Appaloosa Horses Are a Lasting Symbol of Nez Perce Country

Posted by Christy Caplan
Appaloosa Horse

The Appaloosa horse is known for its colorful spotted coat patterns but did you know it's also the state horse of Idaho? There are a ton of fun facts about this 'color breed' and opinions vary about how they landed here in the U.S.

The Appaloosa horse is one of America's most popular horse breeds.

The majority of Appaloosas seen in horse shows have an athletic build resembling the quarter horse and hunter type thoroughbred. however, Appaloosas come in a variety of body types including stock horses, sport horses, racehorses and trail horses. What's the history behind this beautiful horse?

What is an Appaloosa horse?

The Appaloosa is a 'color breed'.


  • Average height 14.2-15.2 hands.
  • Best specimens have the confirmation of well-bred stock ponies.
  • The white sclera of the eye & mottled muzzle skin.

Appaloosas come in various base colors including bay, black, chestnut, palomino, buckskin, dun and grulla. The unique spotting patterns include:

  • Blanket - white over the hip that may extend from the tail to the base of the neck.
  • Leopard - white pattern exhibited to an extreme with base colored spots of various sizes covering most of the body.
  • Snowcap - this blanket can extend across most of the body, but they usually retain their base color on head, legs, flanks, and elbows.
  • Snowflake - white spots, flecks, on a dark body. Typically the white spots increase in number and size as the horse ages.
  • Varnish - dark points (legs and head) and some spots or roaning over a light body.
  • Frost - similar to varnish but the white hairs are limited to the back, loins, and neck. May occur in conjunction with another spotting style and change with age. Often starts out as a solid-colored horse that gets more white as it ages.

What are Appaloosa horses used for?

They are used for everything from ranch work, show horse, stock horse, racing and long-distance riding. They were bred for strength and endurance. 

The modern Appaloosa is used for long-distance trail riding but also used for working cattle and rodeo events, racing, and many other riding sports. 

Where are Appaloosa horses from?

The Equinest tells us that when the U.S Government began seizing tribal lands & re-locating tribes to reservations, the Nez Perce tribe fought, but were defeated. Many of their prized horses were redistributed or slaughtered, thus separating the well-bred band of animals including the Appaloosa.

"After this tragedy, the Appaloosa was all but forgotten until 1937 when Dr. Francis Haines published an article in The Western Horseman titled "The Appaloosa or Palouse Horse". The article sparked a renewed interest in the spotted animals & by 1938 the Appaloosa Horse Club was formed in Idaho to renew & preserve the breed. Just 50 years later the breed registry became the third-largest in the world."

These spotted horses are beautiful and the Appaloosa breed is believed to have been shipped to America when the spotted horse trend was over in Europe. Lucky for North America, Native Americans saved this breed! The coat color is jaw-dropping and the Nez Perce Indians embraced this breed for not only their beauty and those stunning Appaloosa patterns but also for their endurance.

You really need to refer to this list as the Appaloosa coat pattern is complicated! The Varnish Roan is so beautiful. Whether you just enjoy riding horses or drool over the mottled skin and striped hooves these bloodlines need to be saved and we hope to see many foals born in the coming years.

Cool fact? Thanks to Spruce Pets we learned that the breed's name likely relates to the place where the Nez Perce was bred and treasured the unmistakable horses: the Palouse River area. The strikingly colored horses were referred to as the "Palouse River Horses," which eventually became "Appaloosas."

What do you think about these Appaloosa horses? Share your thoughts below.

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Appaloosa Horses Are a Lasting Symbol of Nez Perce Country