Appaloosa horses pictures

Appaloosa horses pictures DEFAULT

Appaloosa Horse

  • Height: 14.2-15.2 hands (56-62”)
  • Physique: Compact, muscular
  • Weight: 1,000-1,200 lbs
  • Lifespan: 30 years
  • Best Suited For: Horse riders and owners of all experience levels, including young and novice riders
  • Temperament: Gentle, intelligent, easy to train, trustworthy, calm, and pleasant
  • Comparable Breeds: American Paint Horse, Arabian Horse

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Appaloosa Horse Breed History 

The Appaloosa Horse is a spotted horse breed, and spotted horses date back to ancient times, as they are showcased in literature and artwork from around the globe. It took until the 1600s for these horses to be introduced in North America when they were brought over by Spanish explorers.

By the early 1700s, many of the horses became a part of the lives of the Native Americans, particularly the Nez Perce of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Once the Nez Perce started breeding these horses, the animals were quick, strong, sure-footed, and agile, with a distinct coloring that made them stand out. Settlers who arrived in the Northwest Palouse region referred to the uniquely spotted horses as Palouse Horses, but, with time, the name was changed to Appaloosa.

Appaloosa horses are known for being trustworthy, so they make wonderful equine companions.

The Nez Perce War occurred in 1870, and Appaloosa horses helped the tribe as they tried to flee the United States Cavalry. After they surrendered, the horses that survived were given over to the soldiers, dispersed to the settlers, or left behind. Because nothing was really done in order to preserve the breed, it almost died out, but horsemen in 1938 decided to form the Appaloosa Horse Club in an effort to promote and preserve the beloved breed.

Today, there are over 650,000 Appaloosa horses that have been registered within the US and around the world, with the Appaloosa Horse Club being an international breed registry for these horses.

Breed Traits

Appaloosa horses are known for being trustworthy, so they make wonderful equine companions. They are also very gentle, as well as highly intelligent. They have been bred for their great stamina and strength, and these horses are also very willing to please their owners and caretakers, so they are a great option for beginners who are new to riding horses.

This breed is also very versatile, and can be used for various tasks that include dressage, general riding and endurance riding, mounted athletics, jumping, work, and racing.

Appaloosa horses are very gentle, as well as highly intelligent.

Overall Description

Appaloosa horses are very gentle, as well as highly intelligent.The Appaloosa is a horse breed that has quite a few distinctive features that make it stand out, though its conformation is also typical of stock breeds. It features a compact body with a broad head, a straight back, sloping shoulders, and strong legs. The horse’s tail and mane are typically sparse as well.

The characteristic that is unique to this breed, however, is the parti-colored or mottled skin. Mottled skin on a horse is different from the more common pink skin of horses because it typically has darker areas where the skin is pigmented. This gives the Appaloosa a blotchy or speckled pattern of non-pigmented and pigmented skin.

Another unique feature is the Appaloosa’s white sclera, which is the area of the horse’s eye that surrounds the iris, or the colored portion of the eye. The sclera of this breed is readily visible, which is a feature that distinguishes it from other horse breeds.

Striped hooves are yet another characteristic of the Appaloosa Horse breed. You will notice that the animal’s hooves have clearly defined, bold stripes that run vertically and can be dark or light in color.

Facial markings include bald face, blaze, snip, stripe, and star. Also, leg markings include heel, coronet, pastern, half-pastern, stocking, half-stocking, ankle, and lightning marks. And coat patterns, which include blanket with spots, blanket, leopard, snowflake, frost, marble, roan, roan blanket, roan blanket with spots, and solid, are highly variable.


The Appaloosa Horse’s base coat comes in a wide range of colors, including red roan, blue roan, bay roan, gray, palomino, chestnut, cremello/perlino, grulla, dun, buckskin, black, brown, dark bay, and bay. As mentioned above, however, the breed is also revered for its beautiful coat patterns, which vary greatly against the base coat color.

The characteristic that is unique to the Appaloosa breed is the parti-colored or mottled skin.

Grooming Requirements

The characteristic that is unique to the Appaloosa breed is the parti-colored or mottled skin.As is the case with all other horse breeds, an Appaloosa’s hooves should be inspected daily so you can look for signs of potential injury or infection, regardless of the horse’s activity level. In addition, you should take care of the mane and coat by grooming your horse regularly.

If you have a show horse, you will need to groom the animal daily, but if your horse is just used for riding or is a pet, you can groom bi-weekly or weekly using standard horse grooming tools that include various curry combs, bristle brushes, body brushes, face brushes, hoof picks, and tail and mane brushes.

It should be noted, however, that Appaloosa horses can really benefit from daily grooming because this could help keep their white coats looking clean and bright. Grooming your horse often will prevent dirt from getting deep into the animal’s coat, becoming harder to remove, and owners can also consider using a horse shampoo to keep the coat as clean as possible.

These horses are also prone to sunburn, particularly on their exposed pink skin and white patches on their muzzles, so it is a very good idea to apply an equine sunscreen while also providing the animal with plenty of shade.


Tagged as: Appaloosa Horse, equine companion, Native Americans, Spanish explorers, versatile horse, white sclera



For other uses, see Appaloosa (disambiguation).

American horse breed noted for spotted color pattern

A dark brown horse with a white and brown spotted rump running in a field.

Appaloosa horse

Country of originUnited States
Distinguishing featuresMost representatives have colorful spotted coat patterns, striped hooves, mottled skin and white sclera visible around the iris when the eye is in a normal position.

The Appaloosa is an American horse breed best known for its colorful spotted coat pattern. There is a wide range of body types within the breed, stemming from the influence of multiple breeds of horses throughout its history. Each horse's color pattern is genetically the result of various spotting patterns overlaid on top of one of several recognized base coat colors. The color pattern of the Appaloosa is of interest to those who study equine coat color genetics, as it and several other physical characteristics are linked to the leopard complex mutation (LP). Appaloosas are prone to develop equine recurrent uveitis and congenital stationary night blindness; the latter has been linked to the leopard complex.

Artwork depicting prehistoric horses with leopard spotting exists in prehistoric cave paintings in Europe. Images of domesticated horses with leopard spotting patterns appeared in artwork from Ancient Greece and Han dynasty China through the early modern period. In North America, the Nez Perce people of what today is the United States Pacific Northwest developed the original American breed. Settlers once referred to these spotted horses as the "Palouse horse", possibly after the Palouse River, which ran through the heart of Nez Perce country. Gradually, the name evolved into Appaloosa.

The Nez Perce lost most of their horses after the Nez Perce War in 1877, and the breed fell into decline for several decades. A small number of dedicated breeders preserved the Appaloosa as a distinct breed until the Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC) was formed as the breed registry in 1938. The modern breed maintains bloodlines tracing to the foundation bloodstock of the registry; its partially open stud book allows the addition of some Thoroughbred, American Quarter Horse and Arabian blood.

Today, the Appaloosa is one of the most popular breeds in the United States; it was named the official state horse of Idaho in 1975. It is best known as a stock horse used in a number of western riding disciplines, but is also a versatile breed with representatives seen in many other types of equestrian activity. Appaloosas have been used in many movies; an Appaloosa is the mascot for the Florida State Seminoles. Appaloosa bloodlines have influenced other horse breeds, including the Pony of the Americas, the Nez Perce Horse, and several gaited horse breeds.

Breed characteristics[edit]

The head of a light-colored horse with dark spots, showing spotting around the skin of the eye and muzzle.
Mottling on the skin is particularly visible around the eyes and muzzle. The sclera of an Appaloosa's eye is white.

The Appaloosa is best known for its distinctive, leopard complex-spotted coat, which is preferred in the breed. Spotting occurs in several overlay patterns on one of several recognized base coat colors. There are three other distinctive, "core" characteristics: mottled skin, striped hooves, and eyes with a white sclera.[1]

Skin mottling is usually seen around the muzzle, eyes, anus, and genitalia.[2] Striped hooves are a common trait, quite noticeable on Appaloosas, but not unique to the breed.[3] The sclera is the part of the eye surrounding the iris; although all horses show white around the eye if the eye is rolled back, to have a readily visible white sclera with the eye in a normal position is a distinctive characteristic seen more often in Appaloosas than in other breeds.[3] Because the occasional individual is born with little or no visible spotting pattern, the ApHC allows "regular" registration of horses with mottled skin plus at least one of the other core characteristics. Horses with two ApHC parents but no "identifiable Appaloosa characteristics" are registered as "non-characteristic," a limited special registration status.[1]

There is a wide range of body types in the Appaloosa, in part because the leopard complex characteristics are its primary identifying factors, and also because several different horse breeds influenced its development. The weight range varies from 950 to 1,250 pounds (430 to 570 kg), and heights from 14 to 16 hands (56 to 64 inches, 142 to 163 cm).[4] However, the ApHC does not allow pony or draft breeding.[1]

The original "old time" or "old type" Appaloosa was a tall, narrow-bodied, rangy horse. The body style reflected a mix that started with the traditional Spanish horses already common on the plains of America before 1700. Then, 18th-century European bloodlines were added, particularly those of the "pied" horses popular in that period and shipped en masse to the Americas once the color had become unfashionable in Europe. These horses were similar to a tall, slim Thoroughbred-Andalusian type of horse popular in Bourbon-era Spain. The original Appaloosa tended to have a convex facial profile that resembled that of the warmblood-Jennet crosses first developed in the 16th century during the reign of Charles V.

The old-type Appaloosa was later modified by the addition of draft horse blood after the 1877 defeat of the Nez Perce, when U.S. Government policy forced the Native Americans to become farmers and provided them with draft horse mares to breed to existing stallions. The original Appaloosas frequently had a sparse mane and tail, but that was not a primary characteristic, as many early Appaloosas did have full manes and tails. There is a possible genetic link between the leopard complex and sparse mane and tail growth, although the precise relationship is unknown.

After the formation of the Appaloosa Horse Club in 1938, a more modern type of horse was developed after the addition of American Quarter Horse and Arabian bloodlines. The addition of Quarter Horse lines produced Appaloosas that performed better in sprint racing and in halter competition. Many cutting and reining horses resulted from old-type Appaloosas crossed on Arabian bloodlines, particularly via the Appaloosa foundation stallion Red Eagle. An infusion of Thoroughbred blood was added during the 1970s to produce horses more suited for racing. Many current breeders also attempt to breed away from the sparse, "rat tail" trait, and therefore modern Appaloosas have fuller manes and tails.

Color and spotting patterns[edit]

See also: Equine coat color

Few spot leopard Appaloosa with wet coat showing "halo" effect of dark skin under white coat around spots.

The coat color of an Appaloosa is a combination of a base color with an overlaid spotting pattern. The base colors recognized by the Appaloosa Horse Club include bay, black, chestnut, palomino, buckskin, cremello or perlino, roan, gray, dun and grulla. Appaloosa markings have several pattern variations.[3] It is this unique group of spotting patterns, collectively called the "leopard complex",[13] that most people associate with the Appaloosa horse.[3] Spots overlay darker skin, and are often surrounded by a "halo", where the skin next to the spot is also dark but the overlying hair coat is white.

It is not always easy to predict a grown Appaloosa's color at birth. Foals of any breed tend to be born with coats that darken when they shed their baby hair.[15] In addition, Appaloosa foals do not always show classic leopard complex characteristics.[13] Patterns sometimes change over the course of the horse's life although some, such as the blanket and leopard patterns, tend to be stable. Horses with the varnish roan and snowflake patterns are especially prone to show very little color pattern at birth, developing more visible spotting as they get older.

The ApHC also recognizes the concept of a "solid" horse, which has a base color "but no contrasting color in the form of an Appaloosa coat pattern". Solid horses can be registered if they have mottled skin and one other leopard complex characteristic.[3]

Base colors are overlain by various spotting patterns, which are variable and often do not fit neatly into a specific category.[3] These patterns are described as follows:

Color genetics[edit]

Main article: Leopard complex

See also: Equine coat color genetics

A brown and white striped horse hoof, with a dark colored leg partially visible
Striped hooves are a characteristic trait.

Any horse that shows Appaloosa core characteristics of coat pattern, mottled skin, striped hooves, and a visible white sclera, carries at least one allele of the dominant "leopard complex" (LP) gene. The use of the word "complex" is used to refer to the large group of visible patterns that may occur when LP is present.[13] LP is an autosomalincomplete dominantmutation in the TRPM1 gene located at horse chromosome 1 (ECA 1).[17][18] All horses with at least one copy of LP show leopard characteristics, and it is hypothesized that LP acts together with other patterning genes (PATN) that have not yet been identified to produce the different coat patterns.[13][19] Horses that are heterozygous for LP tend to be darker than homozygous horses, but this is not consistent.

Three single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the TRPM1 gene have been identified as closely associated with the LP mutation, although the mechanism by which the pattern is produced remains unclear.[13][17] A commercially available DNA based test is likely to be developed in the near future, which breeders can use to determine if LP is present in horses that do not have visible Appaloosa characteristics.[13][17]

Not every Appaloosa exhibits visible coat spotting, but even apparently solid-colored horses that carry at least one dominant LP allele will exhibit characteristics such as vertically striped hooves, white sclera of the eye, and mottled skin around the eyes, lips, and genitalia.[21] Appaloosas may also exhibit sabino or pinto type markings, but because pinto genes may cover-up or obscure Appaloosa patterns, pinto breeding is discouraged by the ApHC, which will deny registration to horses with excessive white markings.[22] The genes that create these different patterns can all be present in the same horse. The Appaloosa Project, a genetic study group, has researched the interactions of Appaloosa and pinto genes and how they affect each other.[23]


Painting of a man holding a sword while riding a rearing horse
A 1674 painting of Louis XIVon a spotted horse

Recent research has suggested that Eurasian prehistoric cave paintings depicting leopard-spotted horses may have accurately reflected a phenotype of ancient wild horse.[24][25] Domesticated horses with leopard complex spotting patterns have been depicted in art dating as far back as Ancient Greece, Ancient Persia, and the Han Dynasty in China; later depictions appeared in 11th-century France and 12th-century England.[26][27] French paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries show horses with spotted coats being used as riding horses, and other records indicate they were also used as coach horses at the court of Louis XIV of France. In mid-18th-century Europe, there was a great demand for horses with the leopard complex spotting pattern among the nobility and royalty. These horses were used in the schools of horsemanship, for parade use, and other forms of display.[29] Modern horse breeds in Europe today that have leopard complex spotting include the Knabstrupper and the Pinzgau, or Noriker horse.[26]

The Spanish probably obtained spotted horses through trade with southern Austria and Hungary, where the color pattern was known to exist. The Conquistadors and Spanish settlers then brought some vividly marked horses to the Americas when they first arrived in the early 16th century. One horse with snowflake patterning was listed with the 16 horses brought to Mexico by Cortez, and additional spotted horses were mentioned by Spanish writers by 1604. Others arrived in the western hemisphere when spotted horses went out of style in late 18th-century Europe, and were shipped to Mexico,[34] California and Oregon.

Nez Perce people[edit]

In the foreground, two Native American men wearing cowboy attire sit crosslegged on the ground. In the background, a dark colored horse with a white and black spotted rump stands saddled and bridled.
Two Nez Perce men with an Appaloosa, about 1895

The Nez Perce people lived in what today is eastern Washington, Oregon, and north central Idaho,[35] where they engaged in agriculture as well as horse breeding. The Nez Perce first obtained horses from the Shoshone around 1730.[34] They took advantage of the fact that they lived in excellent horse-breeding country, relatively safe from the raids of other tribes, and developed strict breeding selection practices for their animals, establishing breeding herds by 1750. They were one of the few tribes that actively used the practice of gelding inferior male horses and trading away poorer stock to remove unsuitable animals from the gene pool,[26][37] and thus were notable as horse breeders by the early 19th century.[38]

Early Nez Perce horses were considered to be of high quality. Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition wrote in his February 15, 1806, journal entry: "Their horses appear to be of an excellent race; they are lofty, eligantly [sic] formed, active and durable: in short many of them look like fine English coarsers [sic] and would make a figure in any country."[39] Lewis did note spotting patterns, saying, "... some of these horses are pided [pied] with large spots of white irregularly scattered and intermixed with the black brown bey [sic] or some other dark colour".[39] By "pied", Lewis may have been referring to leopard-spotted patterns seen in the modern Appaloosa,[39] though Lewis also noted that "much the larger portion are of a uniform colour".[39] The Appaloosa Horse Club estimates that only about ten percent of the horses owned by the Nez Perce at the time were spotted.[38] While the Nez Perce originally had many solid-colored horses and only began to emphasize color in their breeding some time after the visit of Lewis and Clark, by the late 19th century they had many spotted horses. As white settlers moved into traditional Nez Perce lands, a successful trade in horses enriched the Nez Perce, who in 1861 bred horses described as "elegant chargers, fit to mount a prince."[42] At a time when ordinary horses could be purchased for $15, non-Indians who had purchased Appaloosa horses from the Nez Perce turned down offers of as much as $600.

Nez Perce War[edit]

See also: Nez Perce War

Peace with the United States dated back to an alliance arranged by Lewis and Clark,[44] but the encroachment of gold miners in the 1860s and settlers in the 1870s put pressure on the Nez Perce. Although a treaty of 1855 originally allowed them to keep most of their traditional land, another in 1863 reduced the land allotted to them by 90 percent.[46] The Nez Perce who refused to give up their land under the 1863 treaty included a band living in the Wallowa Valley of Oregon, led by Heinmot Tooyalakekt, widely known as Chief Joseph.[47] Tensions rose, and in May 1877, General Oliver Otis Howard called a council and ordered the non-treaty bands to move to the reservation.[48] Chief Joseph considered military resistance futile,[49] and by June 14, 1877, had gathered about 600 people at a site near present-day Grangeville, Idaho.[44] But on that day a small group of warriors staged an attack on nearby white settlers, which led to the Nez Perce War.[44] After several small battles in Idaho,[44] more than 800 Nez Perce, mostly non-warriors, took 2000 head of various livestock including horses and fled into Montana, then traveled southeast, dipping into Yellowstone National Park.[47] A small number of Nez Perce fighters, probably fewer than 200,[49] successfully held off larger forces of the U.S. Army in several skirmishes, including the two-day Battle of the Big Hole in southwestern Montana. They then moved northeast and attempted to seek refuge with the Crow Nation; rebuffed, they headed for safety in Canada.

Throughout this journey of about 1,400 miles (2,300 km)[49] the Nez Perce relied heavily on their fast, agile and hardy Appaloosa horses. The journey came to an end when they stopped to rest near the Bears Paw Mountains in Montana, 40 miles (64 km) from the Canada–US border. Unbeknownst to the Nez Perce, Colonel Nelson A. Miles had led an infantry-cavalry column from Fort Keogh in pursuit. On October 5, 1877, after a five-day fight, Joseph surrendered. The battle—and the war—was over. With most of the war chiefs dead, and the noncombatants cold and starving, Joseph declared that he would "fight no more forever".

Aftermath of the Nez Perce War[edit]

When the U.S. 7th Cavalry accepted the surrender of Chief Joseph and the remaining Nez Perce, they immediately took more than 1,000 of the tribe's horses, sold what they could and shot many of the rest. But a significant population of horses had been left behind in the Wallowa valley when the Nez Perce began their retreat, and additional animals escaped or were abandoned along the way.[26] The Nez Perce were ultimately settled on reservation lands in north central Idaho,[a] were allowed few horses, and were required by the Army to crossbreed to draft horses in an attempt to create farm horses. The Nez Perce tribe never regained its former position as breeders of Appaloosas. In the late 20th century, they began a program to develop a new horse breed, the Nez Perce horse, with the intent to resurrect their horse culture, tradition of selective breeding, and horsemanship.[54]

Although a remnant population of Appaloosa horses remained after 1877, they were virtually forgotten as a distinct breed for almost 60 years.[26] A few quality horses continued to be bred, mostly those captured or purchased by settlers and used as working ranch horses. Others were used in circuses and related forms of entertainment, such as Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. The horses were originally called "Palouse horses" by settlers, a reference to the Palouse River that ran through the heart of what was once Nez Perce country. Gradually, the name evolved into "Apalouse", and then "Appaloosa".[37] Other early variations of the name included "Appalucy", "Apalousey" and "Appaloosie". In one 1948 book, the breed was called the "Opelousa horse", described as a "hardy tough breed of Indian and Spanish horse" used by backwoodsmen of the late 18th century to transport goods to New Orleans for sale. By the 1950s, "Appaloosa" was regarded as the correct spelling.[34][57]


An Idaho car license plate with a running horse on the left side. The horse is brown with a brown and white spotted rump
The state of Idaho offers a license plate featuring the Appaloosa horse.

The Appaloosa came to the attention of the general public in January 1937 in Western Horseman magazine when Francis D. Haines, a history professor from Lewiston, Idaho, published an article describing the breed's history and urging its preservation. Haines had performed extensive research, traveling with a friend and Appaloosa aficionado named George Hatley, visiting numerous Nez Perce villages, collecting history, and taking photographs. The article generated strong interest in the horse breed, and led to the founding of the Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC) by Claude Thompson and a small group of other dedicated breeders in 1938.[59] The registry was originally housed in Moro, Oregon; but in 1947 the organization moved to Moscow, Idaho, under the leadership of George Hatley.[59] The Appaloosa Museum foundation was formed in 1975 to preserve the history of the Appaloosa horse.[61] The Western Horseman magazine, and particularly its longtime publisher, Dick Spencer, continued to support and promote the breed through many subsequent articles.

A significant crossbreeding influence used to revitalize the Appaloosa was the Arabian horse, as evidenced by early registration lists that show Arabian-Appaloosa crossbreeds as ten of the first fifteen horses registered with the ApHC. For example, one of Claude Thompson's major herd sires was Ferras, an Arabian stallion bred by W.K. Kellogg from horses imported from the Crabbet Arabian Stud of England.[64] Ferras sired Red Eagle, a prominent Appaloosa stallion[64] added to the Appaloosa Hall of Fame in 1988. Later, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse lines were added, as well as crosses from other breeds, including Morgans and Standardbreds. In 1983 the ApHC reduced the number of allowable outcrosses to three main breeds: the Arabian horse, the American Quarter Horse and the Thoroughbred.[66]

By 1978 the ApHC was the third largest horse registry for light horse breeds.[59] From 1938 to 2007 more than 670,000 Appaloosas were registered by the ApHC.[67][68] The state of Idaho adopted the Appaloosa as its official state horse on March 25, 1975, when Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus signed the enabling legislation.[38][69] Idaho also offers a custom license plate featuring an Appaloosa,[70] the first state to offer a plate featuring a state horse.[71]


Main article: Appaloosa Horse Club

Two horses in a grassy field with trees and a road in the background. Both horses are colored brown and white, but the horse on the left has the colors in patches, while the horse on the right is spotted.
A Pinto horse(left) has different markings than a Leopard Appaloosa (right). Photo credit: Jean-Pol Grandmont

Located in Moscow, Idaho, the ApHC is the principal body for the promotion and preservation of the Appaloosa breed and is an international organization.[59] Affiliate Appaloosa organizations exist in many South American and European countries, as well as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and Israel.[72] The Appaloosa Horse Club has 33,000 members as of 2010,[59] circulation of the Appaloosa Journal, which is included with most types of membership, was at 32,000 in 2008.[73][74] The American Appaloosa Association was founded in 1983 by members opposed to the registration of plain-colored horses, as a result of the color rule controversy. Based in Missouri, it has a membership of more than 2,000 as of 2008.[75] Other "Appaloosa" registries have been founded for horses with leopard complex genetics that are not affiliated with the ApHC. These registries tend to have different foundation breeding and histories than the North American Appaloosa.[76][77] The ApHC is by far the largest Appaloosa horse registry,[59][78] and it hosts one of the world's largest breed shows.

The Appaloosa is "a breed defined by ApHC bloodline requirements and preferred characteristics, including coat pattern".[1] In other words, the Appaloosa is a distinct breed from limited bloodlines with distinct physical traits and a desired color, referred to as a "color preference". Appaloosas are not strictly a "color breed". All ApHC-registered Appaloosas must be the offspring of two registered Appaloosa parents or a registered Appaloosa and a horse from an approved breed registry, which includes Arabian horses, Quarter Horses, and Thoroughbreds. In all cases, one parent must always be a regular registered Appaloosa. The only exception to the bloodline requirements is in the case of Appaloosa-colored geldings or spayed mares with unknown pedigrees; owners may apply for "hardship registration" for these non-breeding horses. The ApHC does not accept horses with draft, pony, Pinto, or Paint breeding, and requires mature Appaloosas to stand, unshod, at least 14 hands (56 inches, 142 cm).[22] If a horse has excessive white markings not associated with the Appaloosa pattern (such as those characteristic of a pinto) it cannot be registered unless it is verified through DNA testing that both parents have ApHC registration.[1]

Certain other characteristics are used to determine if a horse receives "regular" registration: striped hooves, white sclera visible when the eye is in a normal position, and mottled (spotted) skin around the eyes, lips, and genitalia. As the Appaloosa is one of the few horse breeds to exhibit skin mottling, this characteristic " a very basic and decisive indication of an Appaloosa."[2] Appaloosas born with visible coat pattern, or mottled skin and at least one other characteristic, are registered with "regular" papers and have full show and breeding privileges. A horse that meets bloodline requirements but is born without the recognized color pattern and characteristics can still be registered with the ApHC as a "non-characteristic" Appaloosa. These solid-colored, "non-characteristic" Appaloosas may not be shown at ApHC events unless the owner verifies the parentage through DNA testing and pays a supplementary fee to enter the horse into the ApHC's Performance Permit Program (PPP).[80] Solid-colored Appaloosas are restricted in breeding.[1]

Color rule controversy[edit]

a brown mare with a white rump running alongside her baby foal, who is black with a white rump
Mare and foal. The ApHC encourages early foal registration, even though coat patterns may change later.[81]

During the 1940s and 1950s, when both the Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC) and the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) were in their formative years, minimally marked or roan Appaloosas were sometimes used in Quarter Horse breeding programs. At the same time, it was noted that two solid-colored registered Quarter Horse parents would sometimes produce what Quarter Horse aficionados call a "cropout", a foal with white coloration similar to that of an Appaloosa or Pinto. For a considerable time, until DNA testing could verify parentage, the AQHA refused to register such horses. The ApHC did accept cropout horses that exhibited proper Appaloosa traits, while cropout pintos became the core of the American Paint Horse Association. Famous Appaloosas who were cropouts included Colida, Joker B, Bright Eyes Brother and Wapiti.[83]

In the late 1970s, the color controversy went in the opposite direction within the Appaloosa registry. The ApHC's decision in 1982 to allow solid-colored or "non-characteristic" Appaloosas to be registered resulted in substantial debate within the Appaloosa breeding community. Until then, a foal of Appaloosa parents that had insufficient color was often denied registration, although non-characteristic Appaloosas were allowed into the registry. But breeder experience had shown that some solid Appaloosas could throw a spotted foal in a subsequent generation, at least when bred to a spotted Appaloosa. In addition, many horses with a solid coat exhibited secondary characteristics such as skin mottling, the white sclera, and striped hooves.[85] The controversy stirred by the ApHC's decision was intense. In 1983 a number of Appaloosa breeders opposed to the registration of solid-colored horses formed the American Appaloosa Association, a breakaway organization.[75]


A brown and white spotted horse ridden by a sports mascot in modern-day Native American attire waving a flag stands on a sports field. More people are visible on the field, and a large crowd fills the stadium seating in the background.
A leopard Appaloosa is part of the mascot team for the Florida State University Seminoles.

Appaloosas are used extensively for both Western and English riding. Western competitions include cutting, reining, roping and O-Mok-See sports such as barrel racing (known as the Camas Prairie Stump Race in Appaloosa-only competition) and pole bending (called the Nez Percé Stake Race at breed shows). English disciplines they are used in include eventing, show jumping, and fox hunting. They are common in endurance riding competitions, as well as in casual trail riding. Appaloosas are also bred for horse racing, with an active breed racing association promoting the sport. They are generally used for middle-distance racing at distances between 350 yards (320 m) and 0.5 miles (0.80 km); an Appaloosa holds the all-breed record for the 4.5 furlongs (3,000 ft; 910 m) distance, set in 1989.[87]

Appaloosas are often used in Western movies and television series. Examples include "Cojo Rojo" in the Marlon Brando film The Appaloosa, "Zip Cochise" ridden by John Wayne in the 1966 film El Dorado[89] and "Cowboy", the mount of Matt Damon in True Grit.[90] An Appaloosa horse is part of the controversial mascot team for the Florida State Seminoles, Chief Osceola and Renegade; even though the Seminole people were not directly associated with Appaloosa horses.[91]


There are several American horse breeds with leopard coloring and Appaloosa ancestry. These include the Pony of the Americas[92] and the Colorado Ranger.[93] Appaloosas are crossbred with gaited horse breeds in an attempt to create a leopard-spotted ambling horse.[b] Because such crossbred offspring are not eligible for ApHC registration,[94] their owners have formed breed registries for horses with leopard complex patterns and gaited ability.[95][96][97] In 1995 the Nez Perce tribe began a program to develop a new and distinct horse breed, the Nez Perce Horse, based on crossbreeding the Appaloosa with the Akhal-Teke breed from Central Asia.[54] Appaloosa stallions have been exported to Denmark, to add new blood to the Knabstrupper breed.[98]

Health issues[edit]

Genetically linked vision issues[edit]

Main article: Leopard complex § Vision issues

Two genetically-linked conditions are linked to blindness in Appaloosas, both associated with the Leopard complex color pattern.

Appaloosas have an eightfold greater risk of developing Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU) than all other breeds combined. Up to 25 percent of all horses with ERU may be Appaloosas. Uveitis in horses has many causes, including eye trauma, disease, and bacterial, parasitic and viral infections, but ERU is characterized by recurring episodes of uveitis, rather than a single incident. If not treated, ERU can lead to blindness.[99] Eighty percent of all uveitis cases are found in Appaloosas with physical characteristics including roan or light-colored coat patterns, little pigment around the eyelids and sparse hair in the mane and tail denoting the most at-risk individuals.[100] Researchers may have identified a gene region containing an allele that makes the breed more susceptible to the disease.[101]

Appaloosas that are homozygous for the leopard complex (LP) gene are also at risk for congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB).[102] This form of night blindness has been linked with the leopard complex since the 1970s,[103] and in 2007 a "significant association" between LP and CSNB was identified.[102][104] CSNB is a disorder that causes an affected animal to lack night vision, although day vision is normal. It is an inherited disorder, present from birth, and does not progress over time.[105] Studies in 2008 and 2010 indicate that both CSNB and leopard complex spotting patterns are linked to TRPM1.[17][106]

Drug rules[edit]

In 2007 the ApHC implemented new drug rules allowing Appaloosas to show with the drugs furosemide, known by the trade name of Lasix, and acetazolamide. Furosemide is used to prevent horses who bleed from the nose when subjected to strenuous work from having bleeding episodes when in competition, and is widely used in horse racing. Acetazolamide ("Acet") is used for treating horses with the genetic disease hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), and prevents affected animals from having seizures.[c] Acet is only allowed for horses that test positive for HYPP and have HYPP status noted on their registration papers.[107] The ApHC recommends that Appaloosas that trace to certain American Quarter Horse bloodlines be tested for HYPP, and owners have the option to choose to place HYPP testing results on registration papers.[108] Foals of AQHA-registered stallions and mares born on or after January 1, 2007 that carry HYPP will be required to be HYPP tested and have their HYPP status designated on their registration papers.[1]

Both drugs are controversial, in part because they are considered drug maskers and diuretics that can make it difficult to detect the presence of other drugs in the horse's system.[109] On one side, it is argued that the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), which sponsors show competition for many different horse breeds,[110] and the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI), which governs international and Olympic equestrian competition, ban the use of furosemide.[111] On the other side of the controversy, several major stock horse registries that sanction their own shows, including the American Quarter Horse Association,[112]American Paint Horse Association,[113] and the Palomino Horse Breeders of America,[114] allow acetazolamide and furosemide to be used within 24 hours of showing under certain circumstances.



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  78. ^"PHBA Rule Book". Palomino Horse Breeders Association. pp. 77–78, Rule 2528A. Retrieved September 4, 2013. The PHBA does not allow Lasix within 24 hours of show and only allows Acetazolamide for HYPP horses.


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Appaloosa Horse

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Kristin Hitchcock

The Appaloosa horse is a breed that originated in America. It is well-known for its colorful spotted pattern. The body type ranges widely within the breed, as it was crossbred throughout much of history. The spotted pattern results from many genetic spotting patterns that have been overlaid on top of each other. The strange genetics make this breed very interesting to those who study horse genetics.

We don’t know exactly how old this breed is. However, artwork depicting spotted horses appears in prehistoric caves in Europe, so this coat pattern has likely existed for a very long time. In North America, the Nez Perce Indigenous people developed the breed into what we know it today.

Quick Facts about the Appaloosa Horse

Species Name:Equus ferus caballus
Care Level:Moderate
Color Form:Spotted patterns
Lifespan:About 30 years
Size:14.2 to 16 hands; 1000 to 1100 pounds
Diet:Grasses, Hay, Commercial Feeds

Appaloosa Horse Overview

This horse breed is best known for its spotted coat. However, not all Appaloosa horses have heavily spotted coats. Some have a few spots, while others have hardly any spots at all. There are a lot of genetic variables involved, so it can vary quite a bit from horse to horse. All of the Appaloosa’s spotted patterns are collectively known as the leopard-complex, as they all carry at least one allele of the dominant leopard-complex gene.

There are many examples of spotted horses throughout history. However, the Appaloosa breed was explicitly developed by the Nez Perce people. They had strict breeding practices, which helped create a colorful and intelligent horse.

The breed’s name comes from the Palouse River, where the Nez Perce people lived. At first, the breed was called the Palouse horse, but then the name developed into Appaloosa. During the 1870s, this breed was pushed towards extinction as the Native Americans began losing their land. Many horses were stolen, lost, or killed.

The breed began to be revived in the 1930s. The Appaloosa Horse Club was created in 1938 for a breed registry. Since then, it has become the largest breed registry in the world.

How Much Do Appaloosa Horses Cost?

Appaloosa horses can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. It depends on the quality of the horse, as well as the amount of training it has. Appaloosa numbers are on the rise, so it isn’t challenging to find a suitable horse.

Those with more striking patterns can be more expensive, while those with minimal spotting are often cheaper. However, this isn’t necessarily always the case. Training, age, and pedigree can all play a significant role in the price.

You may be tempted to purchase a cheaper horse since the prices vary so widely. However, more expensive horses are usually more expensive for a reason. If you’re looking for a quality horse, you should plan on spending a bit of money.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

The temperament and behavior of these horses can vary. They are centered around their unusual coat pattern but vary wildly in their behavior and demeanor. Still, most of these horses are pretty trustworthy. They tend to excel with people and are very owner-oriented. They like their people and tend to want to please them.

The Appaloosa is often a calm horse. They’re gentle and respectful in most of their human relationships. However, they can be stubborn and aggressive if they feel like they’ve been mistreated.

Most of these horses have high levels of stamina and strength. They make good riding horses and can be taught a variety of tasks. They’re versatile. This breed can be found herding cattle, entering jumping competitions, and racing.

How exactly the horse is bred does matter. Some of these horses are bred for racing, which often means that they have higher energy levels. Horses that are bred for working cattle are often calmer. Each horse is an individual.

Appearance & Varieties

The appearance of an Appaloosa is a complicated situation. There are many genetic variables that go into their unique, spotted appearance. Horse geneticists are studying them, but we do understand some things about how their genes work.

The Appaloosa’s spotted patterns are referred to on the whole as the “leopard-complex.” Often, the average appaloosa will have a distinctive, spotted coat pattern, mottled skin, and white sclera. These horses are a carrier of the LP gene.

However, not all horses with this gene will display a spotted pattern. Occasionally, these horses will appear to be completely solid in coloration. But, when you look at them closely, they may have vertically striped hooves, mottled skin, and other indications of the LP gene.

Horses with one LP gene are usually darker than those with two LP genes. However, this varies significantly from horse to horse.

Besides the spotted pattern, these horses can come in just about any color. The coat color of the Appaloosa is a combination of the base color and the spotting pattern. There are many different colors accepted by the Appaloosa Horse Club in the United States, including black, grey, chestnut, bay, buckskin, palomino, cremello or perlino, grulla, and dun.

While these horses are usually spotted, they can be solid-colored. A solid-colored horse often has a base color and spotted pattern that is the same color. Therefore, they may appear to be solid, though they genetically aren’t actually solid. Usually, you can tell that the horse still has the LP gene because it will have striped hooves and visible white sclera.

These horses change their pattern throughout their lives. The Appaloosa Horse Club encourages registering fowls early, even though you will be unable to tell their pattern later.

How to Take Care of an Appaloosa Horse

This breed is relatively low-maintenance and does well as a pasture horse. They need similar care as most other horses. They prefer the ability to roam and interact with other horses. Even stalled horses need socialization and enrichment. They can’t just sit in a stall all day. These horses usually thrive best when allowed in the pasture as much as possible.

Of course, outside horses should have a safe shelter at all times. While horses can sleep standing up, this does not allow them to achieve REM sleep. Therefore, all horses will need to sleep laying down at least some of the time.

These horses tolerate cold much better than heat. They need plenty of water and minerals on hot days to maintain proper hydration. Offering them shade is important. In extremely cold weather, all that is usually necessary is a shelter where your horse can escape the rain and moisture. Waterproof blankets are also helpful.

These horses will need their hooves trimmed every 6-8 weeks. This depends on their activity level, environment, and body type. Some horses need shoes.

Their teeth are continuously growing as well. Uneven wear can lead to sharp points and edges. These can be painful and interfere with the horse’s ability to chew. A vet should check the horse’s teeth at least once a year, where they may need to be filed to become smoother.

Do Appaloosa Horses Get Along with Other Pets?

These horses are usually fine with all pets and other livestock. They are calmer horses that don’t spook too easily. They can make good cattle horses and get along fine with most animals that may be around your home, like dogs or cats.

In most cases, it isn’t so much your horse getting along with other animals. It’s the other animals getting along with your horse. You don’t want your large dogs chasing around your horse, for instance.

What to Feed Your Appaloosa Horse

An Appaloosa horse is designed to eat several meals throughout the day. They’re grazers, after all. Most horses should be eating grass and good-quality hay constantly. Clean and unfrozen water should also be available at all times. A salt block is also essential to help ensure your horse gets enough minerals.

A horse is usually pretty good at managing their own food intake. Constant access to grace and high-quality hay is preferable. An empty stomach leaves them at a higher risk of ulcers and other digestive problems. Therefore, it is best if they can eat a little bit very often.

Grain can be a useful supplement if you’re having trouble meeting your horse’s caloric needs. However, it is more calorie-dense, so it should be used sparingly. Foals should not be fed grain, as a “high-energy” diet can lead to bone and joint problems.

Change their diet slowly, as sudden switches can cause abdominal upset or laminitis, where the hoof bone separates from the hoof wall.

Keeping Your Appaloosa Horse Healthy

These horses are well-known for their health. They have been developed to be healthy and solid horses, which they are – most of the time. However, these horses are prone to a few health problems that can be quite serious.

For lighter-colored horses, sunburn is a possibility. This is especially true for horses that have a considerable section of the leopard pattern. Darker-colored horses usually aren’t at such a big risk. Usually, horses will get burnt on areas of pink skin, such as on their muzzle, lips, ears, and genitals. Even mottled grey skin can still get sunburned. Sunburns can lead to skin cancer, so prevention is essential.

Human sunscreen products are safe to use on Appaloosa horses as long as it is gentle enough to use around the eyes. Shelter and shade can also help prevent sunburns.

Night blindness can also be a problem for this breed. While this usually isn’t very serious, it can make the horse more prone to accidents at night since they can’t see. It is thought that the LP gene can cause night blindness, as it is only a problem in this specific breed of horses.

This tends to worsen as the horse ages, so you may not even notice a problem until the horse is a few years old. You will either need to stall your horse at night before it gets dark or arrange for them to have a seeing-eye horse.

Total blindness is also likely. Appaloosas are up to 8 times more likely to be completely blind when compared to other breeds. It is thought to be due to genetics, but the cause has not been heavily studied. They also seem more prone to developing equine recurrent uveitis, which also leads to blindness. This is also called “moon blindness.” Not all of the horses with this condition go blind, however.

Luckily, living with a blind horse isn’t much more different than living with a sighted one. Most horses adapt to their blindness quite quickly. They can still be used for riding and pulling carriages, especially if they are with other horses.


Breeding Appaloosas is not much different from breeding other horses. You should only breed healthy horses. Visiting a vet before you breed is preferable, as it will prevent you from potentially breeding horses with health problems.

A breeding soundness exam is preferable. This is used to identify and manage possible problems before breeding. You should then ensure that your horse is cycling correctly, as an improper cycle can make breeding difficult.

Many people try to get their mares pregnant in the winter or summer to have the foal early in the year. You’ll need to get your mare cycling to time with when you want to breed her. You should track your mare to figure out when she’s in heat and when she’s ovulating. They can only breed about 5-7 days every 21-day cycle.

Are Appaloosas Suitable for You?

These horses are typically not extremely good at any one thing. Instead, they are sort of a horse-of-all-trades. They make decent riding horses but are versatile enough to perform a lot of jobs. Their personalities vary widely, though they are usually calm. What they were bred for matters.

If you’re looking for a beautiful horse, this is a reliable option. They’re also great options for hobby horse owners.

Featured Image: hoan luong, Flickr

Kristin Hitchcock

Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!



Kristin Hitchcock

Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!


Appaloosa Horse: Breed Profile

Spotted horses have been around for millennia. And one such breed of spotted horse, the Appaloosa, has been capturing the hearts of horse lovers for centuries. Besides their striking appearance, Appaloosas are known for being gentle, friendly, and loyal companions. They tend to be very eager to please, which makes them a great horse breed for equestrians of all experience levels.

Breed Overview

Weight: 950 to 1,200 pounds

Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)

Body Type: Compact, muscular build; colorful coat patterns with mottled skin; striped hooves; white sclera; sparse mane and tail

Best For: Owners and riders of all levels, including children

Life Expectancy: 30 years

Appaloosa History and Origins

Predecessors of the Appaloosa horse breed arrived in North America during the early 1600s with Spanish explorers. These horses made their way to the Northwest where Native Americans, particularly the Nez Perce people, appreciated the animals and began to breed them. Their strict breeding practices aimed to create a horse that was colorful, tractable, and intelligent. 

The breed's name likely relates to the Palouse River area where the Nez Perce lived. At first, people referred to the breed as Palouse horses, which later became Appaloosas.

The breed was almost lost during the late 1870s when the U.S. government was attempting to take over Native American land. Some tribe members fled with their horses, but many of these early Appaloosas were either stolen, lost, or killed.

During the 1930s, interest in the breed grew once again, and the few surviving horses created a new foundation for the breed. The Appaloosa Horse Club was created in 1938 as a breed registry, presiding over the breed's resurgence. It has since become one of the largest horse breed registries in the world.

Appaloosa Size

The Appaloosa horse typically stands between 14 hands (56 inches) and 15 hands (60 inches), though some can be a bit larger. Its average weight ranges from 950 to 1,200 pounds. 

Appaloosa Breeding and Uses

The Nez Perce people bred Appaloosas for transport, hunting, and battle. The modern Appaloosa is still an extremely versatile horse. Its uses include pleasure and long-distance trail riding, working cattle and rodeo events, racing, and many other Western and English riding sports. The breed also is frequently seen in film and on television, where its distinctive markings can steal a scene. It's a friendly, gentle horse whose loyalty makes it an especially rewarding and enjoyable companion.

Colors and Markings

The base color of the Appaloosa can be red roan, blue roan, bay roan, gray, palomino, chestnut, cremello/perlino, grulla, dun, buckskin, black, brown, dark bay, or bay. Facial colors and patterns include bald, blaze, snip, stripe, and star. On the legs, you might find eel, pastern, ankle, half-pastern, coronet, stocking, half-stocking, and lightning marks. 

The Appaloosa's skin is mottled with white and dark patches of pigmentation that give the appearance of splotches. These markings occur across the body in a few distinct patterns, depending on the horse's genetic makeup. The registry recognizes several coat patterns, including:

  • Blanket: The haunches are all white, or they are white and speckled with dark spots.
  • Leopard: The body is mainly white with dark spots.
  • Snowflake: The body is dark with white spots or flecks, especially over the haunches.
  • Marble: White and dark hairs mingle to create a mottled appearance.

Solid-colored Appaloosa horses may be "appendix registered" because they can carry the gene for a coat pattern but not exhibit that particular pattern themselves.

The manes and tails of most Appaloosas are very sparse. Thinly haired areas of the body, such as the muzzle, are mottled. And the hooves are often striped white and dark. 

Unique Characteristics of the Appaloosa

The Appaloosa is best known for its eye-catching appearance. The potential combinations of colors and markings are virtually limitless, giving each individual Appaloosa a distinct look. But hardiness and agility are also valued traits, along with its exceptionally faithful nature and gentle demeanor.

Moreover, the striping on the Appaloosa’s hooves is unusual among horses. It runs vertically, with a distinct alternating pattern of dark and light on each hoof. In addition, the Appaloosa's sclera (the white portion of the eye that surrounds the iris) is visible. This is a characteristic not seen in other horse breeds.

The Best Horse and Pony Breeds for Kids

Diet and Nutrition

Appaloosas require a standard horse diet of fresh grass, quality hay, grains, and some fruits and vegetables. They might need vitamin and mineral supplementation, especially if they cannot graze freely in pasture. The amount of food they need largely depends on their size and activity level. 

Common Health and Behavior Problems

Appaloosas generally enjoy good health, lack notable behavioral issues, and aren't prone to lameness. But many can develop certain eye problems. For one, their eyes tend to water, which can attract flies and lead to infection or irritation. A fly mask can help protect the area.

Additionally, they're more prone to equine recurrent uveitis than most other breeds. This is an infection of the eye's uveal tract, which causes puffiness, redness, and squinting. It can eventually lead to retina damage if left untreated.

Moreover, many Appaloosas carry the gene that can cause congenital stationary night blindness. Afflicted horses lack night vision starting at birth. A veterinary ophthalmologist can perform a vision test to check whether a horse has the condition.


Grooming at least once or twice a week is ideal to remove dirt, debris, and tangles. If you have a primarily white horse, more frequent brushings can keep the coat looking its best. Regular use of a horse shampoo also can help. In addition, make hoof inspections and cleanings a daily activity to look for injuries and prevent infections.

Furthermore, some Appaloosas are prone to sun damage, especially on exposed pink skin and areas of light hair. Consider an equine-safe sunscreen, and provide your horse with shade at all times.


  • Unique colors and markings

  • Gentle

  • Loyal


  • Prone to eye problems

  • Many need sun protection

Champion and Celebrity Appaloosa Horses

A horse named Knobby, born in 1918, is recognized as a foundation sire of today's Appaloosa breed. His herd was not affected by the U.S. government's confiscation, so he was an important contributor to the foundation stock for the breed.

Sundance was a leopard-spotted Appaloosa stallion foaled in 1933. His descendants continue to exhibit his beautiful coat pattern. Sundance's pedigree contains horses of thoroughbred and mustang breeding.

Another notable foundation stallion was Red Eagle, born in 1946. He was actually part Arabian, as it was common to incorporate other light horse breeds in the effort to recover the Appaloosa breed. Red Eagle is found in many Appaloosa pedigrees today.

Is the Appaloosa Horse Right for You?

This gentle breed is a good choice for beginning equestrians and for anyone wanting a devoted equine companion. Many children can even comfortably manage an Appaloosa. It's a relatively low-maintenance, versatile breed that's great for a general riding horse, as well as a competitor in equestrian sports.

How to Adopt or Buy Appaloosas

Appaloosas generally cost between $1,000 and $10,000 on average. The price can fluctuate depending on their age, training, and pedigree. Because Appaloosa numbers are on the rise, you’re likely to find a suitable horse near you. 

Aim to visit the breeder or rescue organization to spend time with the horse before committing. Make sure the organization can provide adequate information on the horse’s history, health, temperament, and training. Look for any lameness, labored breathing, or other signs of injury or illness that the organization hasn’t disclosed.

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Appaloosa Horse Pictures:
A Versatile Breed with a Beautiful Coat

In these Appaloosa horse pictures you can see some of the defining physical characteristics of the breed. They are mostly known for their often striking spotted coats. Other physical traits include:

  • mottled skin
  • white sclera around the eye
  • vertically striped hooves
  • short mane and tail

Mottled Skin- Look at the muzzle/nose on the picture of my mare below. See how the skin has uneven spots of pink and black that almost look blotchy? That is what "mottled" means. If you look up close at pictures or at an Appaloosa in person, you will notice this.

White Sclera- The sclera in the white part around the iris or colored part of the eye. You can see the sclera on any horse if they are scared, but in an Appaloosa you can see it under normal conditions. In the picture above you can see it on the inside corner of her eye. 

Vertically Striped Hooves- White and black stripes that run from the top to the bottom of the hoof. This trait is also found in horses other than Appaloosas.

Short Mane and Tail- You can see in some of the pictures above that this type of horse doesn't generally have a very long mane and tail.  This was selectively bred for by the Nez Perce Native Americans. The shorter mane and tail is much less likely to get caught in branches and brush.

The Appaloosa in the above picture must not have gotten the message about short manes and tails!

This type of Appaloosa is what is called a blanket coat pattern.

That is where the area around the hips is white, and often spotted, while the rest of the coat is a darker base color. This one looks almost more like a roaned darker base color which means there are white hairs within the darker base color.

I hope you have enjoyed these pictures!

Leave Appaloosa Horse Pictures to navigate to other great pictures and learning.

Incredible Appaloosa Horses From Haras Santa Fe

Appaloosa Horse

The Appaloosa (pronunciation: ˌæ.pə.ˈlu.sə) is a breed of ancient American horses that originated from the indigenous Americans, and are mostly known for their characteristic ornamental spotted patterns. This color breed is classified based on color genetics, rather than conformational features. In fact, the three core features with which they are distinguished are their mottled skin, eyes with a white sclera, and the striped hooves. At present, this horse is one of the most sought-after breeds in the US and is famous as a stock horse that takes part in numerous western riding disciplines.

Appaloosa Horse Pictures

Quick Information

Behavioral Characteristics (Personality)Generally docile by temperament; courageous, tractable, lively, willing, with a noble disposition
Physical TraitsA compact physique having a mottled appearance of varied patterns (though specimens with solid colors are also found), correct legs, and with the eyes having white sclera; tail and mane are short-coupled, while the feet are hard with striped hooves
Coat ColorsSee section Characteristic Spotting/Color Patterns below
Height/Size14 – 16 hands (adult average)
Weight950 – 1,250 pounds (430 to 570 kg)
Common UsesDressage, eventing, endurance, racing and other sports; ranch work, general riding, long-distance/trail riding
Health Problems/DiseasesVision/eye problems are common, e.g., they are prone to have an eight-time greater risk of developing Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU) than all other breeds put together; also Congenital Stationary Night Blindness (CSNB)
TypeShow horse, Work horse, Pleasure horse, Stock horse, Parade horse, Circus horse
Blood TypeWarm
Popular TraitsStrong endurance, versatile, easy training, hardy
Ancestors/LineageSpotted horses, Mustangs
Feeding/DietGeneral horse diet including hay, grass, grains, etc.
Lifespan/LongevityAbout 30 years
Country of OriginUSA
Associations and RegistriesThe Appaloosa Horse Club

Video: Appaloosa Horse Riding

Spotting/Color Patterns of the Appaloosa Horses

The Appaloosas are associated by most horse lovers with their unique color patterns or marking variations collectively known as the “leopard complex”. In general, the coat of the Appaloosa horse has a base color that is overlaid by the characteristic spots. The Appaloosa Horse Club has recognized several base colors that include palomino, buckskin, cremello or perlino, bay, grulla, roan, gray, dun, chestnut, and black. The characteristic leopard complex patterns have the classified into the following categories:

  • Spots
  • Snowflake
  • Snowcap/Blanket
  • Frost/Roan Blanket
  • Blanket with spots
  • Roan Blanket with Spots
  • Appaloosa Roan/Marble/Varnish Roan
  • Leopard
  • Few Spot Leopard
  • Mottled

History and Development

The history and existence of spotted horses in Asia and Europe are centuries-old, while the present day Appaloosa was created in the 18th century by the indigenous people of North America – the Nez Percé Indians. Its original name was Palouse Horse (thought to be after River Palouse flowing through the territory of the New Percé people), which later evolved as ‘Appaloosa’.

The breed developed in the regions of Idaho, Oregon and some parts of Washington. Basically, the Appaloosa developed in the then US along with the Spanish horses that were brought there by the conquistadores, the Spanish explorers who came to the country.

During that time, the Appaloosa horse was not only created for its physical beauty, but also for its inherent strength and endurance. Thus, these equines developed into successful working horses that were, at the same time, skilled as a war and hunting horse. In fact, these horses caught the attention of the then famous ‘Lewis & Clark Expedition’ (1804 to 1806).

In the meantime, the government of the country started confiscating the land belonging to the tribal people and relocating them elsewhere. In this situation, the Nez Percé tribe stood against the government but was eventually defeated. During this time, many numbers of their precious Appaloosa horses were captured along with, or else, were killed. Unfortunately, such an act resulted in the separation of the entire band of these animals, while the loss of their own people proved to be a significant barrier in the continued development of the breed.

Eventually, after this mishap, the breed itself was forgotten until Dr. Francis Haines, a renowned authority on the Nez Percé Indians, took the initiative of publishing an article in 1937 – The Appaloosa or Palouse Horse – in the ‘Western Horseman’, one of the world’s leading horse magazines since 1936, where he vividly discussed the spotted breed.

Haines’ effort proved to be a good success, and the long-forgotten equine very soon returned back to the forefront, with horse lovers taking a fresh interest in them. Soon after, a new organization, the Appaloosa Horse Club, was founded in Idaho in 1938, with an aim to preserve and renew the breed. Interestingly, within five decades, the organization turned out to be the third largest horse association in the world.

Presently, several other races, viz. the Nez Perce Horse, the Pony of the Americas, and a few other gaited horses, have been influenced by the true Appaloosa bloodlines. In the modern time, crossbreeding the Appaloosa horses with other breeds, especially the American Quarter, resulted in the loss of coat patterns as well as affected their conformation. However, the immense popularity of the breed around the world inspired many associations and breeder organizations to take strong initiatives in ensuring the continuity of their original bloodlines.

Interesting Facts

  • The US state of Idaho declared the Appaloosa as its state horse.
  • Often, the Appaloosas change their coat colors when they age.
  • The mascot of the Florida State Seminoles (athletic teams that represent the Florida State University) is an Appaloosa horse.
  • One of the longest-running shows in the history of television was Walt Disney’s ‘Run Appaloosa Run’, featuring an indigenous Canadian First Nations girl, and ‘Sky Dance’, her Appaloosa horse. The program ran for 29 years until it was canceled in 1983.

Similar news:

20 Gorgeous Images Of Appaloosa Horses To Make Your Day

With their gorgeous coat patterns and lively personalities, it's no wonder the Appaloosa horse is one of the most popular color breeds in the world. Their distinctive spots create mesmerizing patterns, and these gorgeous horses bring home ribbons in both western and English disciplines. Even if your Appaloosa sticks to trail riding or looking pretty in a pasture, there's a lot to admire about these gorgeously spotted horses. 

With so many variations, we can stare at their photos all day long. Here are 20 of our favorite Appaloosa images for you to drool over.

Appaloosa Coat Patterns

Appaloosas are a "color breed," and they come in various colors. Base colors can include black, chestnut, buckskin, dun, bay, palomino, and grulla. Their uniquely spotted coats are also grouped into different patterns recognized by the Appaloosa Horse Club.

Snowflake: A dark base coat is adorned with white spots and flecks.

Leopard:A white horse with dark spots distributed all over the body.

Blanket/Snowcap: A solid white section covers the horse's hip area to contrast the rest of the coat's base color.

Blanket with Spots:A blanket pattern with dark spots within the large white area.

Varnish/Appaloosa Roan: A version of the leopard complex, a varnish roan has intermixed dark and light colored hairs.

Frost/Roan Blanket: A blanket pattern with the addition of roaning over the horse's croup and hips.

Appaloosa Characteristics 

Spots make Appaloosas easy to pick out of a crowd, but coat pattern isn't their only interesting characteristic. The Appaloosa Horse Club recognizes three other distinctive characteristics.

Mottled or Parti-colored Skin: Along with their spotted coats, Appaloosas also have mottled, splotchy, or speckled skin. It's most often on their muzzle, genitals, and around the eyes. A solid-colored horse can sometimes be registered as an Appaloosa if it has this skin characteristic.

White Sclera:The sclera is the white area of the eye. In most horse breeds, you can't see the whites of their eyes unless the horse is rolling their eyes or you pull back their eyelid. In Appaloosas, the sclera is more visible even when the horse is looking straight on. 

Striped Hooves: It's common for Appaloosa horses to have light or dark stripes on their hooves.




A Horse For (Almost) Any Job

Most Appaloosas stand 14.2 - 15.2 hands tall and have an athletic build similar to a Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse. That isn't the rule, however. Appaloosas come in several different body types and excel in a long list of disciplines.

They're a favorite in western riding and often do well in barrel racing and working with livestock. Their endurance also makes them great for long-distance trail riding. For English riders, Appaloosas can also perform well in eventing, show jumping, and fox hunting.

Changing With Age

You can't always tell what an adult Appaloosa will look like when it's born. It's common for their spots to change color, shape, and number as they age. 

This is especially true for the snowflake and varnish roan color patterns. These horses will mostly likely grow up to look completely different than they did at birth.



A Native American Legacy

The Native American Nez Perce people are the main contributors to the Appaloosa breed. They lived in Washington, Oregon, and western Idaho before foreign settlers arrived. By the early 19th century, they were well-known for their quality Appaloosa horses.

The Nez Perce even had a hand in naming the breed. The spotted horses were originally called "Palouse horses" in reference to the river that ran through Nez Perce territory. With time, that name evolved into several variations. There was Apalouse, Appalucy, and Apalousy before the current version took over.




Do you have an Appaloosa horse? We'd love to see! Share you horse's picture with us for a chance to be named our Horse of the Day! 

Learn more about this stunning breed!

Want to see more gorgeous horses? Check out these gorgeous Paint Horses next!

Horse Courses by Elaine Heney purchased and acquired permissions for all above photographs.

Sources:, Horse Illustrated, ApHC


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