The Appaloosa Horse Breed

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Description: The Appaloosa horse, although often recognized for its colorful coat patterns is a breed of horse, and not a color. In fact, not all Appaloosas have a colorful coat pattern but can come in solid colors as well. Coat pattern or not, there is much more to the Appaloosa than its color.

Appaloosas are very versatile having great endurance and excellent dispositions. Although they can be stubborn, most Appaloosas are extremely intelligent and willing.

Some physical characteristics that are shared by most Appaloosas include mottled skin, vertically striped hooves, a white sclera which encircles the iris, and a short mane and tail. Most appaloosas also have strong sturdy legs and hooves, and are generally very sure-footed.


History: The Appaloosa breed was originally bred in the Inland northwest of America by the Nez Perce Indians. Before the horse had been introduced to them, the Nez Perce were sedentary fishermen.

Appaloosa Photo by Megan Smith The horses changed The Nez Perce's culture forever. The horses enabled them to hunt buffalo easily, and the Nez Perce soon became known throughout the Northwest for their hunting skills and craftsmanship. These new found skills allowed the Nez Perce to trade for goods and services.

The Nez Perce became excellent horsemen as well as the only Native Americans known to selectively breed their horses. The horses were bred to be strong, fast, sure footed, and intelligent mounts. A short mane and tail was bred into the horses so that they could not easily be caught in brush.

Meriwether Lewis wrote the following of the Nez Perce's horses, in his diary on Feb. 15, 1806 :
"Their horses appear to be of an excellent race; they are lofty, eligantly [sic] formed, active and durable…some of these horses are pided with large spots of white irregularly scattered and intermixed with black, brown, bey [sic] or some other dark color."

In the mid-1800s, settlers came to the Nez Perce reservation. The Nez Perce War of 1877 began when some of the Nez Perce rebelled against treaties imposed by the settlers.

When Chief Joseph surrendered in Montana in 1877, the Army confiscated most of the horses. The horses were then indiscriminately bred, and many of their unique traits were lost or severely diluted.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, because of its use in round ups and rodeos, people became more interested in the Appaloosa breed.

The Appaloosa horse club was established in 1938 by a wheat farmer named Claude Thompson, who realized the importance of preserving the Appaloosa Breed.
The Appaloosa Horse club has since grown into one of the leading equine breed registries. There are currently over 600,000 Appaloosa horses registered with the ApHC.

The Nez Perce never referred to their horses as 'Appaloosas'. The name Appaloosa comes either from the Palouse River, along which the horses were abundant known to be abundant, or from the Palouse tribe, whose main village was on the Palouse River. The Palouse River flows through eastern Washington and north Idaho.

Settlers first referred to the horses as 'A Palouse Horse,' which was soon shortened to 'Appalousey.' The name Appaloosa was made official in 1938.

On March 25, 1975, the Appaloosa was named Idaho's State horse.

Colors: The Appaloosa Horse Club describes ffive basic coat patterns: Leopard -- Large dark spots completely covering a white body, Snowflake -- a dark body with light spots or speckles, Marble -- A light coat covered in small dark speckles, Frost-- A dark coat covered in small light speckles, and Blanket -- White on hips and/or loins. Darker spots may or may not appear on the white blanket. However, some appaloosa's are 'solid,' meaning that they do not have any coat pattern.

Height: 14.2hh upwards

Uses: Appaloosas are a light breed used for showing and riding. Today they are used in a wide variety of sports, from rodeo and trail riding, to jumping, showing, and endurance riding.


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