A Pinto or Paint; Paint or Pinto?

I’ve often wondered what the difference was between paints and pinto horses. I’ve asked, gotten an answer, then promptly forgot until the next time I thought about it. I would be kind of mad at myself because I couldn’t remember what I’d been told. I’d think I should know, I love horses and want to know all about them, why can’t I remember simple little things like differences in colors, things about conformation, and even the names of horse parts.


So once again I have asked the question, what is the difference between a paint horse and a pinto horse? The simple answer I got was a paint horse is brown and white and can be tri-colored; brown, white, and black. The pinto is only black and white. Well, that was easy for me to remember. I’d just think of Little Joe Cartwright and his horse Cochise, the black and white horse he always rode in the Bonanza series. All other colored horses are paints.

Is It Really That Simple?

Then I knew I had to research it in more detail and of course it’s maybe not that straightforward.

Paint Horse History

What I found to be the “simple” answer is a paint horse is a breed and the pinto is a color breed. The paint horse is in the Quarter Horse registry where both parent horses have to be stated as being paint horses.

The American Paint Horse Association came together in 1962. The breed is thought to date back to 500 A.D. when Spotted Oriental horses came to Spain from Eurasia.

Hernando Cortez shipped 16 horses with him when he came to the New World. This was in the 1500’s. One of these horses is thought to be the start of the Paint Horse that live here now.

The way to tell about a Paint horse is the pattern tobiano and overo with the white coats. Something interesting is that any color of horse and white is probably a Paint.

History of the Pinto

The Pinto came about when wild horses bred with the European horses. The Pinto is a color breed and bred especially for the pattern

If you have a pinto horse they can be any breed. At one barn where my horse was boarded there are pinto ponies. So I guess it goes into the pony size too. These little guys are black and white.
Where some may say this explains the difference between a paint and pinto and clears it up, I still think there is room for a bit of confusion especially when horse people start talking about the piebald horse then I’m really muddled.

This is just a short overview and I’m still a bit confused. It would be best if readers went directly to a Paint and Pinto website to get all the correct information.
Thank you for stopping by.  Please leave a comment or ask a question.  I’ll do my best to answer.

Images courtesy of Pixabay


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