The American Paint Horse is similar in many ways to the American Quarter Horse breed. The breed characteristics and uses are similar. However, the American Paint Horse is easily identified by the liberal amounts of white markings all over the body–hence the name “Paint Horse.”

The origins of the American Paint Horse are also similar to those of the American Quarter Horse. It is believed that Spanish explorers brought both solid-colored and two-toned horses when they visited North America. Some of these horses escaped and ultimately created the wild horse herds roaming the American West. Over time, these wild horses were crossed with cow ponies, including American Quarter Horses. As the years passed, these colorful horses were selectively bred to develop a more uniform stock-type horse.

What Does an American Paint Horse Look Like?

The ideal standard from the American Paint Horse Association is a horse of stock type that is, first and foremost, balanced, as well as structurally correct; attractive; high quality; and well-muscled. This horse should be symmetrical from head to tail, with eye appeal that is a result of the blending of an attractive head; refined throat latch; well-proportioned, trim neck; long, sloping shoulder; deep heart girth; short, strong back; and long hip and croup. These characteristics should be coupled with straight, structurally correct legs and feet that are free of major deviation. The ideal horse should appear athletic and be uniformly well-muscled throughout, with a well-defined and muscular forearm, chest, shoulder, stifle and gaskin.

American Paint Horses have two primary coat configurations: tobiano and overo. A tobiano may be either predominantly dark or white. The dark color usually covers one or both flanks. Generally, all four legs are white, at least below the hocks and knees, and the spots are regular and distinct as ovals or round patterns that extend down over the neck and chest, giving the appearance of a shield. The head markings are like those of a solid-colored horse–solid or with a blaze, strip, star or snip. The tail is often two colors.

An overo may be either predominantly dark or white. The white usually will not cross the back of the horse between its withers and its tail. The white is irregular and is rather scattered or splashy. Generally, at least one and often all four legs are dark. The head markings are distinctive, often bald-faced, apron-faced or bonnet-faced, and the tail is usually one color.

Today’s American Paint Horse can be found enjoying all kinds of equine activities, from showing to racing to reining, cutting, rodeos, ranch horse and all-around family horse. Their colorful coats and muscular build make them a standout in any crowd! For more information, visit