|First Posted: July 14, 2009|
Apr 19, 2013
Pinto HorsePinto Horse
A Pinto horse has a coat color that consists of large patches of white and another color. In nations using British English, the term used to describe this pattern is "colored". The Pinto color pattern existed in prehistoric times, and has been specifically bred by various cultures throughout history. Pinto coloring is popular today in the English-speaking world, especially the United States, where the pattern is considered a color breed and several competing registries have formed to encourage the breeding of pinto horses.
A Pinto may be any breed, and the word itself does not necessarily imply a breed. There are several different registries for pinto horses with varying requirements. The Pinto Horse Association of America (PtHA) defines pinto horses recorded in their registry as a true breed and accepts solid-colored offspring of registered pinto parents as breeding stock, but has strict requirements for full registration. The most generous allow registration of a horse of any breed or combination of breeds with as little as three square inches of white above the knees or hocks, other than facial markings. Some registries also require horses to meet a certain breed or type standard. A few registries will allow registration of a solid-colored foal if the parents were both colored and accepted by the registry.Color Patterns and Genetics of Pinto Horses
There are a number of words used to describe the typical color and spotting patterns of pinto horses. Essentially, a pinto horse is genetically created when an allele for a spotting pattern is present in addition to the genes that create the underlying base coat color. The precise mechanism that creates spotting is not fully understood, but appears to be a form of leucism. Common terms for describing different types of pinto horses include:
"Medicine hat:" An uncommon pattern where the poll and ears are dark, surrounded completely by white. A true "medicine hat" pinto or paint usually has a predominantly white body, with dark coloration by the flanks and around the eyes.
A Pinto differs from a "Paint" solely by breeding. Horses with Pinto coloring and verifiable pedigrees tracing to Quarter Horses or Thoroughbreds have been named the American Paint Horse and are recorded in a separate registry, the American Paint Horse Association. While a Pinto may be of any breed or combination of breeds, and some Pinto registries may have additional restrictions (some do not register draft horses or mules, for example), a horse that is registered as an American Paint Horse must be the offspring of registered American Quarter Horse, American Paint Horse, or Thoroughbred bloodlines. Therefore, most Paint horses may be registered as Pintos, but not all Pintos are qualified to be registered as Paints.
Thus, it is always correct to refer to a horse with a non-leopard spot pattern as a Pinto. A spotted horse should only be called a Paint if its ancestry is known or if it displays conformation that is clearly akin to that of an American Quarter Horse. A leopard spotted horse is usually called an Appaloosa, whether it is a registered Appaloosa or not. However, "paint" or "painted" was also an archaic term used to describe assorted spotted horses bred by various Plains Indian tribes and thus is occasionally used in this context when describing spotted Mustangs.
Although pinto coloration is rare in the wild, people have always had an eye for animals of unusual colors and a desire to deliberately breed for them. Images from pottery and other art of ancient antiquity show horses with flashy spotted patterns. Images of spotted horses appear in the art of Ancient Egypt, and archaeologists have found evidence of horses with spotted coat patterns on the Russian steppes prior to the rise of the Roman Empire. Later, spotted horses were among those brought to the Americas by the Conquistadors.
By the 17th century in Europe, spotted horses were quite fashionable, though when the fad ended, large numbers of newly-unsellable horses were shipped to the Americas, some for sale, and others simply turned loose to run wild. The color became popular, particularly among Native Americans, and was specifically bred for in the United States, which now has the greatest number of Pinto horses in the world.
The above photograph shows the difference between a Pinto horse and a leopard-spotted Appaloosa. The Pinto is on the left, the Appaloosa on the right. Pinto horses can be any of the major physical conformation types. A "Hunter Type" pinto displays the body type associated with pinto color crossed on predominantly Thoroughbred or Warmblood breeding. A "Saddle Type" pinto is a gaited horse or pony displaying the carriage, animation, and conformation of the American Saddlebred or Tennessee Walking Horse. A "Pleasure Type" Pinto may be partly of Morgan or Arabian horse breeding, and some Arabian/Saddlebred crosses known as the National Show Horse have pinto coloring as well. The "Stock Type" resembles horses of American Quarter Horse breeding.
Crossbred ponies and even some purebred breeds, such as the Shetland pony and the miniature horse, also may have pinto coloring. Some pinto registries do not accept animals with draft horse or mule breeding, though others do. None accept Appaloosa coloring.
Breed Registries and White Markings
Many breed registries do not, or at some time in the past did not, accept "cropout" horses with spots or "excess" white for registration, believing such animals were likely to be crossbreds. This exclusion of offspring from pedigreed parents led to the formation not only of the American Paint Horse Association, but other Pinto registries as well. Among the breeds that excluded such horses were the Arabian horse and American Quarter Horse registries. However, modern DNA testing has revealed that some breeds do possess genes for spotting patterns, such as the sabino pattern in Arabians, and sabino, overo, and tobiano in Quarter Horses. Therefore, these registries have modified their rules, allowing horses with extra white, if parentage is verified through DNA testing, to be registered. On the other hand, the Jockey Club's Thoroughbred registry still does not officially recognize pinto as a registrable color, though they do allow white body spots to be recorded under the category of markings. The Welsh Pony and Cob Society of the UK also does not accept "piebald" or "skewbald" horses for registration.
Lethal White Syndrome
There is a link between the frame overo gene and a condition called Lethal White Syndrome. Not all overo horses carry the gene, and some horses that do not appear to be overo do carry the gene. However, if a foal is born homozygous for the gene, it dies shortly after birth. This gene can be detected by DNA testing and breeders can now avoid breeding two carrier horses to one another.
Just approved by the Pinto Horse Association of America Inc. - Any horse, pony or miniature, currently registered with an approved outcross registry, with documented Pinto characteristics on the outcross papers, is eligible for registry with the PtHA.
For More Information:
Pinto Horse Association of America