Appaloosa Horse

Learn about the history, characteristics, and use today of the Appaloosa horse breed.

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Appaloosa Horse History

The Spanish introduced horses to Mexico in the 1500s, and spotted horses have been depicted in images as far back as prehistoric cave paintings. However, it wasn’t until the 1700s when horses first reached Northwest America that horses with Appaloosa coloring gained recognition in the United States. The Nez Perce tribe of American Indians helped propel this recognition.

Appaloosa head shot

Originally sedentary fishers, the Nez Perce tribe soon discovered the mobility and power that horses could bring. With their yet-unnamed Appaloosa horses, they soon became notorious for their hunting skills and craftsmanship. In reference to the Palouse River nearby, settlers began referring to the spotted Nez Perce horses as “a Palouse Horse,” later “Palousey,” “Appalousey” and eventually “Appaloosa.”

The Nez Perce war of 1877 resulted in the Appaloosa herds being dispersed throughout the West. The Appaloosa horses’ flashy coats soon caught the eye of the public, and they grew in popularity. The Appaloosa Horse Club was chartered in 1938 to preserve and improve the Appaloosa breed. In 1975, the Appaloosa horse was officially named the Idaho state horse. Today, Appaloosas can be found at gaming events, horse shows and on the trail.

Appaloosa horse at a horse show

Appaloosa Characteristics:

Appaloosa horses are known for four identifiable characteristics: coat pattern, mottled skin, white sclera and striped hooves. With coat patterns, countless numbers of color and pattern combinations exist.

Base coat colors include bay, brown, black, buckskin, grulla, dun, palomino, cremello/perlino, chestnut, bay roan, blue roan and red roan. Appaloosa coat patterns include leopard, snowflake, blanket, marbleized and frost. Appaloosas range from 14.2 to 16 hands high.

Appaloosa Halter Horse

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