Piebald Horse – Fun Facts and Breed Profile

Piebald refers to a unique color combination on horse coats. This term classifies horses based on bodily markings and not its breed or genetic makeup.

Defining a Piebald Horse

“A piebald horse is a horse with coloured patches on a white background, primarily black patches on a white background.”

The term “piebald” is taken from a black and white bird named “magpie.” This “magpie” is coupled with bald referring to white background.

  • The term has primarily British origin, and it’s also used to describe other animals with similar colour patterns of the body. 

Coloured Horses

Piebald comes under the umbrella of the registered breed of coloured horses in America, known as American Paint Horse. It covers all types of stained patterns of horses, including piebald and skewbald (having patches of colour other than black).  

  • People sometimes get confused between piebald, skewbald, and pinto. Pinto is just another name for this coloured pattern, and the term is common in the US. 

Characteristics of Piebald Horse

A piebald or a pied horse is the one having large black splotches on the white, spotless background.

  • It has a large and irregular patch of black and white on horse coat.
  • Piebalds may have a lot of black colour on a little bit of white. 
  • Piebalds can also be a lot of white and little splotch of colour. 
  • A gene is responsible for coloured patterns and produces colours of tobiano, sabino, splash overo, and frame.


It is a popular colour and a product of a dominant gene. A Tobiano shows white colour in legs, a solid-coloured head with brown eyes.

  • Its colored pattern is just like someone has sprinkled a color over the white horse.

Overo and Tobiano have a nearly similar coat but still, they are distinguishable

Tobiano and Overo horses look quite similar, the Tobianos usually have white color on their backs and legs(below the hocks and knees), and a solid-colored head. The white color over the spine is the mark of their identification, it separates them from the Overo horses. 

Tobiano stay true to the color till the end

It’s quite usual for the horses to get lighter with age, but Tobiano is one of the few horses that stay true to their color from the beginning to the end. 

Unlike Piebald, the patches are not so non-uniform 

It’s true that Tobiano horses have contrasting patches all over the body but their patches are either rounded or oval-shaped arranged in a vertical pattern. 


It is not a very common pattern because it results from two recessive genes from two solid coloured parents.  An Overo pattern resembles a frame as it looks like a stained frame surrounds horses’ white patches.

  • Consider its color pattern as if a horse dipped in color from underside up.

Piebald and Skewbald horses may show one of the Overo patterns at once.

It also has other sub-color varieties, and these are:

  • Sabino
  • Splashed white

It’s undeniable that overo horses have been blessed with contrasting colors, but one of the two colors would be dominant. So, they either have a more white or brown color. 

The worth knowing thing about this American paint horse is that most of the said horses become a victim of “Overo Lethal White Syndrome”. Overo Lethal White Syndrome is a deadly disease that only Overo horses suffer from, and it usually ends up taking this spectacular horse’s life. 


This colour pattern is a combination of both Tobiano and Overo traits and genetics. But, the genetic markers for Tobiano and Overo are different than Tovero.

The base colour of Tovero is white, with at least one blue eye. Its colour pattern is not specific, but you can say it has a significant colour of a white and little amount of colour. 

Tovero, Overo, and other colored horses arrived in America in the 19th century, and they have rocking several barns ever since. Tovero has also got color splashes all over the body, it’s just the color that distinguishes it from the other such coat colors. 

These horses have been used for work and riding for ages. Because of their spectacular appearance, they are also being kept as an ornament. As per the authentic books of history, these horses have served in the wars as well. 


Location of Pigmented Spots

The location of pigmentation is dependent upon the movement of Melan oblasts (pigment cells). The melanoblasts migrate to the paired bilateral places in the skin of early embryo. 

If melanoblasts successfully migrate to both locations, then the colour pattern is symmetrical. The pigment cells in coloured areas, usually proliferate and merge to become larger are of colouration.

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Facts about Piebald Horses

This unique color blending is breathtakingly common in few horse breeds

As this is just a unique color pattern, it can be spotted in any horse breed. But usually, this color blending is more common in Gypsy, Welsh, Drum, Irish Sport, Marwari horse, Eriskay, and Dartmoor pony.

The non-uniform black and white patches are the marks of the Piebald horse’s identification 

Sometimes Piebald, Pinto, Paint, and Skewbald horses are hard to distinguish. It usually seems hard to judge but in reality, Piebald horses can easily be identified by their non-uniform black patches. 


What is the difference between a piebald horse and a skewbald horse?

Piebald horses are not a breed that is coat colour. Piebald horses have irregular patches of black and white colour. These both are colour coat terms in the British language. Registration authorities also recognize and registered according to their markings. According to British Piebald and Skewbald association, colour pattern distribution should be 50/50.

The main difference between Piebald and the skewbald horse is that Piebald has a black and white pattern. Skewbald has white and any other called pattern like brown or chestnut.

What does a piebald horse look like?

Piebald is actually not a specific breed. They have irregular black and white patches on their body. Some specific breeds can have this colour.

How does piebald happen?

That Piebald pattern is due to the mutation gene. There are many theories about gene colour but the famous one is that ” a gene kit that slows down the colour pigmentation growth. These pigment cells melanocytes were tested in mouse than estimated piebald colour.

Even though one explains the differences between the discussed horses well, it would still be hard to judge as they all have non-uniform color splashes. The experts usually judge these horses by their colors. If you do not want to mix any coat color, it is suggested to judge and compare these horses by their colors, and markings.

If we have to define them all together for better understanding, Piebald have large irregular black and white patches, Skewbald have non-uniform white and brown/chestnut/bay patches, Tobiano has solid heads, white legs, Toveros have got similarities with Overo horses, they ha ave solid white base and colored markings, whereas, overos appear as if they have been splashed with paint from underside up. 


Piebald is not a breed that is a coat colour appear due to mutation gene. That patches appear as black and white colour. Many breeds show this piebald colour. There is a separate association for piebald colour horses.

Hi, I am Waqar and active in the horse world since 2012. I have MSc (Hons) in Agriculture from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. I love to solve equine health care issues and note down in the form of research papers. I have written hundreds of equine health care, accessories, names, and history-related blogs. My equine related work is watering a lot of horse-related magazines and blogs.

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