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Pinto Horse

pinto horse

Pinto horses have a distinctly wild appearance. These spotted horses were commonly used by Native Americans, who preferred the Pinto pattern because it acted as a sort of natural camouflage. But Pinto horses are often misunderstood. Unlike Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, Pintos are not a breed of their own. Pinto is just a color pattern, and it can be displayed by many different breeds. Often, Paint Horses and Pintos are confused. Though Paints are always Pintos, Pintos are not always Paints.


Quick Facts about Pinto Horse

Species Name: Equus Caballus
Family: Pinto Horses
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Easygoing
Color Form: Pinto
Lifespan: 20–25 years
Size: 11–16 hands
Diet: Grazing and grain
Minimum Space: 1.5 acres

Pinto Horse Overview

Though Pinto horses are most often associated with the Native Americans, they were first brought to America by European settlers. These horses were brought over because they had lost favor in Europe, so European nobles and aristocrats sent them across the ocean to be released into the wilds of the new world.

pinto horse
Image Credit: khamkhor, Pixabay

These first Pintos on American soil ran wild, but the Native Americans saw their utility and began to domesticate them. This is why Pintos still conjure up the image of a Native American on horseback, with bow in hand and a feather in their hair.

There’s good reason why Pintos and Paints are so commonly confused. Both share the same Pinto coloration, which is Paints are still Pinto horses. The difference is in the bloodlines. Pinto horses can be just about any breed. Paint Horses, on the other hand, must be either Thoroughbreds or Quarter Horses.

Pintos are some of the most versatile horses of all since they can be just about any breed. This means you can have Pinto horses in any size and conformation, including everything from Miniature Horses to much larger breeds like Thoroughbreds.

How Much Do Pinto Horse Cost?

Because Pinto horses can be any breed, their prices can range drastically. On the lower end of the spectrum, you can find some Pintos available for as cheap as $400-$600. But if you choose a Pinto with more expensive bloodlines, such as Thoroughbreds, you could easily pay $10,000 or even more. Depending on the horse’s bloodline, the price for Pintos can get pretty extreme.

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Typical Behavior & Temperament

It’s difficult to denote a common temperament among Pinto horses since they’re not a true breed. You’ll want to determine the breed of your Pinto to learn more about its potential behavior. However, Pinto horses are often considered to be intelligent and easy to train, with easy-going personalities that make them seem amiable.

pinto horse running free
Image Credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock

Appearance & Varieties

Though all Pintos share similar appearances, there are actually five different Pinto patterns. Paint Horses can only be registered under three of these patterns, but Pintos can display all five. The five Pinto Horse coat patterns are tobiano, overo, tovero, medicine hat, sabino, and splash white.

Tobiano patterning is a horse that has normal face markings such as a star or blaze on a solid-colored head. All four legs have white markings, which can be high enough to meet the white patches on the body. The white appears to flow down the horse’s body from the topline.

Overo horses can be any solid color, though the face is mostly white, often bald or apron. The horse’s body can be whiter or more of its base color. White starts on the sides, spreading outwards in all directions, though it rarely crosses the top line. At least one leg is colored; stockings are common with a colored middle area.

Tovero horses display a combination of tobiano and overo patterning. They can also exhibit some rarer markings such as white ears.

Medicine hat Pintos are exceedingly rare and were once thought by the Native Americans to possess magical powers. These horses are mostly white with only patches of their darker base color.

Sabino pinto patterning is most common on Clydesdales, though you’ll also see it occasionally on an Arabian. Often referred to as sabino roan, this pattern can present true roaning. For sabino Pintos, most of the body is dark, though there’s white on the legs splashing upward onto the belly and flank. They have three or four stockings and the white marks have a lacy edge.

Splash white Pintos are the rarest Pinto pattern. They appear to have been dunked in white paint, with a completely white lower body and only patches of connected color reaching from the top down.

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How to Take Care of Pinto Horse

Pinto horse
Image Credit: lintow, Pixabay

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

The amount of space your Pinto horse requires will be dependent on many factors. If all of your horse’s forage comes from grazing, you’ll need a lot more open space than a horse that eats a higher amount of hay. Similarly, horses that get plenty of exercise outside of their living area won’t require as much space where they’re kept.

Other factors to consider are the quality of the pasture where your horse will stay and how well cared for it is. And of course, the size of your horse makes a notable difference as well. Naturally, a draft horse will graze quite a bit more than a Miniature Horse, and they’ll also need more room for exercise.

As a good rule of thumb, a single horse requires 1.5-2 acres of space. Again, if your horse is only grazing or doesn’t get much exercise outside of the pasture, then you’ll want to stick to the higher side of this estimate. Even more space may be necessary in such circumstances.

For additional horses, you won’t need to double the space. Adding about one acre of space per horse should be adequate. Ensure there’s plenty of grazing area for all of the horses, and rotate the grazing areas if possible, so that no place gets too worn out.

Do Pinto Horses Get Along with Other Pets?

Pinto Horses are herd animals naturally. As such, they can usually be kept together without any issue. However, horses are subject to personality differences just like people, so two Pintos may or may not get along with each other. If they don’t, fighting can ensue.

Aside from other horses, Pintos can sometimes befriend animals from many different species, including everything from livestock to companion pets. Horses have been known to make friends with dogs, cats, goats, alpacas, cows, sheep, and even llamas. Of course, this comes down to each horse’s particular personality. If your Pinto is friendly, then it might become popular enough to have friends of all species.

Tobiano Pinto Stallion
Image Credit: rokopix, Shutterstock


What to Feed Your Pinto Horse

Because Pinto horses can span such a wide range of breeds, each will require different care when it comes to their nutrition. Some horses require more nutrients than others. Your horse might be easy to feed, or they might be very difficult to work with nutritionally and require special attention.

For the most part, horses should be fed a mixture of grass, hay, and grain. The grass can be foraged through grazing. Depending on the amount of grazing area available, whatever else is needed can be made up through hay and supplemented with grain for horses with access to poor quality grass or for those that are extremely active.

Keeping Your Pinto Horse Healthy

Many Pinto Horse owners choose to supplement their horse’s diet to ensure optimal health. The most basic supplementation is with grain to provide the horse with more energy. But protein, vitamin, and mineral supplements can also be beneficial.

Horses need regular checkups, performed at least once annually. Once they reach the age of 20, horses should see the vet twice or more each year. Additionally, horses require vaccinations and parasite control, which you’ll want to get started with as soon as you get your horse.

Furthermore, horses need regular grooming. You’ll have to brush their coats out and bathe them, and don’t forget to keep their teeth clean! Oh, and you’ll also have to keep their feet from getting mucked up. Those shoes will need replacement every so often as well, which you’ll need to bring in a farrier for.


Breeding Pinto Horses can be quite complex due to the genetic variants that cause the Pinto coloration. When you breed two Pintos, there’s no guarantee that any of the offspring will display Pinto patterning. The only way to guarantee such an outcome is to use at least one Pinto that’s homozygous for the Pinto gene.

It gets even more complex though. The overo pattern is caused by a particular allele that’s lethal when it’s homozygous. This means you should never breed two overo Pintos together.

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Are Pinto Horse Suitable for You?

If you like the Pinto patterning and coloration, then you can almost certainly find a horse with a temperament you’re partial to that displays it. Pinto horses can be any breed, though Paint Horses, which Pintos are often confused with, must be either Thoroughbreds or Quarter Horses.

Your Pinto will require about the same care and space as an average horse, but you can learn more by figuring out your horse’s true breed since Pinto only refers to their color and pattern. The main reason to purchase a Pinto is simply aesthetics. If you like the look of the Pinto pattern, then these horses are a great fit for you. But if not, there are plenty of other options out there.

Featured Image: Callipso, Shutterstock

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