What’s the Difference Between a Paint Horse and a Pinto?

The difference between Paint Horses and pinto horses, explained.



Q: What is the difference between a Paint Horse and a pinto horse?

A: The short answer is that Paint is a breed based on bloodlines, and pinto is a coat color pattern that can be found in horses of many different breeds. The longer answer is a bit more complicated.

Paints and pintos typically have one thing in common: a flashy coat featuring patches of white and a solid color, such as bay, black or chestnut. Beyond that, there are many differences.

For one, a Paint Horse is a breed that, according to the American Paint Horse Association (APHA), “has strict bloodline requirements and a distinctive stock-horse body type.” Paint Horses can only have the bloodlines of Quarter Horses, Paint Horses or Thoroughbreds in their pedigrees. In order to qualify for registration with the APHA, their sire and dam must be registered with the APHA, the American Quarter Horse Association or the Jockey Club (the breed registry for Thoroughbreds). 

On the other hand, “pinto” is a term that refers to the colorful coat pattern and is not the name of a particular breed of horse. Any horse that displays one of several coat patterns is considered a pinto. Breeds that commonly produce pinto horses include the American Saddlebred, Gypsy Horse and Miniature Horse. Breeds such as the Spotted Saddle Horse and Spotted Draft Horse are exclusively pintos. 

Paint Horses traditionally have pinto coat patterns. However, horses from APHA-registered stock that do not have pinto coloring can still be registered with the APHA as “Solid Paint-Bred” horses, formerly known as “Breeding Stock” Paints.

There are two main registries for pinto horses—The Pinto Horse Association of America and the National Pinto Horse Registry—and each separates pintos into categories depending on their breeding and conformation. The Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, National Spotted Saddle Horse Association and International Pattern Sporthorse Registry also accept pinto horses. The Pintabian Horse Registry specifically registers pinto horses with primarily Arabian horse breeding. 

Pintos and Paints are described by their coat pattern. The two most common patterns are the tobiano and overo. Horses that display characteristics of both patterns are considered toveros. There are also several other pattern types, but that’s another whole article in itself! For more information about pintos and their various coat patterns, check out the following sites:

Pinto Horse Association of America Inc: www.pinto.org
National Pinto Horse Registry: www.pintohorseregistry.com
Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association: www.sshbea.org
National Spotted Saddle Horse Association: www.nssha.com
International Pattern Sporthorse Registry: www.ipshr.com
Pintabian Horse Registry: www.pintabianregistry.com
American Paint Horse Association: www.apha.com


  1. Well, I did learn somethings I did not know before. But, I did know wether it is a Paint or Pinto, both are very beautiful!!!

  2. Thanks for the article, I can point to it if I ever get into a dispute about this.
    Ugh, I had a ‘riding instructor’ once that INSISTED that ‘pinto’ was a breed and ‘paint’ was a color. I tried changing her mind, but decided it wasn’t worth it.

  3. In other words, there’s no difference. Paint is a just a description that was already in use that the APHA took for coloured or painted/pinto quarter horses.

  4. I have a pinto that is a tobiono…. his name is scout I always got confused about the difference between a Paint and a Pinto…. I love my horse!!!

  5. In other words, Galadriel, there is a BIG difference. Pintos can be anything from Shetlands to Tennessee walkers to spotted drafts to, yes, paints.
    Pinto is just a term to describe color pattern, while paint is a breed that very often (not ALWAYS) has pinto coloring. So while almost all paints are pinto (some are born solid), not all pintos are paints.

  6. I have a Sorrel Paint Overo Quarter Horse Gelding. He was a rescue out of Florida. The lady I purchased him from told me the man she got him from had papers but he could not find them. She buys and sells horses all the time and does not remember now who she purchased him from.
    I want to enter him in The Alabama Horse Fair Parade of Breeds next year , so I need help in trying to find his papers , as they require you to have them for your horse.
    I hope that someday these horse competitions could have a section for The All American Horse for rescues without papers like the dog people do. As I know I am not the only one with this problem.
    I is there anything you can help me with on this issue. I really need some help—

  7. Very interesting and I learned something new from it. In the UK coloured horses (as we call them) come as black and white being a piebald, brown/chestnut and white being a skewbald and if all three colours a pinto. All of these must have a mainly white background. We also call grey and white blue and rose coloured and white a red. So yeah all very complicated…Lol xx

  8. I was glad to read your information so many people want to call any horse with a pinto/type coat patterns as a breed.The pinto is a horse of different breed types with a spotted/colorful coat pattern(except appaloosas).I am glad I found out the correct information and have proof I had the correct information. When you want to sell a pinto color type you need to let the buyers know what possible breed the horse is!!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here