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

The difference between Paint Horses vs. pinto horses explained.


What is the difference between a Paint Horse vs. a Pinto?

The short answer between the differences of a Paint horse vs. a pinto 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). 

What Kind of Horse is a Pinto?

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 and the International Pattern Sporthorse Registry also accept pinto horses. The Pintabian Horse Registry specifically registers pinto horses with primarily Arabian horse breeding. 

What is a Tobiano Paint Horse and an Overo Paint Horse?

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:

Learn About: American Paint Horses: Bandit’s Pinto
Explore More: Pinto Horse Desktop Wallpapers


  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!!!

      • Paints started out as pinto QH’s that the breed registry rejected because Native Americans liked them or Native Americans acquired them because the QH people didn’t like them because they thought they were inferior. This is ancient history. Paints became a registry recently for stock horse types that happened to be PINTOS but the QH registry would not have them. Paints were never a separate actual BREED from QH’s. Lately the QH folks have reversed their rejection and accepted pintos (Paints) into their registry mainly because all the Paints had QH’s in their background.

        • I have to disagree with you. Paints became a breed because the QH breeders tried to produce more white in the pleasure show horses to get the judges attention. You can’t win if the judge doesn’t see you. In A shows you have entries of quite a few sometimes they even have to run 3 or 4 classes than take the winners and go again to pick the end winner. So what happened was they came up with quality horses that couldn’t be reistered in QH because of the white restrictions at the time. EX: white couldn’t be larger than a quarter, couldn’t go higher than the knee or hock, or beyond the eyes. So the American Paint horse Assoc was established.

  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.

    • Paint is a breed, while pinto is a color. The word “paint” is just short for the word “American Paint,” which is a breed. They say that pinto is a breed, when really pinto is a color breed. A color breed is a color that refers to any true breed. So no matter the breed, the horse could be any color.

      (Why do people fight over the strangest things?!)

  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!!

  9. Both paint and pinto are “just a color.” The difference being that paints are restricted to horses of QH and TB breeding, whereas a pinto could be ASB, a pony, a half-Arabian, etc. I have yet to have anyone credibly explain what “breed characteristic” differentiates a paint from its QH and TB predecessors. The registry – and that’s what it is, a registry – was started for QHs displaying what was at the time unacceptable amounts of white and therefore not registered with AQHA. So….now AQHA will accept such horses, so a horse can be simultaneously a QH and a Paint….so how can “Paint” he a separate breed.

  10. Also keep in mind that a horse registered with the Pinto Horse Association that is not already registered or eligible to be registered with the APHA cannot be registered with the APHA. However, a horse registered with the APHA is eligible to be registered with the Pinto Horse Association as long as it is not a sold bred paint horse. We had an APHA paint that was double registered in both the APHA and PHAA. He actually won a youth barrel racing world championship at both association’s World Shows during that time.


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