Last Updated: March 1, 2021
Pinto horses are a breed that you can find running wild through the United States. Native Americans captured these horses and used them for a variety of tasks. These natives even believed that pinto horses had magical qualities that could protect them and their families in battle. While pinto horses probably don’t possess any supernatural qualities, they are beautiful creatures with an interesting history.
What are Pinto Horses?
Many people think of pinto horses as a particular breed, but this isn’t quite true. In reality, horses of any breed can exhibit pinto coloration. Pinto is simply a specific color pattern. Any horse with a dark base color that has random patches of other colors is considered a pinto horse. You can consider pinto to be a color breed, though it’s not truly a breed at all.
Paints and Pintos
Paint horses and pintos are often confused or mistakenly mistermed. Paint horses do have pinto coloration, though they have to be Thoroughbreds or Quarter Horses with verifiable pedigrees to be considered paint horses. On the other hand, almost any breed can be a pinto, with the exception of draft horses and Appaloosas. So, Paint horses are always pintos, but pintos aren’t always paints.
Pinto Horse Conformations
Because pinto horses aren’t a specific breed, there are several types of pinto horse conformations. Stock Pintos generally have paint breeding from Quarter Horse lines. Hunter pintos are Thoroughbreds. Saddle Pintos are Tennessee Walking Horses, Saddlebreds, or Foxtrotters. Finally, Pleasure Pintos are most often Morgans or Arabians.
Pinto Horses Were Brought to America
Even though there are many wild pinto horses in America, they’re actually classified as feral by the US government. This is because the pinto horse isn’t native to America, despite the fact that they’ve been here for hundreds of years. They were, in fact, brought to America from Europe.
Sent to be Set Free
Many pinto horses came to America with the settlers. But a large number of these horses were sent from Europe so their owners could save face. You see, at one point, pinto horses were all the rage in Europe. However, they fell out of favor by the 1700s, which meant that owning one could damage your reputation and status. As a result, thousands of pinto owners shipped their horses off to the new world to be set free, saving them from the political and social embarrassment of owning an out of fashion horse.
Three Pinto Patterns
There are three distinct pinto patterns, though only two are recognized by some pinto horse associations.
Tobiano pintos appear to have a base color of white with large spots of colors that overlap and cause the horse to be more spotted than white. Spots are generally restricted to the chest, head, and flank, though some horses will have spots on the tail and rear as well.
Over pintos look like their base color is dark, but they have jagged white patches and spots all over. The patches usually start near the belly, spreading out towards the neck, tail, and legs. Often, Overo pintos have white or bald faces and dark backs.
Tovero pintos aren’t recognized by all pinto associations. They’re a mix of the Tobiano and Overo patterns.
Four Pinto Horse Sizes
Aside from the multiple types and conformations of pinto horses, they also come in four distinct sizes. Standard pintos are a minimum of 56 inches in height or 14 hands. Ponies stand between 9.5 and 14 hands. Miniature horses are even smaller than ponies, standing 8.5 hands or shorter. Between ponies and miniature horses is a category called Miniature-B pinto horses. These horses are between 8.5-9.5 hands tall.
Most people mistakenly believe that pinto horses are their own breed. In reality, it’s more of a color breed since almost any breed can be a pinto horse if they display the proper colors. These horses have an interesting history and come in many variations. Hopefully, you’ve learned something interesting about these awesome creatures that has only further piqued your interest in them.
Featured Image: Osetrik, Shutterstock
An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan. He gains experience on a full-time journey of exploration. For Dean, few passions lie closer to his heart than learning. An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.