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Appaloosa - Horse Breed & Info

Characteristics of the Appaloosa Appaloosa Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below

The Appaloosa is not only different from any other breed, all Appaloosas are different from any other. It’s the individually unique color that is so fascinating to breeders, owners and fans.


In Central Idaho, in the Palouse River country, the Nez Perce Indians developed what was first known as the Palouse horse. Foundation stock came of course from Spanish horses migrating north to the Columbia Basin. Through selective breeding, the Indians raised good horses by the thousands, but the spotted ones were the most prized. The Nez Perce were the only known tribe in North America to selectively breed their horses. Indeed the Nez Perce Indians valued their horses above all else and none were for sale. Only via capture or theft did an Appaloosa leave home.

The end of the Nez Perce horse breeding came in 1877 when they were driven from their valley home by the encroaching white man and the hounding and defeat of Chief Joseph (Hin-ma-toe-yah-laht-khit) in Montana. The US Army slaughtered many of the horses and the survivors were scattered far and wide throughout the West which all resulted in near extinction of this wonderful breed of horse.


The ApHc was founded in 1938 and with determination a registry was started for the breed. Through the Club’s efforts and the registry, once again interest was aroused for the forgotten Appaloosa who eventually became the official state horse of Idaho.

In June of 1948 the first all Appy horse show in history was held in Lewiston, Idaho. Since then they have regained the popularity to which they are entitled and have expanded from American into at least 40 other countries. A long, rich and history and a deserving breed of horse has been preserved.

Now, just because your horse has spots of one kind or another, does not mean he can be accepted into this breed’s registry. Not all spotted horses are able to be registered as an Appaloosa! Appaloosas are either marked with a white patch over the back and croup with large polka dots of bay or black (called a blanket pattern), or they may be all white or light gray with spots over the entire body (called a leopard pattern). They can even have spots on their spots! A total of five coat patterns are now recognized in the breed.


Other breed characteristics are notable. There must be present the parti-colored or mottled skin around the nostrils, lips and genitals. The eye must also present a white sclera. Foals are born a solid color, but still possess the multi-colored skin traits and white sclera of the eyes. Beyond this, they may or may not develop one of the coat patterns between birth and the age of two. It is possible to have a registered and true Appaloosa bearing no spots. Another characteristic is vertical stripes on hooves when the leg above does not bear any white stockings or markings.


Although this breed is closely linked with America, horses with this coloration feature pre-date the discovery of the United States by thousands of years. There are cave drawing depicting horses with these markings, oriental art dating from BC centuries and even the Lipizzaner of Spanish Riding School fame, has been depicted in art work as sporting such a coat coloration.

Throughout the world, this beautiful breed excels in many and varied disciplines including western pleasure, games, working cow horse, jumping and dressage. The Appaloosa horse is valued for his easy-going dispositions and reliability as a family horse, with a coloration that is a stupendous and delightful bonus.

Also today, the Nez Perce possessing a keen eye for a good horse and also a love of breeding good horses, have entered once again into the horse breeding business. Their breed is fittingly called the “Nez Perce Horse” and is a selective cross between the Appaloosa and the Akhal Teke, from Central Asia. So not only has the Appaloosa been preserved as an ongoing breed, but it is now helping to found a new breed.

Article copyright HorseShowCentral.com Photos copyright and courtesy of The Appaloosa Horse Club

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