All About the American Paint Horse: Breed Profile, History, Characteristics, & Facts

With their flashy coloring, versatility, and friendly nature, the breed of the American Paint Horse is a very popular breed. According to the American Paint Horse Association, they have found across about 40 countries around 100,000 members of this breed. Paint horses are an excellent breed for potential riders of all experience levels.

American Paint Horse Breed Profile

History and Origins

Spanish explorers first brought the American Paint horse breed’s ancestors to North America in the 1500s. These horses sported distinctive two-tone and spotted coloring. It is believed that the famous explorer, Hernando Cortes, might have brought a stallion to North America from which today’s Paint breed is descended. This horse was sorrel-and-white. This beautiful breed caught the eyes of the Native Americans, who admired them for their strength, coat patterns, and friendly personalities. It didn’t take them long to start adopting and breeding Paint horses themselves.

The British began incorporating the Thoroughbred horse into the Paint bloodline to make a steady, intelligent work and trail horse. Until 1940, when the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) was formed, both the American Quarter and American Paint horses shared a gene pool. However, the AQHA soon excluded all horses that had too much white in their coat colorings – otherwise known as all the paint horses – from their registry. Eventually, the American Paint Quarter Horse Association and the American Stock Horse Association formed, and then joined together to form today’s American Paint Horse Association in 1965 to keep up the American Paint’s breed registry.

American Paint Horse Breed Statistics

Height and Weight

The American Paint ranges from 14 to 16 hands tall and averages from 950 to 1,200 pounds, making this breed one of the heavier ones among most full-sized breeds.

Color and Markings

The American Paint has a distinctive coat pattern that can occur in multiple combinations of solid white with the addition of another color, such as palomino, bay, chestnut, or black. What makes this breed even more distinctive is the fact that no two horses are exactly the same when it comes to their varying patterns and colors. In fact, just to mix it up a little more, some paints are completely or almost completely a solid color. There are three main coat colors – Tobiano, Tovero, and Overo.

More From Savvy Horsewoman:  Top 5 Canadian Horse Breeds


The American Paint horse has a strong, well-balanced body with colorful coat patterns and powerful hindquarters. They are considered to be among the more stocky, powerfully muscled horses compared to most of the lighter horse breeds. Thanks to its Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse associations in its bloodline, the American Paint exhibits characteristics both of beauty and powerful athleticism.

Unique Characteristics of the American Paint Horse

While the Paint is most commonly distinguished for its patterns and markings, its muscular and well-balanced stature is to be credited for this breed’s physically-striking appearance. People also prize this breed for the horses’ friendly, easy-going temperaments.

American Paint Horse Temperament 

Part of what makes the Paint horse so appealing is how easy they typically are to work with, and the fact that they do not have any notable issues when it comes to their behavior. Their easy-going, friendly temperament makes them a favorite across many circles, along with their social and relaxed natures. They are even a favorite when it comes to training, as their natural intelligence makes them easily rewarding.

Grooming the American Paint Horse

Regular daily care for the Paint horse with grooming is essential. Grooming the coat will help move natural oils, allowing for the shine and health of the skin and coat. Conditioning and detangling of the mane and tail will help keep both looking healthy and untangled. 

Nutrition for the American Paint Horse

Like all horses, a well-balanced diet for each individual horse is essential. Allowing access to hay or pasture, with the balance of nutrients and grains, will help to keep a healthy horse inside and out. Paints also appreciate access to foods like clover, flax, and alfalfa.

Common Health Issues for the American Paint Horse

The American Paint horse is prone to a few genetic health issues, including some that also run in thoroughbred and quarter horse bloodlines. One such disease that is actually associated with paints is a genetic disease called lethal white syndrome. Sometimes a horse can just be a carrier of the disease but live a normal life without exhibiting any symptoms. However, when it is actually an issue it is visible in the fact that foals born with the active disease usually have blue eyes and a white coat. Unfortunately, this means that the foal has undeveloped intestines, and they will soon show colicky signs. Sadly, foals usually die within a few days after birth. Since there is no treatment for the disorder, the best thing one can do is give the foal human euthanasia to help keep them as comfortable as possible.

More From Savvy Horsewoman:  Einstein Horse - World's SMALLEST? [Get the Facts!]

The American Quarter Horse part of the Paint’s bloodline sometimes results in a paint being prone to hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), which is a genetic disorder that causes weakness and twitching in the muscles. Another disorder that may show up is hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia, a disorder that results in the tissue being weakened.

American Paint Common Uses and Talents

American Paint horses are a very versatile breed that can be easily disciplined for many equine sports. This is evidenced in the fact that you can find them doing anything from barrel racing to trail riding, working cattle and competing in cross-country events. They are also extremely useful as working and transportation animals due to their stamina, strength, agility, and speed.

Facts About the American Paint Horse

The American Paint horse has some of the most interesting physical facts out of most horse breeds. They are close relatives to the American Quarter Horse bloodline. Their coat colors are unique and the patterns are named based on the darker colors’ shape and appearance, how much of the coat is white, the color of the tail, and what markings are on their heads. The fascinating coloration of the Paints is not only restricted to their coats, however. Most horses have brown eyes; however, due to the Paints’ genetics, this breed can have a variety of eye colors ranging from blue to both brown and blue. Sometimes one eye is blue and the other is brown.

Famous American Paint Horses

There are a few famous American Paint horses worth noting. A Paint named Bandits Pinto was the first registered paint stallion, whose coloration was black-and-white tobiano. Gunner was a paint stallion who was born in 1993 and not only won many equine competitions, but also was known for his athleticism and good temperament. This magnificent stallion also became the sire to many champion horses. Finally, it is worth noting that in the movie “Hidalgo,” there were five registered APHA American Paint horses. One of them, named RH Tecontender, was eventually purchased by the main actor Viggo Mortensen.

More From Savvy Horsewoman:  All About the American Warmblood Horse: Breed Profile, History, Characteristics, & Facts

Is the American Paint Horse Right for You?

With the American Paint horse being as versatile as it is, most anyone can enjoy them regardless of their equine experience. Their temperament makes them a great fit for the beginner equestrian. They are easily trainable due to their compliant nature and desire to please their owners. They are also easy keepers, often not needing quite as much food as other horses, and are typically healthy.

How to Adopt or Buy an American Paint Horse

Due to their popularity, the Paint horse is easily accessible and easy to find. Whether it is through a breeder or adoption, you can find one nearby. Checking local listings and the breed registry is a start to finding where you can purchase your next American Paint Horse. 

American Paint Horse FAQs

How much does an American Paint Horse cost?

A Paint Horse ranges from $1,000 to $5,000, with the price fluctuating based on the horse‚Äôs age, health, training, and pedigree. 

How big do American Paint horses get?

Paint horses will mature to the height of 14 to 16 hands. 

Where do American Paint horses come from?

The American Paint horse originates in North America, when the Spanish explorers brought over their predecessors in the 1500s.

Are American Paint horses good for beginner riders?

Yes! The Paint horse is a fantastic breed for the beginning rider due to its ready-to-please nature and quick and easy trainability compared to other breeds. 

How rare is an American Paint Horse?

The American Paint horse is not rare at all! The breed is quite popular in the United States. 

Is a pinto a Paint? 

No, they are not the same thing. The term “pinto” basically means that it is a horse breed with a multi-colored coat, while a “paint” is an actual well-developed horse breed.


American Paint horses have the natural, unique beauty of their coat patterns and colors that have made them quite popular today. While they share genetics and are very closely related to the American Quarter Horse, Paint horses differ slightly in body build. With gentle and easy to work with temperaments, these horses make for a great beginner’s horse. 

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.