The History of the American Paint Horse

When Hernando Cortes arrived in America in 1519, he brought along 16 warhorses. At least two of these were vivid loud-colored horses of the coloration that would later be called American Paint. All the horses Cortes brought were descended from the horses of North Africa and the Middle East. They were sturdy, agile, and biddable.

Many horses escaped captivity in the old west, and paints among them. They ran among the huge wild horse herds that traveled the mountains and plains. The wild horse herds still found in Nevada
include their share of two-tone horses even today.

Cowboys favored these sturdy horses, and they worked together on many cattle drives. The Western art that many collectors favor often features a cowboy and his Paint. That same Old Paint is the name of a traditional western song. It tells the story of a cowboy’s life, and shows how bound up it was with his horse. At that time, the coat color was called skewbald, piebald, or pinto, but the Paint was not yet a recognized breed.

The Comanches, great horsemen and hunters, were the rulers of much of the western plains. They seem to have treasured their Paints above all colors. They often decorated their dwellings and their buffalo robes with pictures of the paint horse.

In the 1950s, breeders started to standardize the conformation of the American Paint. In 1962, the American Paint Stock Horse Association began to establish the breed. It later merged with the American Paint Quarter Horse Association to form the American Paint Horse Association, which has headquarters in Fort Worth.

The American Paint is intended to be a strong, agile horse, with quick speed like the Quarter Horses that provide much of its parentage. The American Paint Horse is understood to be 15 to 16 hands high, stocky and well muscled, but also graceful and agile. It should be descended from horses that are registered Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, or horses registered with the American Paint Horse Association.

The registry keeps track of the color patterns of the American Paints as well. The patterns include the tobiano, which is dark on one or more flanks. Its legs are white, at least from the knees down, and it usually has a bi-color tail. The head may be solid or marked with a star, blaze, stripe, or snip and the body will have large oval spots.

The overo has dark legs, usually, and a tail that is only one color. The white on an overo generally will not cross the horse’s back, and is irregular and splashy. The face will have large amounts of white.

The tovero may have one or two blue eyes. It will have dark spots around its ears, its mouth, its chest, its flank, and its tail. All Paints are a combination of white and another color, and the other color may be any accepted horse color. Solid color horses of Paint ancestry are also registered as breeding stock.

Today, American Paints are one of the most sought-after breeds in the United States. They are ridden in some western events, and for pleasure. They make excellent trail horses, because they are quiet, biddable, and good natured.