American Paint Horse Colors

American Paint Horses are magnificent animals to admire in the show pen, yet these versatile descendants of wild mustangs and cow ponies excel as ranch workers, trail riders, racehorses, or gentle companions for children – not to mention being easy to train! Their versatility makes them incredibly accommodating companions.

The American Pet Harness Association recognizes three main coat patterns – Overo, Sabino and Splattered White.


Paint horses, as a breed, come in all colors and have many types of markings that vary in size and shape across their bodies. Common markings are those resembling wide blazes that form “frames”, often appearing around the face resembling wide blazes resembling wide blazes that extend down legs into belly area; white markings rarely cross backbone. The American Paint Horse Association describes three overo patterns commonly seen today such as Frame Overo, Sabino Overo and Splash White Overo.

Frame Overo markings are distinguished by a pattern of white spots or patches arranged symmetrically around their body color, with irregular and jagged edges; unlike tobiano markings which feature more uniform, rounder looks. Frame Overos may also exhibit narrow extensions up the legs or down their belly and facial markings that extend beyond just their eyes; oftentimes frame overos are identified by one or two blue eyes.

Horses exhibiting this pattern have an increased risk of Lethal White Overo Syndrome (LWO), an autosomal recessive genetic condition characterized by inability to move food through their digestive tract, leading to colic and eventually death. It typically appears among APHA Frame Overo and Sabino Overo varieties of overo.

On occasion we may come across minimal overos, which resemble solid paint horses but contain less white. In cases of reduced penetrance these horses may possess no white on their bodies but still possess the gene for painting.

Sabino Overos can be easily confused with roaning; their pattern often seems similar. This spotted-like appearance features white markings on legs, belly and face that extend past eyes with jagged, jagged edges or completely solid white with only small spots on head.

Splash White Overos are distinguished by a white splash or spot on their underside, head and legs that rarely cross to the back. In addition, they may feature wide blazes across their faces with blue eyes similar to frame overos.

Overo, Sabino and Splash White patterns are most often associated with Paint horses; however, they can also be found among Quarter Horses and Appaloosas. Genetic tests can be done to detect whether your horse possesses these genes; additionally it’s important to remember that tobiano and overo are distinct characteristics; with tobiano being dominant while overo recessive genes.


When referring to a paint horse as tobiano, this describes its white markings that do not follow any set pattern; these could include ovals, stars or stripes which cover various parts of its body in contrast with the color of its coat and create an individual and beautiful finish. Tobiano patterns have become very popular among paint horses due to their distinctive and appealing features – often creating something truly unforgettable and breathtakingly beautiful!

Tobiano horses typically feature one or two white legs down to their knees and hocks, along with any possible white on their neck, chest or head. Their head may feature a blaze, stripe, star or snip pattern; their mane and tail may be two-colored as well; this pattern is commonly referred to as skewbald or piebald due to an inversion near KIT gene; similar patterns include sabino, frame overo and roan horses.

Tobiano Paint horses are often described as having been “covered with little paint balls”, as the white patches often seem random across their bodies. Meanwhile, facial features tend to feature more defined white markings around eyes and nose.

Another popular variation of this pattern is known as tovero, which is an amalgamation of tobiano and overo patterns. A tovero horse inherits traits from both parents and does not quite fit neatly into either category – tobiano or overo.

Toveros are an extremely rare type of paint horse characterized by a unique combination of tobiano and overo patterns, creating a horse with both bold white markings from an overo and smoother spots typical of tobiano patterns. As a result, Tovero’s are highly desirable patterns among paint horses.

APHA members and breed enthusiasts are drawn to the Paint Horse breed for its variety in white patterns on horses. Not all breedings yield treasured pearls; but when one does, it is exciting! Because genetics is still evolving within this unique and colorful breed, it is difficult to predict exactly what any given breeding will produce; part of what makes the Paint so special – its treasure hunting qualities. You never know what you might uncover!






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