Descended from horses introduced by the Spanish conquistadors, American Paints became part of the herds of wild horses that roamed the Western deserts and plains.
Once domesticated, because of their working ability and heart, cowboys for cattle work cherished the Paint. Native Americans revered the Paint, which they believed to possess magical powers.
By the early 1800s, the western plains were generously populated by free-ranging herds of horses, and those herds included the peculiar spotted horse. Because of their color and performance, flashy, spotted horses soon became a favorite mount of the American Indian. 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.
Throughout the 1800s and late into the 1900s, these spotted horses were called by a variety of names: pinto, paint, skewbald, piebald. In the late 1950s, a group dedicated to preserving the spotted horse was organized—the Pinto Horse Association. In 1962, another group of spotted horse enthusiasts organized an Association, but this group was dedicated to preserving both color and stock-type conformation—the American Paint Stock Horse Association (APSHA).
This group thought the varied, distinct coat patterns of the American Paint were appealing. However, being knowledgeable devotees of Western stock-type horses, they insisted that stock-type conformation had to be the first criteria for establishing a registry.
The American Paint Horse’s combination of color and conformation has made the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) the second-largest breed registry in the United States based on the number of horses registered annually. While the colorful coat pattern is essential to the identity of the breed, American Paint Horses have strict bloodline requirements and a distinctive stock-horse body type. To be eligible for registry, a Paint’s sire and dam must be registered with the American Paint Horse Association, the American Quarter Horse Association, or the Jockey Club (Thoroughbreds). To be eligible for the Regular Registry, the horse must also exhibit a minimum amount of white hair over unpigmented (pink) skin.
While over the years the conformation and athletic ability of those rugged mounts of the Old West have been improved by breeders, the unusual coat patterns and coloring remain the same. The stock-type conformation, intelligence, and willing attitude make the American Paint Horse an excellent horse for pleasure riding, ranch work, rodeo, trail riding, racing, showing, or simply as a friendly mount for the kids.
American Paint Horse Breed Characteristics
Built for versatility, the American Paint Horse is generally short-coupled, strong- boned and well balanced.
Yet Paints display a remarkable degree of refinement and beauty, especially about the head and neck. The Paint Horse’s colorful coat pattern defines the breed, because it is perhaps the most obvious trait. However, Paint Horses must also possess a distinct stock- type conformation. Paints come in an endless variety of patterns. Their coat is always a combination of white with any of the basic colors common to horses: black, bay, brown, chestnut, dun, grulla, sorrel, palomino, gray and roan.
American Paint Horse Coat Pattern
Regardless of color, no two horses are exactly alike in coat pattern. For registration and breeding purposes, three distinctive types of coat pattern categorize American Paint Horses. The tobiano (pronounced: tow be yah’ no) pattern is distinguished by head markings like those of a solid-colored horse; their heads may be completely solid, or have a blaze, strip, star or snip. Generally, all four of the tobiano’s legs are white, at least below the hocks and knees. Their spots are regular and distinctly oval or round, extending down the neck and chest, giving the appearance of a shield. Usually a tobiano will have the dark color on one or both flanks – although a tobiano may be either predominantly dark or white. The tail is often two colors.
The overo (pronounced: oh vair’ oh) pattern may also be either predominantly dark or white. But typically, the white on an overo will not cross the back of the horse between its withers and its tail. Generally, one or all four legs will be dark. Also notable is that overos have bold white head markings, such as a bald face. Overos generally have irregular, scattered markings. The horse’s tail is usually one color.
Not all coat patterns fit neatly into the tobiano or overo categories. For this reason, a number of years ago the APHA expanded its classifications to include "tovero" (pronounced: tow vair’ oh) to describe horses that have characteristics of both the tobiano and overo patterns. What is especially fascinating about Paint Horse breeding is that the genetics of coat color inheritance is still not readily understood. Like when diving for treasure not every oyster produces a pearl, not every breeding of two Paint Horses results in a colored foal. This makes each Painted foal that much more valuable.
The body color ranges from tan through red to reddish-brown. The mane and tail may be black, white or both. Black is also commonly found on the lower legs.
Description – bay overo with bald face, right hind sock and left hind pastern.
A blue roan is a uniform mixture of white with black hairs.
Description – blue roan tobiano with blaze and stockings.
The buckskin is a type of dun with body color a shade of yellow or gold. The mane and tail may be black, white or both. Black is common on the lower legs. A buckskin may not have a black dorsal stripe.
Description – buckskin tobiano with a star, right fore sock and three stockings.
The body color is dark red or reddish brown. The mane and tail are usually dark red or reddish brown, but may be flaxen or white.
Description – chestnut overo with bald (or blaze) face and stockings.
The body color is yellow or gold, with each hair the same color. The mane and tail may be black, brown, red, yellow, white or mixed. Duns may exhibit a dorsal stripe, a transverse stripe over the withers, and zebra stripes on the legs.
Description – dun tobiano with irregular star, stripe and stockings.
Gray is a mixture of white and any other color of hair. A gray is born solid- or almost solid-colored and gets lighter with age and as more hair grows.
Description – gray overo with bald face and stockings.
The body color is smoky or mouse-colored (not a mixture of black and white hairs, but each hair is mouse-colored). The mane and tail may be black, white or both, and there is typically black on the lower legs.
Description – grullo overo with blaze, left fore pastern and three stockings.
The body color is a shade of yellow or gold. The mane and tail are white, yellow or gold. Palominos do not have dorsal stripes like the similarly colored dun horse.
Description – palomino overo with blaze, right fore coronet, right rear sock and left hind stocking.
Red dun is a form of dun typically with a yellow- or flesh-colored body. The mane, tail and dorsal stripe may be red, white or both.
Description – red dun tovero with bald face and four stockings.
A red roan is more or less a uniform mixture of white with red ahair. The mane and tail may be red, black, flaxen or white.
Description – red roan overo with bald face and right fore pastern and hind stockings.
The body is a clear reddish or copper-red color. The mane and tail are usually the same color as the body and may be flaxen or white.
Description – sorrel overo with bald face, right fore sock and left hind stocking.