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Choosing an Appaloosa

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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The Appaloosa is one of the most recognizable horse breeds on Earth. With a unique spotted coat, the Appaloosa is considered one of the few breeds of horses with an intimate relationship with the American Indian.

History & Origin

The history of the Appaloosa can be traced back to horses imported to the United States by Spanish conquistadors. Eventually, the breed was admired, prized and developed by the Nez Perce Indian tribe who lived primarily in the area known today as Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

The Nez Perce tribe is considered the first tribe to systematically breed and develop horses. Their primary goal was to develop a horse that was swift, rugged and strong.

When white settlers invaded the area, the horses were referred to as Palouse horses, and named for the Palouse River that runs through the Nez Perce land. Over time, the word Palouse was distorted and finally the term Appaloosa was officially adopted as the horse's name.

After the U.S. Army took over the Nez Perce tribal territory, their horses were either slaughtered or abandoned. In the 1920s, efforts were made to re-establish the Appaloosa. In 1938, the first Appaloosa Horse Club was formed in Oregon. The breed was enhanced by breeding with Arabians and Quarterhorses. Today, the Appaloosa is very popular breed, and is most often found in the United States.

Appearance

The uniquely spotted Appaloosa is unmistakable and easy to distinguish from other multi-colored horses such as the pinto or paint horses. There are five main hair coat patterns of the Appaloosa.

  • Leopard – This pattern has white over the hips and loins with dark round or egg shaped spots.

  • Snowflake – This pattern has dark spots all over a white body but usually over the hips.

  • Blanket – This pattern has a white area over the hips without dark spots in the white.

  • Marble – This pattern has a mottled coloration all over the body.

  • Frost – This pattern has white specks with a dark background.

    Despite the hair coat pattern, all Appaloosas have a mottled color to the nose, lips and genitals. Also, the hooves have vertical black and white stripes. The Appaloosa has an overall compact and muscular appearance with a sparse mane and tail. The breed stands 14 to 16 hands.

    Abilities and Aptitudes

    The Appaloosa is a powerful horse with strong limbs and good hard feet. The breed is widely used in western riding, endurance riding and as a hunter/jumper show horse.

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