Color Patterns
A description of the three recognized paint patterns are listed below.

1.  TOBIANO (tow be yah' no)

2009 Lonely Pine Ranch

The tobiano pattern can occur with any coat color. Tobiano horses may have a predominantly colored or white coat, or a fairly even amount of white and color.  They often have white legs and a solid colored head.  Tobianos do not normally have extreme facial markings, such as aprons or bald faces.  The white on the body is arranged in a vertical pattern, with white crossing the topline somewhere between the ears and tail; this is the reverse of the frame overo pattern. The spots are usually regular and outlined distinctly, with oval or round patterns extending down over the neck and chest. Colored spots are usually seen covering the flanks. The color on the flanks and chest, known as shields,  are characteristic of tobiano horses. The absence of these spots usually indicates that another spotting pattern besides tobiano is present. The tail of a tobiano is often two colors.  Some tobiano horses have white bodies and colored heads, often called medicine hats, although a similar pattern can also be seen in overos.  Some minimally marked tobianos, called slipped tobianos, do not have any body spots. These appear to be solid colored horses with high white leg markings however they can produce tobiano offspring.  Some tobiano horses have colored spots, known as ink spots, cat tracks, or paw prints, in the white patches of hair. These are usually small occur in groups. These markings often occurs in horses homozygous for the tobiano gene, but they are not a guarantee that the horse is homozygous. These horses may have color around the chestnuts.  They may also have ermine spots which are spots of color in the white close to the hoof or they may have distal leg spots which are spots of color in the white above the ankle.

2.  OVERO (oh vair' oh)

Overo is a Spanish word which means ''like an egg''.  In horses this refers to the speckling or spotting pattern which is similar to that found on an egg.  The term overo is used to encompass three spotting patterns:  overo, splashed white and sabino.  Overo is, in reality, genetically distinct from splashed white and sabino, but for the sake of simplicity all three patterns are often termed overo.


''Overo Paint Horse'' by Bonnie Gruenberg is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Frame overos have patches of white on their sides with a ''frame'' of color surrounding the white. However overos can range from minimal to extensive.  Minimally marked overos often have white on the face, a white spot on the neck and sometimes a small patch or patches over the ribs. Very minimal overos may look like solid horses with normal white markings. Most classic frame overos have solid color over the backbone from the withers to the tail  with white on their sides. Some have white patches spreading from the belly  up to the back. Sometimes white patches have colored spots in them. The majority of frame overos have manes and tails that are only one color but sometimes there can be white in the mane where white crosses over the neck. There are often extensive white markings on the face, i.e. bald face, apron face or bonnet face.  Sometimes these markings occur on only  one side of the face.  The eyes may be blue when white occurs around them. Overo is the only paint pattern where all for legs are found solid colored; most have at least one solid colored leg with no white on it.


''Dolmen An Amzer Vrao'' by Tsaag Valren is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The splashed white pattern usually makes the horse looks like it has been dipped in white paint.  The legs and bottom portion of the body are usually white.  The head is usually white as well and blue eyes often occur.  The outlines of the pattern are usually very distinct.  Some splashed whites have  solid colored toplines and in some the white crosses the topline.  No homozygous splashed white horses have ever been documented.

SABINO (sah bee no)

Sabino Patterned Horse, Public Domain Photo

Sabino is a Spanish word which literally translates ''pale or speckled''.  Sabinos frequently have four white feet and legs.  There are often ragged patches of white extending up the legs and onto the body.  They often have blue eyes, many having partially blue and partially brown eyes.  There is usually extensive white on the head.  Roan and flecked patches are common in contrast with the splashed white and frame which usually have crisp markings.  The sabino pattern is a great imitator and can mimic the appearance of a frame overo or tobiano.  Often minimally expressed sabinos will have solid bodies with four white legs but the leg markings usually have irregular edges or extend up the leg in a narrow strip.  These minimally expressed sabinos usually also have a blaze.  Sabino patterning is often seen in the Cydesdale and Shire draft breeds.

3. TOVERO ( tow vair' oh)

2015 Lonely Pine Ranch

The tovero pattern is a combination of the tobiano and overo patterns.  Most often there is colored hair around the ears and the color may extend over the forehead and eyes.  Often one or both eyes are blue.  There is often colored hair around the mouth, and it may extend up the sides of the face and form spots. They often have chest spots which might extend up the neck.  They usually have flank spots of varying size.  There are also often spots on the barrel and loin.  Toveros often have a spot at the base of the tail.

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