The name "Appaloosa" came from the settlers in the Pacific
Northwest Palouse region in the 1700's. They began calling
the spotted horses "palouse horses", possibly after the Palouse
River, which ran through the heart of Nez Perce country, or
possibly after the Palus Indian tribe which was also in the
area. The name was then shorted and slurred to "appalousey"
and gradually the "Appaloosa" name evolved. Breeders and owners
have further shortened the name to "Appy".
While there is evidence of leopard-spotted horses dating
back to cave paintings from the Upper Paleolithic era around
18,000 BC at Lascaux and Peche-Merle, France, as well as other
art from ancient Persia, ancient Greece, China and 16th century
France and other areas of Europe, it is the Nez Perce people
of the Pacific Northwest that are considered to have developed
the American version of the Appaloosa breed.
But is not very clear how these spotted horses arrived in
North America, although it is suspected that Spanish explorers
brought them in among their other horses in the early 1500s.
Cortez is said to have brought at least one horse with a snowflake
pattern to Mexico, and other spotted horses have been mentioned
by Spanish writers in 1604.
The spotted horses appear to have reached the Pacific Northwest
by 1700. The Nez Perce tribes who lived in eastern Washington
and Oregon and Idaho acquired the horses from the Shoshone
tribes around 1730. They developed strict breeding selection
practices and were one of the few tribes to participate in
gelding inferior colts. They also actively traded away poorer
stock to remove unsuitable animals from the gene pool. The
Nez Perce became well known as horse breeders by the early
The Nez Perce lost most of their horses after the Nez Perce
War of 1877 and never regained their position as breeders
of the Appaloosa. The breed started to die out for several
decades, but a small handful of dedicated breeders kept the
Appaloosa alive for several decades until the Appaloosa Horse
Club (ApHC) was founded in 1938 in Moro, Oregon. It was moved
in1947 to Moscow, Idaho and in 1975, the Appaloosa was named
the official state horse of Idaho with a custom license plate
featuring the breed being issued. Idaho is the first state
to offer a state horse license plate. By 1978, the ApHC was
the third largest horse registry in the United States. Today
the Appaloosa is one of the most popular breeds in the United
States and as of 2007, more than 670,000 Appaloosas have been
registered in the United States and 40 foreign countries by
Because several different equine breeds influenced the Appaloosa,
there are several body styles. An Appaloosa may resemble a
shorter, more compact Arabian or a longer, leaner Thoroughbred,
or anything in between, but the minimum adult height requirement
is 14 hands, with an average height of 15.1 hands.
Although Appaloosas are most commonly recognized by their
plethora of leopard-spotted coat pattern combinations, they
also have other distinctive characteristics such as mottled
skin; white sclera around the eyes; and striped hooves in
the absence of white leg markings. Therefore, most of the
literature about them is related to their coloring.
The ApHC recognizes the following base colors: bay, black,
dun, Bay roan, blue roan, Red roan, palomino, Cremello, Perlino
and Grulla. Each should also display one of the Appaloosa
patterns on top of the base color. Also, an Appy can have
brown, blue or hazel eyes or even two different colored eyes
on the same horse. There are seven common terms used to describe
the coat patterns but they are quite variable and there are
many horses that may not fit into specific categories easily.
Blanket - a solid white area normally over the hip area.
Leopard- white or dark spots over all or a portion of the
Blanket with Leopard Spots - a white blanket with dark spots
Roan - a mixture of light and dark hairs. If no blanket
or spots, the horse will also need mottled skin and one other
characteristic to qualify for registration.
Roan Blanket - roan pattern over a portion of the body with
a blanket normally occurring over the hip area.
Roan Blanket With Spots - a roan blanket which has white
and/or dark spots within the roan area.
Solid - a base color but no contrasting Appaloosa coat pattern.
This horse will need mottled skin and one other characteristic
to qualify for registration
Most Appaloosa foals are born with lighter colored coats
than they will have when they get older, with the exception
of gray horses, which are born dark and become lighter with
age. Black horses look mousy gray when they are born.
Mottled or parti-colored skin is unique to the Appaloosa
horse and therefore it is a basic decisive indicator of an
The color pattern of the Appaloosa fascinates those who
study equine coat color genetics such as those in the Horse
Genome Project or the Appaloosa Project, because both the
coat pattern and several other physical characteristics appear
to be linked to the "Lp" or "leopard" gene or gene complex,
but the precise inheritance mechanism is not yet fully understood.
Not every horse with the Lp gene exhibits hair coat spotting
and there is currently no DNA test for the gene.
Appaloosas sometimes show up with sabino or American Paint
type markings but extensive research on the interactions of
Appaloosa and American Paint genes and how they affect each
other has found that the genes that create these different
patterns can all exist in the same horse. However, because
the overo pattern may obscure Appaloosa patterns, Paint breeding
is discouraged by the ApHC, which will deny registration for
excessive white markings.
Appaloosas have a high risk of developing spontaneous Equine
Recurrent Uveitis (ERU) or "moon blindness", which can lead
to blindness if not treated. As many as 25% of all Appaloosas
may develop ERU, which is the highest rate of any horse breed.
The University of Minnesota is currently conducting research
to determine if there is a genetic factor involved and a potential
gene region that may be linked to the condition may have been
There is another downside to the breed since many Appaloosa
are crop-outs from the Quarter Horse, and that is Hyperkalemic
Periodic Paralysis (HYPP). This is listed as a genetic defect,
along with Parrot Mouth and Cryptorchid conditions. HYPP is
inherited as a dominant trait and is characterized by intermittent
episodes of uncontrolled muscle tremors (shaking, trembling
or twitching) or profound muscle weakness, and in severe cases,
may lead to collapse and/or death. To date, HYPP has been
traced only to descendants of a horse named IMPRESSIVE, #0767246.
Acetazolamide ("Acet") is used for treating horses with the
disease and prevents them from having seizures.
The Appaloosa horse is extremely versatile, and they have
set records in speed on race racks, due to their Quarter Horse
and Thoroughbred genes, and have earned high honors in dressage,
games, roping, endurance, jumping and reining. They make wonderful
family horses due to their gentle dispositions and their eagerness
to please their owners. And they are intelligent and have
Author Resource: Crystal Eikanger writes for www.HorseClicks.com,