The American Paint Horse
is a breed of horse
that combines both the conformational characteristics of a western
stock horse with a pinto
spotting pattern of white and dark coat colors
. Developed from a base of spotted horses with Quarter Horse
bloodlines, the American Paint Horse is now one of the fastest-growing breeds in North America
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. 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
). At least one of the parents must be a registered American Paint Horse. There are two categories of registration, regular, for horses with color, and solid Paint-bred, for those without color.
Regular APHA registration
In addition to bloodlines, to be eligible for the Regular Registry of the American Paint Horse Association
(APHA), the horse must also exhibit a "natural paint marking", meaning either a predominant hair coat color with at least one contrasting area of solid white hair of the required size with some underlying unpigmented skin present on the horse at the time of its birth. Or, in the case of a predominantly white hair coat, at least one contrasting area of the required size of colored hair with some underlying pigmented skin present on the horse. Natural Paint markings usually must cover more than two inches and be located in certain designated areas of the body.
Solid colored offspring of two registered Paint parents, called "Solid Paint-Breds" or "Breeding Stock Paints," are also eligible for registration, with certain restrictions. They are not able to participate in some recognized Paint breed shows, but there are alternative programs offered, and many incentive programs within the registry are available to Solid Paint-bred horses. If a solid-colored horse is bred to a regular registry Paint horse, it is possible to produce a spotted foal. In some cases, such as the recessive Sabino patterns, described below, even a solid colored horse may still carry genes for color. However, in the case of the dominant Tobiano pattern, a Breeding Stock Paint will not carry these color genes, though it may retain other desirable traits.
Each Paint Horse has a particular combination of white and another color of the equine spectrum. Most common are horses with white spots combined with black, bay, dark bay (called brown by the APHA), and chestnut or sorrel. Less common are horses with spots that are palomino, buckskin, gray, cremello, perlino, various shades of roan, or various shades of dun, including grullo.
Spots can be any shape or size, except Appaloosa patterning, and located virtually anywhere on the Paint's body. Although Paints come in a variety of colors with different markings, these are grouped into only four defined coat patterns: overo, tobiano and tovero and solid.
Breeding Stock Paints can sometimes showcase small color traits, particularly if they carry the Sabino gene. Such traits include blue eyes, pink skin on lips and nostrils, roan spots, and minimal roaning.
Terms for color patterns defined
- Tobiano: The most common spotting pattern, characterized by rounded markings with white legs and white across the back between the withers and the dock of the tail, usually arranged in a roughly vertical pattern and more white than dark, with the head usually dark and with markings like that of a normal horse. i.e. star, snip, strip, or blaze.
- Overo: Spotting pattern characterized by sharp, irregular markings with a horizontal orientation, usually more dark than white, though the face is usually white, sometimes with blue eyes. The white rarely crosses the back, and the lower legs are normally dark.
- Sabino: Often confused with roan or rabicano, sabino is a slight spotting pattern characterized by high white on legs, belly spots, white markings on the face extending past the eyes and/or patches of roaning patterns standing alone or on the edges of white markings. In some registries, sabinos are registered as having the overo pattern
- Tovero: spotting pattern that is a mix of tobiano and overo coloration, such as blue eyes on a dark head.
- Solid: A horse otherwise eligible for registration as a Paint that does not have any white that constitutes a recognized spotting pattern.
- "Color": An informal term meaning that the horse has a spotting pattern. (The opposite of "Solid.")
- "Chrome": An informal term of approval used in some geographic regions to describe a particularly flashy spotting pattern.
Paint or Pinto?
differs from a Paint solely by bloodlines. A Pinto may be of any breed or combination of breeds, though some Pinto registries may have additional restrictions. (Some do not register draft horses or mules, for example.) For a horse to be registered as an American Paint Horse however, it must have registered American Quarter Horse
, American Paint Horse, or Thoroughbred
parents. Therefore, all Paint horses (except for the small number of "solids" allowed into the Paint registry) could be registered as Pintos, but not all Pintos qualify to be registered as Paints.
The American Paint Horse shares a common ancestry with the American Quarter Horse and the Thoroughbred. A registered Paint horse should conform to the same "stock horse" body type desired in Quarter Horses: a muscular animal that is heavy but not too tall, with a low center of gravity for maneuverability, and powerful hindquarters suitable for rapid acceleration and sprinting.
When the American Quarter Horse Association emerged in 1940 to preserve horses of the "stock" type, it excluded those with pinto coat patterns and "crop out" horses, those born with white body spots or white above the knees and hocks. Undeterred, fans of colorful stock horses formed a variety of organizations to preserve and promote Paint horses. In 1965 some of these groups merged to form the American Paint Horse Association.
One medical issue associated with the breed is the genetic disease lethal white syndrome
(LWS). Also called Overo Lethal White Syndrome (OLWS) or, less often, White Foal Syndrome (WFS), it is linked to a recessive gene
associated with the frame overo
pattern. Horses that are heterozygous
carriers of the gene do not develop the condition and are physically healthy. However, when a foal is born that is homozygous
for the LWS gene, it will be humanely euthanized
shortly after birth, or else will die within a few days from complications involving an underdeveloped intestinal tract. A DNA
test is available for this condition so that horses who are carriers of this gene are not bred to one another. Horses can carry the LWS gene and not visibly exhibit overo coloring; cases have appeared in the offspring of both tobiano
and solid-colored parents, though all cases to date are horses that had overo ancestors. LWS is also not unique to Paint Horses; it can occur in any equine breed where the overo coat pattern is found.
Due to the heavy influx of American Quarter Horse breeding, some Paints may also carry genes for HYPP and HERDA. The influence of Thoroughbred breeding puts some bloodlines at higher risk for Wobbler's syndrome.