Paint horses could be called spotted horses, or simply horses with spots, and this might ease the confusion on the subject, or maybe create more, as it is possible to have a solid colour horse be ‘paint bred’. Regardless, the American Paint Horse is a breed of horse that combines the characteristics of a western stock horse with pinto spotting patterns of light and dark coat colors. Developed from a base of spotted horses with Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred bloodlines, the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) Breed Registry is now one of the second largest in the world just behind after the American Quarter Horse registry. As stated above, the Paint Horse registry does allows some non-spotted animals to be registered as “Solid Paint Bred”, and considers the American Paint Horse to be a horse breed with distinct characteristics, not merely a color breed.
In summary, as long as the horse carries the genes for a multi-colored coat, they may be registered as a Paint Horse. Its a fact that because a great many horses are solid colored the simple distinction of being able to have patches is significant.
Today some prominent horse breeders with Paint Horses in western Canada trace their lineage back to the wild horses bred by Native Americans who prized colorful coat patterns and to wild horses that still live freely on the plains.
The first stallion registered in the APHA was a black and white tobiano named Bandits Pinto. For one reason or another, the registry was not popular in the beginning, but has since grown with new members and many official Paint Horse bloodlines now registered and indexed around the world.
There are several distinct color pattern categories for Paint Horses. Below are some are general descriptions. The American Paint Horse Association has detailed explanations of coat colors and combinations, but here are some notable categories.
Overo is solid color over the horse’s back, legs are dark with regular stockings. The face is mainly white. The tail and mane are usually solid colors.
Tobiano is a dark and white coat pattern, with solid dark over one or both flanks, white legs, head dark with regular facial patterns such as stars, blaze, strips. The markings are smooth and regular shaped. Horses may have tail or mane hair in two colors.
Sabino horses are almost all one color, but have some white patches with irregular edges. The legs are white and the face has extensive white markings. Patches are of varying sizes, from large areas of the body to small flecks.
Tovero horses are mainly white on their body, while the upper head area is a dark color. The eyes may be blue and they are dark colored over their chest and flanks.
Here are links to additional information on paint horses,