The Pintabian (pin-TAY-bee-an) is a horse that is over 99% Arabian with tobiano markings, It is a new and rare breed with only a few hundred individuals representing it in the world at this time. Tobiano (toe-bee-AH-no) is a non-symmetrical dominant spotting pattern of large, irregular spots. The well-defined spots cover the body randomly but cross the back at some point between the ears and tail. The head usually has white markings that are common to those of non-spotted horses, such as a star, strip, blaze, and snip or bald-faced. All four legs are generally white.
All tobiano markings are unique, like fingerprints, and can range from a mostly white horse to a horse with very little white at all. The ideally patterned horse is one that is 50% colored and 50% white. But to produce this type of pattern, at least one parent must be a tobiano.
However, the modern Arabian horse does not generally have a spotted or parti-colored coat, with the notable exception of the sabino gene that is found in a number of Arabian horses that causes belly spots. This is because the majority of Arabian horse breeders have avoided breeding Arabian horses with an excessive amount of white. But recently, breeders imagined a coat pattern with two or more colors on the established beauty of the ancient Arabian horse and many set out to achieve this dream.
But a Pintabian horse is not merely a cross between an Arabian horse and a spotted Pinto or Paint horse. If you start by breeding one purebred Arabian with one Pinto horse, it will take seven generations of breeding the resulting tobiano patterned offspring back to a pure non-tobiano-patterned Arabian each time to eventually produce a horse that can be described as an official Pintabian.
So it can be appreciated why the Pintabian is such a special horse once you realize that there is no guarantee of producing the tobiano pattern every time with this method. Not all foals will get the dominant tobiano gene due to it always being a heterozygous combination throughout this lengthy process of breeding each generation of offspring back to a purebred non-tobiano Arabian until the 99% Arabian is reached in the 7th generation.
So, the truth is that a Pintabian is developed by continually crossing tobianos back to purebred Arabians until a relatively pure strain of spotted horses with nearly 100% Arabian blood is obtained in the 7th generation.
Fortunately, the time has come when there are now sufficient registered Pintabians to be able to breed them with each other which can produce the occasional homozygous tobiano, and because of the high percentage of Arabian in the breed, the Arabian physical characteristics of the Pintabian horse always breed true.
The chart below may help in understanding how the percentage of Arabian blood is determined in each generation.
1/2 Arabian=50% Arabian
3/4 Arabian=75% Arabian
7/8 Arabian=87.5% Arabian
15/16 Arabian=96.75% Arabian
63/64 Arabian=98.4735% Arabian
127/128 Arabian=99.21875% Arabian which can be registered as an official Pintabian.
So, what does that fraction of 127/128 actually mean in layman's terms?
A horse that is 1/2 Arabian has one parent that is Arabian and one that is not. A horse that is 3/4 Arabian usually has three purebred Arabian grandparents and one that is not. To put it another way, 3 out of the 4 horses in the second generation are purebred Arabian. When you get down to the seventh generation of a Pintabian's pedigree, of the128 ancestors, 127 are purebred Arabian. Only one was not and that horse is the one that contributed the tobiano pattern in the very first generation. Of course, breeding two percentage-breds together can produce an infinitely variable list of total percentages, but this is just the basic way that genetics works through each generation if there are no other variables.
The tobiano pattern comes in a variety of base colors and white. A base color is any color other than white. Some of the base colors that a Pintabian may be are black, bay, buckskin, chestnut, dun, gray, grullo and palomino. Black and white Pintabians exist, but they are very hard to come by which makes them even more precious. The black base color is based on a combination of two separate genes that must be present at the same time. One of the genes is common with dominant characteristics while the other is recessive and very uncommon. So, in order to get the base color of black, the foal must receive the dominant gene from at least one parent and the seldom-found recessive gene from both parents.
Since Pintabians are 99% Arabian, they have the distinctive Arabian appearance which includes a head with a "dished" face and large, wide-set eyes. The neck is arched, the back short and strong with high set tail. They stand between 14.2 and 15.2 hands high, and weigh between 900 and 1,100 pounds.
They have graceful movement and are well-coordinated with a natural, easy stride that is animated and stylish yet sure-footed and athletic. Gentleness is important in this breed and the Pintabian is a docile, mannerly and willing horse. The breed possesses good sense and intelligence; and is responsive, enthusiastic and sensitive.
The Pintabian Horse Registry, Inc. (PHRI) was formed in 1992 for the purpose of providing permanent recognition and registration of horses with 99% (or over) Arabian blood and displaying the tobiano coat pattern only and is the official registering authority for the Pintabian breed. Two years later, in 1994, the International Pinto Arabian Registry (IPAR) formed to register the lower percentages as well as other coat patterns in the Arabian, in addition to the Tobiano. It also has a separate section for registering Pintabians. Since the majority of the development of this breed has been carried out in the United States, this is why many of the Pintos and Pintabians in Europe can be traced back to horses in the U.S.
Even though tobiano is dominant, genetic testing is available to determine the presence of the tobiano gene. This testing is most often intended to determine homozygosity of the gene, but is also useful if a horse has an unexplained loss of pigmentation.
The tobiano gene itself is not linked to lethal white syndrome, but some tobiano horses may be carriers of the gene if they have overo in their ancestry, or have produced affected lethal white offspring when bred to another horse that is also a carrier. In some cases, a horse can carry both the tobiano and overo genes and may display white markings that present both patterns. These horses are referred to as Toveros and are not eligible in Pintabian breeding.