Horse Coat Patterns

The following is a list of different horse coat patterns.  I’m going to start with the primary differences between the various paint patterns.

Horse Coat Patterns


(pronounced: tow be yah’ no) This is the most common pattern, and the spots are usually oval or round patterns that extend down over the neck and chest, giving the appearance of a shield. Most horses have white legs below the knees and hocks with white across the back between the withers and the dock of the tail. Most of the time, the white is arranged in a roughly vertical pattern with more white than dark. The head is usually dark and with markings like that of a typical horse. i.e., star, snip, strip, or blaze.

Photo examples: (click on photo to enlarge)


(pronounced: oh vair” oh) The head markings on the Overo is usually a full blaze or bald face. The true Overo will often have four dark legs, and the white markings on the body or neck will appear to be framed by contrasting coat colors. The white markings will not cross the back between the withers and the tail as a general rule. The tail will typically be one color. The Overo paint may be either predominately dark or white. Blue eyes are familiar in the Overo color pattern.

    • Frame Overo: The most familiar overo pattern is the frame color.  Visually identified frames have no health defects connected to their color. They are characterized by irregular, sharp white patches on the sides of the body, leaving a “frame” of non-white color that typically includes the top line.  Frame Overo Horses can be of solid coloring. Only Genetic Testing can prove a horse Positive or Negative for this color pattern. Testing is essential and not something to be guessed at, especially when breeding this color pattern.
    • Splash Overo: typically have blue eyes and crisp, smooth, blocky white markings that almost always include the head and legs. The tail is often white or white-tipped, and body markings originate under the belly and extend “upwards.” Horses can have just a little white marking or look like they have been dipped in White Paint.
    • Tovero: (pronounced: tow vair’ oh)(also known as Tobero (pronounced: tow bair’ oh) ) spotting pattern that is a mix of tobiano and overo coloration, such as blue eyes on a dark head.

Photo examples: (click on photo to enlarge)


(pronounced: sa bee no) Often confused with roan, Sabino is a slight spotting pattern characterized by high white on legs, belly spots, white markings on the face extending past the eyes, and patches of roaning patterns standing alone or on the edges of white markings.

Photo examples:  (click to enlarge)


After reading about the horse coat patterns, you should recognize them when you see a horse with these types of markings.

If you would like to submit photos of your horses to be on the website, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

References: Animal Genetics and Wikipedia

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