailing breed standard. It also signifies that while all Paint horses are Pintos, the reverse is not true.

There should be a minimum of one recorded parent off the horse with the association for American Paint Horse to register. Additionally, both parents should possess a Thoroughbred, a Quarter Horse, or a Paint lineage.

It does not mean the terminology is not correct. Horses that are spotted are correctly detected as pinto horses when their coat color has a patch-like construction. Horses should be only called Paints when their ancestry is verified. Alternatively, the horse’s conformation resembles an American Quarter Horse’s standards.

Pinto horses get their name due to their coat’s specific structure. So, it is impossible for these horses to have a solid color. An offspring of two pinto horses can have a coat of solid-color. As a pinto is a “color breed”, this offspring will technically not be regarded as a pinto. However, it can be called one because of the parentage.

A Paint horse is slightly distinct. According to the American Paint Horse Association definition, a horse can be good irrespective of its color. Also, the association identifies that all Paint horses may not feature flashy coat patterns. If the horse possesses a verified registry, it can be qualified as a Paint Horse and is permitted to register.

Pinto Horse vs Appaloosa

In case the hose has spots resembling that of a leopard or a Dalmatian, it is considered to be closer to being an Appaloosa and not a pinto horse.

The Appaloosa is a horse of American origin, which is most famous for its colorful spots on the coat. These horses are usually used in events such as fox hunting, show jumping, and eventing. These horses are also used in casual trail riding and endurance riding competitions on many occasions. Owners also breed Appaloosa horses for racing.

Appaloosa horses are thriving today and are not a rare phenomenon. These horses had a resurgence in the twentieth century. They are valued across the planet today. Appaloosa horses are known for their fiery temperament. As such, they are not considered to be good horses for beginner riders or children. They are of a special breed.

An Appaloosa horse is a breed that has its source in Native American horses from America’s Washington State. These horses are distinguished by small spots that are either in a blanket pattern, snowflake pattern or leopard pattern over the entire body. These horses typically have thin tail and mane hair.

On the other hand, pintos are colored horses having large color patches. They are classified into the following types:

  1. Tobiano– white patches crossing the topline as their color pattern 
  2. Overo having color along its topline
  3. Toverdo, which is a combination of the above two
  4. Medicine hat is all white but color on its head


Thus, we say that pinto is different from a “Paint” because of its breeding stock. A horse with a verifiable pedigree and tracing to Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses are referred to as an American Paint Horse. A separate registry records these horses and is known as the American Paint Horse Association.

Meanwhile, pinto horses are believed to have originated in Spain. European explorers including Spanish explorers introduced these horses to North America. It is widely believed that the Spanish explorers introduced Barb horses crossed with other European breeds such as those having Arabian and European strains. Experts feel that pinto horses got their overo pattern because of these.

Pinto horses are available in four distinct sizes that are as follows:

  1. Horse – With a minimum of 6 inches
  2. Pony – With a size between 38 and 56 inches
  3. Miniature B – typically about 34 to 38 inches
  4. Miniature – Usually around 34 inches

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