16 Fun Pinto Horse Facts

Pinto horses are not considered to be a “true” breed of horse. It is a color breed that is not defined by the genetic ancestry of the horse. A pinto has a dark background coloring on their coat, along with random patches that may appear in any combination. 

In the United States, the pinto is actually considered to be a proper breed in addition to its status as a color breed. Draft horses, Appaloosas, or mule breeding will disqualify a Pinto from being registered with the Pinto Horse Association of America.

These Pinto horse facts can help you get to know this popular breed a little bit better.

#1. The Pinto has generally been regarded as a war horse. 

In the many wars the United States had with native tribes in the west, the Pinto was considered to be an advantageous war horse. Its colorization gave it a natural level of camouflage that the tribes could use to defend themselves against military incursions.

#2. There are 4 types of conformation for Pinto horses. 

Pinto horses do not have a consistent set of physical standards since it is more of a color breed than a proper breed. There are, however, for sets of general conformation standards that are generally evaluated and it is based on the breeding of the horse. Stock Pinto horses are usually Quarter Horse and Paint breeding. Hunter Pinto horses come from Thoroughbred stock. Pleasure Pinto horses are usually from Morgan or Arabian breeding. Saddle Pintos come from Foxtrotters, Tennessee Walking Horses, or Saddlebreds.

#3. Pinto physical conformations are the same as breed conformations. 

This means a Pinto horse meets physical conformation requirements when it can meet the same requirement for its primary proper breed. This means a Thoroughbred stock Pinto horse would meet the conformation of a Pinto by meeting the conformation of a Thoroughbred with the exception to any colorization confirmations the proper base breed would require.

#4. Pinto horses didn’t actually originate in North America. 

Although Pinto horses are generally associated with North American tribal life, these animals were originally brought here by European settlers. Most of the horses usually came from Spain and the foundation of the color breed may date back as far as the Roman Empire.

#5. Although the herds of Pintos are thought of as wild, the US government does not classify them as such. 

After the arrival of European horses, some escaped and joined the herds of horses that developed in the wild from other settlers. The North American tribes would capture these horses to domesticate them, but because they were initially put into the wild from human efforts, the US government considers these horses to be feral instead of wild. 

#6. There are two color patterns that are generally recognized for Pinto horses. 

The first color pattern is called Tobiano. It causes the horse to appear white with large spots of color. These spots will often overlap and even cause the animal to be more of the spotted color than white. The spots of a Tobiano Pinto are generally on the chest, flank, and head, but can include the tail and buttocks as well. 

The second color pattern is called Overo. It causes the horse to appear colored and have jagged white markings and spots covering its coat. This pattern generally begins around the belly of the animal and then it spreads toward the legs, neck, and tail. These horses tend to have a dark backline, but with white or bald faces.

There is a third pattern that exists in Pinto horses and it is called Tovero. It is essentially a mix of Tobiano and Overo, but this pattern is not always recognized as part of the breed standard.

#7. The Pinto Horse Association of America was formed in 1956. 

Ponies, horses, and even miniature horses that qualify for the pinto pattern of coat coloring qualify for registration. The separate breed of Pinto horses outside of the color breed was not recognized in the US until 1963 and it is not always recognized as a proper breed outside of American circles.

There are more than 100,000 Pinto horses that are currently registered throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

#8. The word “pinto” literally means “paint.” 

This is how the horse breed gets its name. The spotting looks like it has been “painted” onto the horse. This should not be confused with a Paint horse, which is treated as a separate horse. The American Paint horse can be pinto-colored, but must have Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred bloodlines. Pinto horses do not have the same breeding requirements.

To put this another way, most Paint horses would qualify to be registered as a Pinto horse, but only Hunter Pintos are generally going to qualify as a potential Paint horse.

#9. Pinto horses must meet color standards to be considered part of the proper breed.

In order for a horse to be considered a proper Pinto, it must have a total of four square inches of a white coat and underlying pink pores within a qualification zone in order to be fully registered with the breed association. The qualifying zone for this evaluation excludes the face from the ear to the mouth, the nook from the chin to the mouth, and the legs from the knee and hock down. This is because these areas are usually white anyway.

Ponies can be qualified for registry with three square inches instead of four. Miniature horses are able to qualify with two square inches of a white coat.

#10. There are several different Pinto associations. 

Some Pinto associations are laxer on color standards than others, yet none will accept a horse that has a distinct leopard pattern on its coat. This causes breeders of Pinto horses to focus on breeding color patterns that do not involve the Appaloosa spotting so the horse can be added to at least one registry.

#11. Pinto horses were used by the Egyptians. 

Some Pinto horse remains were found in tombs that have been dated to be over 2,000 years old.

#12. Many Pintos were sent to North America just to be freed. 

In the 1500s and 1600s, spotted and paint-style horses were very popular in Europe. As the 1700s began to roll around, the look began to grow out of favor in European society. This meant there were thousands of horses being owned in Europe that no one wanted to be seen owning. 

To solve this problem, many owners would have their horses specifically shipped to the New World so they could be set free. In return, the owners could have their socioeconomic status at home remain intact.

#13. Pinto horses come in four different sizes. 

The standard Pinto horse will stand upward of 56 inches, or 14 hands. Ponies must stand at 9.5 hands at the very minimum and can go up to 14 hands in their classification. This classification includes adult horses that may not meet the 14 hands minimum. Miniature horses are any that stand at 8.5 hands or lower, or about 34 inches. 

The fourth category which is often ignored is the group of adult horses that stand at 8.5-9.5 hands in size. This category is officially recognized as Miniature-B Pinto horses.

#14. Native tribes believed in more than the usefulness of the Pinto horse. 

The tribes of North America also believed that the Pinto horse was possessed with certain magical qualities. By taking the horse into battle, they could take advantage of these qualities to protect their homes and families.

#15. Being bald isn’t a reference to a lack of a coat. 

Pintos are sometimes referred to as piebald or skewbald instead of the color patterns. This is a reflection of the darkest color of coat that the Pinto horse happens to have. If the darkest color is a true black, then this makes the horse a piebald. Any other color makes the horse a skewbald.

This means it is possible to have a piebald Tobiano Pinto horse, a skewbald Overo horse, or vice-versa. To accurately describe the horse to someone without a picture, both color and pattern terms would need to be used instead of just one or the other.

#16. Pinto horses are very affordable to own. 

Pinto horses are generally a low maintenance horse. As long as they have room to roam and a warm place to sleep, their care needs are minimal compared to other breeds. When searching for a proper breed Pinto horse, pricing tends to be around $15,000. For color breed Pintos, pricing may begin at $3,000 or less, depending on the genetics, age, and gender of the horse. 

These Pinto horse facts can help you get to know the history of this breed, whether the focus is on the color breed or as a proper breed. From a US perspective, this horse has helped to shape society and culture for over 200 years. For that reason, maybe it is fitting that from an American perspective, it really is a proper breed.