The Appaloosa horse is truly an eye-catching animal, but beyond its unique appearance, the Appaloosa has a rich history in the Northwestern states of America. These horses played a major role in the Indian Wars and in the development of the early livestock industry.
Here’s a quick history recap…
The ancestors of the Appaloosa originated in Mexico with the Spanish empire of the 16th century. Eventually, around 1730, through trading, wars, and capturing strays, the Nez Perce tribe came into possession of some of these spotted horses. The tribe were drawn to these colourful mounts and were able to start a unique breeding process on the fertile ranges of Oregon, Washington, and the bordering area in Idaho.The Appaloosa bloodline is extremely diverse as a result of generations of breeding with a range of different bloodlines, both domestic and wild. After years of breeding the Nez Tribe established the Appaloosa as a recognised breed with a bloodline where each horses’ markings are unique and have the endurance and spirit of a wild Mustang. For many years, most of the Appaloosa horses were owned by the Nez Perce tribe, but the War of 1877 resulted in them being scattered throughout the West. Finally, on December 30, 1938, the Appaloosa Horse Club was organized for preserving and promoting the breed. Now there is an estimated amount of over 15,000 of these unique creatures in existence.
Appaloosa’s are all individual, each marking being completely unique (sort of like how every person’s fingerprint is completely different). However, while each horses spots are unique, most horses are white over the loin and hips, with dark, round, or egg-shaped spots varying in size from specks to three or four inches in diameter.
There are also a few common characteristics between each Appaloosa:
- Mottled skin
- Hoofs with vertical black and white stripes
However, other breeds can have similar characteristics such as mottled skin, so let’s look at it another way. If a horse has any of these characteristics they are NOT part of the Appaloosa family:
- Mature horses under 14 hands
Horses of Pinto, albino or draft horse breeding
Adaptation and Use
With the Nez Tribe, these horses were an essential part of the tribes’ lifestyle and their livelihoods became centred around riding and breeding these great horses. The Appaloosa was an essential companion used for war, racing, and buffalo hunting. However, Appaloosas are now mainly used as pleasure horses, parade mounts, racehorses or for stock horses.