Tobiano Paint Horse Trivia

A classic Tobiano coat pattern. | Photo by Cappy Jackson

In the July 2004 issue of Horse & Rider magazine, pro Paint breeder Cindy Gattis talked about the special characteristics of Tobianos. Read on for more insight into Tobiano breeding and history.

Tobiano Breeding “Recipe”
Tobiano genetics are better documented than overo color patterns. The trait is inherited as a dominant gene (for which no Overo Lethal White Syndrome has been reported). That means every tobiano has at least one tobiano parent, and the pattern never skips a generation.

A horse need only inherit a single tobiano gene (making him heterozygous) from one parent in order to show the pattern. If a horse carries the gene, it will show. If he carries two tobiano genes, he’ll be homozygous, meaning he’ll produce 100 percent tobiano offspring.

Note: A possible exception is the minimal-white tobiano. Though such a horse could be classified as non-spotted, he’d carry the tobiano gene.

Here are some sample breeding scenarios:

  • Tobiano X solid: Usually 50 percent of the offspring will be tobiano, and 50 percent will be solid.
  • Tobiano X tobiano: Usually 25 percent of offspring will be solid, 50 percent will be heterozygous tobianos and 25 percent will be homozygous tobianos.
  • Tobiano X overo: Generally, 25 percent will be tobiano, 25 percent will be overo, 25 percent will be solid, and 25 percent will be tovero (a mix of both color patterns).
  • Homozygous tobiano* X solid: 100 percent of offspring will be tobianos.

My hope for the future, as far as tobianos are concerned, is that dedicated breeders will eventually produce outstanding horses that are homozygous. When it happens, we can cross these horses with quality Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, to further improve our breed. Tobianos will become more prevalent, more popular and more successful. Get three or four homozygous breeding tobianos of that quality on the ground, and watch out!

*To determine if a horse is a homozygous tobiano, contact the University of California at Davis. They can perform a test for this trait. Their website is You’ll also find forms for the test there.

Tobiano Trivia
Source: The American Paint Horse Association

  • Say “Gracias.” The first tobiano in North America may have been brought over in 1519 by the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes. According to historians, he brought 16 warhorses to carry him and his men. One was a sorrel and white horse with spots. That spotted horse bred with American mustangs and laid the foundation for today’s Paint Horse.
  • Record setter. The first recorded American Paint Horse was a black-and-white tobiano stallion named Bandits Pinto, owned by the Flying M Ranch of McKinney, Texas. He was recorded on August 11, 1962, by Rebecca Tyler Lockhart, founder the American Paint Stock Horse Association, which later became the APHA.
  • Pattern perfect.The tobiano pattern occurs in many breeds worldwide. It’s common in pony breeds and some draft breeds, which is likely why it’s seen in some of the warmblood breeds. (And why tobianos get the “cold-blooded” rap.)
  • What’s in a name? The name “tobiano” comes from Argentina. There, they often name unusual colors after horses or people, who connect the color to a specific event or individual. In the case of the toby, that event was the rescue of Buenos Aires by Brazilian General Tobias during military action in the 1800s. Many of the troops accompanying Tobias were riding tobiano horses from Brazil.

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