Pinto horses are a recognized colour breed in North America. Unlike some colour breed registries, the Pinto breed organization accepts horses with diverse and undocumented ancestry.

Registered Pintos are classified as miniature, pony, horse, or utility types depending on their breeding and conformation. However, all of these horses share colourful tobiano or overo coat patterns.

Their distinct coat patterns allow Pintos to stand out in many different arenas. But the genes responsible for some pinto patterns are also associated with certain inherited diseases. These horses may also need extra management to protect their sensitive pink skin.

This breed profile will discuss the history, characteristics, health problems, and nutritional needs of the Pinto horse breed. Keep reading to learn more about feeding and caring for Pinto horses.

Pinto Horse History

Multicoloured horses have a long history in North America, but pinto coat patterns weren’t always desirable. Discrimination against colourful patterns in other breeds eventually led to the formation of the modern Pinto breed.


The term pinto originated from the Spanish word pintado, used to describe the spotted horses that Spaniards brought to the Americas in the 16th century. [1]

Historical records mention several pintado warhorses ridden by Spanish conquistadors on early expeditions in the Americas. Horses left behind by these expeditions are likely the ancestors of feral herds that eventually inhabited the western plains of North America. [1]

Bloodlines from Colonial Spanish horses contributed to the development of the American Paint, Mustang, Quarter Horse, and Appaloosa. Pinto coat patterns are still found in herds of feral horses in North America today.

Historic Use

Feral horses spread throughout the central plains and northern Rockies of North America by the first half of the 17th century. Indigenous people domesticated these horses, integrating them into their cultures long before colonial settlers arrived on the western frontier. [2]

Many indigenous tribes selectively bred horses for flashy coat patterns. Settlers later crossed these local horses with stock breeds brought west to work on ranching operations.

Early stock horse registries excluded horses with excessive white due to misconceptions about equine coat colour inheritance. The Paint horse breed was formed to preserve pinto stock horses. The Pinto breed includes horses from more diverse backgrounds.

Breed Registry

The Pinto Horse Association of America was incorporated in 1956. The PtHA aims to improve, promote, and enhance the Pinto breed and collect, record, and preserve Pinto pedigrees in North America.

The organization’s coloured breed registry accepts horses that meet coat colour requirements. Horses can have undocumented parentage or belong to an approved outcross breed. The PtHA also maintains registries for mules, donkeys, and solid-coloured horses.

Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds are the only approved outcrosses for American Paint Horses. However, the Pinto breed includes horses with bloodlines from Arabians, American Saddlebreds, Tennessee Walking Horses, Shetland Ponies, Gypsy Vanners, and more.

Pinto Horse Conformation

Pinto horses can be one of four different classifications. These classifications are further divided into different types based on conformation and height.


Miniature Pinto horses are small Pintos that should not exceed 39 inches tall at the withers (the highest point of the back at the base of the neck) when fully grown.

  • Mini A includes miniature Pintos with a height under 35 inches at the wither at maturity.
  • Mini B includes miniature Pintos that stand between 35 inches and 39 inches tall.

Miniature horses are bred to retain horse proportions, rather than resembling a smaller pony breed. These Pintos have similar types to American Miniature Horses.


A Pinto pony is any Pinto with a height between 39 inches and 14 hands. These small equines have typical pony characteristics and often descend from Shetland Ponies and other pony breeds crosses.


Pinto horses stand over 14 hands tall and are divided into four types:

  • Stock: Pinto horses with western types and Quarter Horse or Paint breeding
  • Hunter: Pinto horses with Thoroughbred or European Warmblood breeding and conformation
  • Pleasure: Pinto horses with conformation and breeding similar to Arabians, Andalusians, or Morgans
  • Saddle: Gaited Pinto horses with Saddlebred, Hackney, or Tennessee Walking Horse conformation and breeding


Utility Pinto horses have a gypsy or drum type. Gypsy Pintos include horses with Gypsy Vanner breeding, heavy builds, and short frames. Drum Pintos have draft blood and larger, taller bodies.

Pinto Horse Colours

All Pinto horses in the colour registry have tobiano or overo coat patterns, both with different genotypes.

Tobiano patterns arise from the dominant TO gene. These horses typically have dark colouring on their flanks and faces with white over their backs, four white legs, and round patterns over the neck and chest. Some tobianos have minimal white markings. [3]

Overo patterns don’t have white areas over the back between the withers and tail. This coat pattern has a more irregular, scattered appearance. Most overo Pintos have