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Captivating Facts About the Pinto Horse

Leena Palande
A horse that has a distinct coloration on its body is known as a pinto. It has been developed into a separate breed and has its own association and registry. This AnimalSake post provides some interesting facts about the pinto horse.

Clever Disguise

The American Indians favored pinto horses over others due to the fact that their coloring offered a natural camouflage. As a result, they were a preferred warhorse.
A pinto horse is a popular light horse characterized by large, irregular-colored markings that are mostly black (or dark) and white. Many horse breeds carry this pattern. The Pinto Horse Association of America (PtHA) considers a horse recorded in their registry as a true breed. Given below is some more pinto-related information.

The Pinto History

There are images of spotted and uniquely colored horses dating as far back as before the rise of the Roman Empire. There have been images of spotted horses found in the art of Ancient Egypt as well. These horses were very popular in Europe in the 17th and 18th century.
However, soon after, their novelty wore out and many horses remained unsold. These were then shipped to America to be sold or let free into the wild. The trend for these horses again caught up among the native Americans, and they bred them with their ponies, using them as warhorses.
They also captured wild mustangs with colored coats and bred them with different European horse breeds, thus, giving rise to the pinto horse. These were horses with variations in color and appearance. The United States has the largest population of pinto horses in the world.
The Pinto Horse Association (PtHA) was formed in 1956. Horses, ponies, and miniature horses of various pedigrees with certain kinds of pinto coat colors are registered under it. Although these horses have been present since long before the Association came into existence, a separate pinto breed was developed and recognized in the US only around 1963.

PtHA Registration Requirements

◉ A horse must have cumulative four square inches of white coat with underlying pink skin in the 'qualifying zone', to be qualified for full registration with the PtHA.

◉ The qualifying zone excludes the face from the ear to the corner of the mouth, the corner of the mouth to the chin, and the legs from the knee and hock down.
◉ Ponies, to be registered, should have cumulative three square inches of a pink-skinned white coat, while miniature horses must exhibit two square inches of the white coat.

Appaloosa pattern:

This organization does not accept horses with the genetically distinct leopard pattern known as the 'Appaloosa' pattern, and the Appaloosa registry, in turn, does not accept animals with pinto patterns. Most paint horses can be registered as pintos, but all pintos are not characterized to be registered as paints.
Paint horses are recognized by their lineage and bloodline, whereas pintos are recognized by color. The breeding restrictions of the PtHA are different from the American Paint Horse Association. Some pinto registries do not accept animals with draft horse or mule breeding.

Color Patterns

The two primary and dominant pinto coat pattern categories are tobiano and overo. These are recognized depending on the appearance and not genetics. Breeders are very selective in colors, and they usually do not cross the two patterns.

Tobiano Pattern

» Tobianos (arising from a dominant gene) have a coat that appears to be white with large, flowing spots of color that often overlap.

» Spots of color are seen originating from the head, chest, flank, buttock, or tail.

» The legs are usually white from the hocks and knees down.
» The white crosses the center of the back. The white patch usually appears in a vertical pattern.

» Markings on the face are solid-colored, and white facial markings indicate the presence of the gene apart from tobiano.

» Dark patches of color extend down from the neck.

Overo Pattern

An overo (arising from a recessive gene) is a colored horse with white markings. Frame overo, sabino overo, and splash overo are some of the patterns seen. In this pattern, the spots of white are usually seen originating on the side or belly, and they spread towards the neck, tail, legs, and back. The spots appear to be jagged, and the white patch almost never crosses the back.

Frame Overo

» This pattern appears to have a solid color base with a few atypical patches that are horizontal in position.
» The white markings on the body are rather uneven instead of being rounded.
» The white rarely crosses the back.
» The lower legs are usually solid-colored, except for a few white portions.

Splash Overo

» Also referred to as splashed-white overo, this horse pattern with a solid-colored base looks like it has been dipped in white paint wherein the color has been spattered from the bottom region.
» The lower portion of the body including the legs are generally white. Same is the case with the head.
» The edges of white, if noticed carefully, are crisp and sharp.
» This is a rare pattern that's noticed among pintos.

Sabino Overo

There is a slight confusion about this horse pattern because according to modern genetics, the other breeds may carry sabino genes. In general, the legs appear like white stockings. The white patches move upwards from the legs as well. The head is fairly white with white portions extending beyond the eyes.
White markings are noticed at the lip and lower barrel that move up to the flank region. The PtHA lists the non-white areas or coat colors as bay, bay roan, black, blue roan, brown, buckskin, chestnut, cremello, dun, gray, grulla, palomino, perlino, red dun, red roan, seal brown, silver dapple, or sorrel.

Some More Interesting Facts

◉ The word 'pinto' comes from the Spanish word pintado, meaning paint, which is how this horse gets its name.

◉ Various cultures in history are known to have selectively bred horses for obtaining the pinto pattern.

◉ These horses were originally used by the buffalo hunters of the American Great Plains. Now, they are popular general-purpose riding horses.
◉ Horses having this pattern are regionally referred to as 'paints' or 'colored'.

◉ Some less restrictive associations allow registration of horses of any breed or combination of breeds, like a pinto with as little as three square inches of white above the knees or hocks, not including facial markings.

◉ Horses registered with the PtHA can participate in horse shows that are held year-round and all across the United States.
People have always been crazy for animals of unusual colors and have always been interested in the pinto breed. Ancient art history explains such human desires as archaeologists have found evidences of horses with spotted coat patterns in various cultures in various parts of the world. Although this coloration is rare in the wild, images from pottery and other ancient antiquity art show horses with spotted coat patterns.