Is it a Paint or a Pinto?

It can often be hard to tell what breed or registration a colored horse actually is. There’s a lot more that goes into their registration than just a horse’s markings.

The two colored horse registrations that are confused the most is a registered Paint Horse and a registered Pinto Horse. While they can look very similar on the outside, there are a lot of factors and rules that go into the registration requirements. Below is a simple breakdown of the basic requirements needed to qualify for each registration.

Paint Horse

Just because a horse has white or “paint markings” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a Paint Horse. In the 1940s the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) decided to “crop out” stock horses with white markings above the hocks and knees. This new group of horses became known as Paints. Today, the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) is one of the largest horse registration breeds and registers more than 25,000 new foals every year.

To qualify for regular registration, Paint Horses must have Paint Horse bloodlines as well as markings that fall within the regular registration parameters. While there are many rules involving DNA and color requirements, in general, a Paint must have:

  • At least 2 inches or more of solid (unbroken) white hair with underlying pink skin.
  • Have white located in the qualifying area: above the center of the knees or hocks, or behind an imaginary line from the base of the ear to the outside corner of the eye to the corner of the mouth and under the chin. See the diagram for a visual representation.
Image courtesy of

There are also ways to register a Paint Horse based on their DNA and genetic characteristics and APHA also offers solid Paint Horse bred registration. For more information on the Paint Horse breed and registration requirements go to their website

[For more on horse breeds: Trivia Challenge: Colors & Breeds]

Pinto Horse

Pinto Horses are often confused with Paints, and a lot of them can be double registered. The biggest difference between a Pinto and a Paint is bloodlines. The Pinto Horse Association (PtHA) is considered to be a true color breed. This means they do not require specific bloodlines or pedigree to be considered for registration. To be a PtHA Color Registry horse, they must have four square inches of cumulative white in the qualifying zone (gray area of photo below) with underlying pink skin. Horses may be registered with an approved outcross breed or be of undocumented parentage. If a horse meets the APHA color requirements and is registered APHA, it will more than likely be eligible for PtHA registration.

Image courtesy of

For more information on Pinto Horses and the other registrations PtHA offers, visit

[For different kinds of breeds: How Many Breeds Are There?]

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