SABINO is part of the OVERO Paint/Pinto complex, but it is not always expressed as a spotted "pinto" pattern. Current research indicates there may be more than one genetic component to the Sabino group of patterns

Here are four mustangs who illustrate the range of Sabino coloring:

L-R: Lacy spotting similar to Frame Overo; Maximum White; Roaned Sabino; "Clyde"-type Sabino markings
Calvin, a Sabino Roan owned by Jessica Young and Rocky, a sabino Mustang adopted by Sandy Davitt

SABINO is not always easy to identify.
There is now a genetic test that can identify at least one form of it.
To learn more, click here:

Sabino1, in homozygous form, produces the Maximum Overo White color
which looks similar to Lethal White, but is not associated with any health problems. Therefore, it is a good idea to have breeding stock tested for both Frame (which does produce Lethal White) and Sabino (which can closely resemble Frame, but produces a healthy, completely non-lethal white foal)

Though lumped in with other overo patterns for registration purposes, Sabino is different genetically, and is not connected with Overo Lethal White Syndrome. Current research indicates Sabino is polygenic - that is, controlled by more than one gene. These interact in ways not yet fully understood to create the wide range of sabino expression. Sabino also commonly occurs in combination with other patterns, especially the other Overo patterns (Frame and Splash).

 Sabino has a wide range of variations:

  • Maximum Sabino is all white

  •  Sabino Roan is evenly roaned and dappled over the body and face (which can make it difficult to distinguish from a horse in the early graying stages):

  • Clydesdale and Shire draft horses are Sabino, although they are not often thought of as "pinto." The most famous Clydesdales are the Budweiser Clydes. These have been selected for a uniform look, but within the breed there is a lot more variation.


  • Minimal Sabinos (as well as Sabino Roans) also do not look pinto - they may show as little as a white chin and a small but jagged-edged sock or a few belly spots.

    Often unrecognized, these minimal sabinos are genetically capable, of producing more wildly colored offspring. These Minimal Sabinos are a common source of so-called "crop-out" paint/pinto horses from supposedly solid-colored parents, and from breeds that do not normally produce pintos.

    Sabino Characteristics
    (a horse must have two or more of these to qualify for registry in the Sabino Horse Registry):

    Wide Face White


    Odd Shaped White on Face

    White Chin Spot


    White Lip Spot

    "Milky"  Chin 

    Socks or Stockings That Come to a Point

    "Knifeblade" socks

    Lightning Strikes


    Belly Spots or Splashes 

    White Spots under Jaw or Throat

    Partial Socks or Stockings

    White Spots on the Legs

    Mustang at BLM adoption

    White Hairs on Body Coat

    Mustang at Palomino Valley BLM Center

    Roaning Without a True Roan Parent
    (The 'roaning' on a sabino is not the same we see with a 'true roan' gene or with the gray gene. The face is roaned along with the body.)

    Deanna Morehouse's sabino roans

    Lad, a Sabino Roan Clydesdale colt owned by Chessica Dippner

    Sir Patrick, a Roaned Sabino Curly stallion owned by Jackie Richardson in Iowa

    Roaning on body, especially lower abdomen

    Three variations on Sabino - owned by Deanna Morehouse

    Sabino Clydesdale and her colt, owned by Chessica Dippner

    Bay Roan Sabino Shire
    "Ian" owned by William Mills

    Lacey Body Spots
    Markings with Lacey Edges

    Mustang at BLM Adoption

    Mustang at BLM Adoption

    Mustang at BLM Adoption

    Sabino Spotting
     - photo courtesy of Joleen of 1Rainbowhorses Yahoo Group

    Odd White Patches on the Body 

    Hoodoo, adopted by Lesley Neuman, has "odd-shaped patches of white" that don't fit neatly into any definite pinto category. He is a breeding stallion, however, and his progeny have all shown strong sabino traits.

    Born WHITE or almost all white (a few specks) from Colored or Spotted Parents
    (may have either dark or blue eyes)

    Maximum White Sabinos are NOT Lethal Whites!


    The Budweiser Clydesdales, as well as all other Clydesdales, are is Sabino. So are Shire draft horses.

    Some Sabinos are hard to distinguish from Frame Overo, Splashed White, Rubicano (part of the Roan-Related Complex), and White

    More Sabino Pix:

    "Lenny" a Shire stallion

    Red Dun Sabino mustang



    Maximum sabino PMU foal

    1/2 Freisian Maximum sabino colt

    Deanna Morehouse's Maximum Sabino colt, Preston

    Elaine Hickman's rabicano-sabino

    Martha Conlin and her Shire horse, "Hank"

    "Cheyenne", showing typical sabino lacy spotting on the sides, plus "lipstick" around lips




    This foal, owned by Tammi Vogel, is alive today thanks to information Tammi was able to learn from this website! When the pure white foal was born, he seemed normal, but local hore folks all warned that it was only a matter of time until symptoms would start and he would die a painful death - so she should call the vet out and have the foal put down.

    Tammi made the vet appointment but luck was with her and the vet couldn't come out until much later. During that time, she researched Lethal White on the Internet and came upon this website, where she learned of Maximum White Overos - in this case, Maximum Sabino, judging from the mother's lacy spotting pattern.

    I happened to check my email early that morning and my heart jumped to my throat when I saw the photo and the diagnosis. DON'T PUT THAT FOAL DOWN! I responded and called her on the phone. We had a nice conversation and she was very relieved to be able to give the foal a chance.

    Three days later he was still fine, so the vet never needed to come out to do the dreaded deed.

    Many months later, "Go Check Whitie" (named for the frequent text message Tammi sent to her family while she was away at work) is healthy and strong, a completely normal weanling colt!

    Maximum sabino purebred Arabian filly (KHROWNED N DANGEROUS) owned by Peggy Nickerson

    Both The University of California at Davis and Animal Genetics, Inc. of Florida can test for the presence of Tobiano, Red, Frame, Creme, Silver, Sabino1, and Agouti (Bay). The test for Tobiano can determine whether or not a horse is homozygous of heterozygous (good to know if you are trying to breed for Tobiano).

    You can download forms for these tests from their website-- follow
    the links from

    OR, from the Animal Genetics website


    Pages in the WHITE & SPOTS Section:


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The Base ColorsRed   Black

The Dominant Genes: l Bay (Agouti) l Roan l Rabicano l Other Roan-like Patterns l Sooty/Smutty / Pangare l Gray

Recessive Genes: Red | Flaxen

The Pinto Patterns:

Overo Lethal White Syndrome

The Dilution GenesChampagne | Creme | Dun | Silver Dapples

Miscellaneous Color Issues: WhiteBrown  l Buckskin vs Dun