Paint Horse

Paints and pintos are both characterized by a coat pattern of white and colored splotches. The American Paint Horse is a clearly defined breed, with similar bloodlines; and pinto is the color pattern that characterizes both groups. Paints are also pintos, but pintos are not necessarily Paints. The American Paint Horse's combination of color and conformation has made the American Paint Horse Association the second-largest breed registry in the United States based on the number of horses registered annually. 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.

Paint horse

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). To be eligible for the Regular Registry, the horse must also exhibit a minimum amount of white hair over unpigmented (pink) skin. Each Paint Horse has a particular combination of white and any color of the equine spectrum: black, bay, brown, chestnut, dun, grullo, sorrel, palomino, buckskin, gray or roan. Markings can be any shape or size, and located virtually anywhere on the Paint's body.

Although Paints come in a variety of colors with different markings, there are only three specific coat patterns: overo, tobiano and tovero. These colors, markings and patterns, are combined with stock-type conformation, athletic ability and agreeable disposition. The difference in eligibility between the two registries has little to do with color or pattern; only bloodlines. While most Paints can be double registered as Stock or Hunter type Pintos, PTHA also allows for the registration of miniature horses, ponies, and horses derived from other breed crosses, such as Arabian, Morgan, Saddlebred, and Tennessee Walking Horse, to name but a few.

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Recent genetic studies suggest that Quarter Horses and American Paint Horses represent one joint population as it is quite common that offspring of Quarter Horse parents with white spotting phenotypes are registered as American Paint Horses.

American Paint Horse with a very pronounced depigmentation phenotype. In addition to being homozygous for the MITFprom1 allele, it also carries a private allele at the KIT gene (p.H40Q), which may enhance the depigmentation phenotype.(Source: PLoS Genet. 2012 Apr; 8(4): e1002653 under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License)

Veterinarians should be aware of deafness among American Paint Horses, particularly those with a splashed white or frame overo coat color pattern, blend of these patterns, or overo pattern. Horses with extensive head and limb markings and those with blue eyes appeared to be at particular risk.2

Foals born with lethal white foal syndrome (LWFS) are typically entirely white, have blue irides, typically are offspring of overo parents. Frame overos have sharply defined, irregular, horizontally oriented white patches. As here, they are often bald-faced and white patches seldom cross the topline, creating a “frame” of non-white coat. Lethal white foal syndrome is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. consequence of a foal carrying 2 copies of the mutated EDNRB gene is that neural crest cells do not migrate to the skin or the gut appropriately, thus resulting in foals being born with a white hair coat and a colon fails to relax, causing a functional obstruction.

Given that horses can be genotyped for the gene of interest, horses of breeds with paint coat colors, or with Paint horse lineage, should be evaluated prior to breeding, thereby reducing the likelihood of foals being born with this condition and possibly eliminating the mutated EDNRB gene from the population.3


  1. Mutations in MITF and PAX3 Cause “Splashed White” and Other White Spotting Phenotypes in Horses. Regula Hauswirth et al. PLoS Genetv.8(4); 2012 Apr
  2. Evaluation of deafness in American Paint Horses by phenotype, brainstem auditory-evoked responses, and endothelin receptor B genotype. Magdesian KG1, Williams DC, Aleman M, Lecouteur RA, Madigan JE. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2009 Nov 15;235(10):1204-11
  3. Coat color and coat color pattern-related neurologic and neuro-ophthalmic diseases. Aubrey A. Webb and Cheryl L. Cullen. Can Vet Jv.51(6); 2010 Jun

Keywords: horse, Pferd, cheval, caballo

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