Paint Horses: Traits, History, & More

Paint horses are a beautiful breed of horse that originated in the United States of America. Paint horses are known for their patterned coats and unique appearance. This breed is primarily used in Western riding, though some are seen in English riding as well.

What Is A Paint Horse?

A Paint horse is an American breed of horse identified by its patterned coat. The Paint horse can come in nearly any color and in a variety of patterns. This horse is a warmblooded breed that is smaller in size than most horses and is primarily used for western riding.

How Big Are Paint Horses?

Paint horses are typically shorter than most breeds and will only stand between 14.2 and 15.2 hands high. Paint horses rarely stand over 16 hands high.

The average weight for this breed is between 950 and 1,200 pounds making them slightly heavier than other horses their size.

What Colors Can Paint Horses Be?

Paint horses can be seen in nearly any color. The colors that they can be seen as include bay, gray, chestnut, black, palomino, buckskin, blue roan, red roan, and bay roan.

The patterns that these horses can have in their coat include overo, tobiano, and tovero which are all two-colored patterns: white and another solid color. They can also be piebald and skewbald as well.

Overo is a coat pattern that consists of a dark base coat and jagged irregular what patches and markings. The white markings should never cross over the top of the horse if the horse is to be considered a true overo.

A tobiano paint horse is a paint horse that usually has a white base coat and darker patches. Usually, in tobiano patterned horses, the horse has large round patches and markings that lack jagged irregular edges. Tobiano horses have a two-toned tail meaning it is white and the darker color. An example of this would be a chestnut tobiano having a white and red tail rather than having a tail of one or the other. Tobiano horses are also known to have white legs.

Another pattern seen in these horses is tovero which is just a mix of tobiano and overo. Tovero horses have traits that can’t be identified as strictly tobiano or strictly overo. An example of a coat pattern that would be considered tovero would be a horse with irregular jagged markings but with a two-toned tail. A horse with this pattern would be a mix of the other two patterns making it tovero rather than overo or tobiano.

Paint horses can also be skewbald. Skewbald is just a name for a horse that has dark and light patches in any pattern (Tobiano, Overo, or Tovero). The only color a skewbald can’t have in its coat is black. Skewbalds can be seen as roan, chestnut, bay, palomino, and buckskin.

A black and white patched horse is called a piebald setting it apart from skewbalds.

The History Of The Paint Horse

Paint horses have an extensive history that revolves greatly around their influence on the Native American people. These horses were prized by Native Americans for their coloration like the Appaloosa breed was and were consistently bred for their coat patterns.

It is thought that the part colored horses are descended from Spanish horses brought to America in the 1400s.

How To Identify The Paint Horse

One of the only true ways to identify a paint horse is by looking at their coat. Paint horses, to be considered a true paint, must have white markings on their body outside of their face and legs.

These horses are usually stockier and built heavier than other warmbloods, but it isn’t usually their body conformation that makes them easily identified.

What The Paint Horse Excels In

Paint horses excel in a number of sports and are a popular riding horse for a number of disciplines.

Cross Country

Cross country horses are seen as a number of different breeds, but believe it or not, some horses that are used for cross country are paint horses or paint horse mixes. It isn’t common to see a patterned horse in these competitions so to see a horse with beautiful patterns succeed in a cross country course really catches the eyes of trainers, judges, audience members, breeders, and even potential buyers.

Barrel Racing

Because the Paint horse is a stockier muscular breed that is shorter than average, barrel racing is a common sport to see these horses competing in. This is because they are able to get down lower than other breeds because of their small size and their muscular build lets them run fast as well.


Paint horses make excellent roping horses and are comparable to the Quarter Horse in this field.

Pole Bending

Pole bending is a fast paced rodeo sport that is ridden in the western style of riding. The goal of the sport is for horse and rider to weave as fast as they can in between several poles in a given amount of time. The fastest pair wins. Paint horses are great horses for this sport because they are quick, obedient, and responsive making it easy for them to respond to their cues.

Bronc Riding

Some Paints are seen in bronc riding. This is where a horse is ridden while it is bucking and trying to throw the rider. The rider must stay on the horse for eight seconds or longer for it to be considered a ride and they can move onto the next round. Paints are sometimes seen in this sport, but mustangs and other wild horses are more popular choices.

Show Jumping

Some Paint horse mixes are used for show jumping. These horses make great jumpers because of their willingness and responsiveness. Often, these horses are preferred over average colored horses so the judges will remember the horse if the horse and rider put on a good show.


Though it isn’t super common to see a Paint horse as a dressage horse, some paint horse crosses or pintos are used in dressage for the same reason they are used in jumping. A flashy unique horse is more likely to catch the judges eye over an average colored horse who does okay in the ring.

Saddle Seat

Saddlebreds are sometimes crossed with paint horses to create a patterned saddle seat horse. These horses make great show horses because of their attractive appearance and unique coat. It is not rare to see a half Saddlebred with a two-colored coat win a saddle seat class.

How Long Do Paint Horses Live?

American Paint horses are a hardy strong breed with few genetic issues and limited health problems. This is why the average lifespan of a Paint is 31 years old as compared to the 25 years of other horses. The Paint horse is a long-living, healthy, and sound breed.

Fun Facts On The Paint Horse

  • Many Paint horses are seen with blue eyes
  • There are two associations that these horses can belong to just because of their breed. They are the Pinto Horse Association of America and the American Paint Horse Association
  • The ancestors of Paint horses have been around for so long that there are even cave paintings of these horses showing patterns seen in the modern paint horse.

Hailey Sipila

Horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. At school, I was known as that weird horse girl, and I would read horse encyclopedias for fun. Over the years since those days, I have only learned more. My experiences with horses of a variety of breeds have taught me a lot. Now I want to share what I know with you!

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