Breed Profile: Appaloosa
Profile, description, history and uses of the Appaloosa horse.
By Jayne Pedigo
The Appaloosa horse was developed by the Nez Perce Indians in the mid-1700's. The Nez Perce lived in a region encompassing the northeastern corner of Oregon, the southeastern corner of Washington and adjecent lands in Idaho. The name Appaloosa is derived from "Palouse", one of the rivers flowing through this region.
Spotted horses were first introduced to the Americas by Spaniards in the 1600's and these horses became the foundation stock of the Nez Perce tribe. The Nez Perce employed strict breeding practices, including the gelding of male horses that did not meet their standards and trading off unsuitable female horses. The Nez Perce not only bred for color, they also bred for strength and stamina, since they needed horses that were suitable for warfare and as practical workhorses.
The Appaloosa breed almost disappeared completely in 1876 when tribal lands were seized by the US Government and Indians were being moved onto reservations. Under the leadership of Chief Joseph, the Nez Perce did not surrender peacefully and ended up conducting a fighting retreat through the mountains. Their ultimate goal was to seek sanctuary in Canada, but after a march of about 1,300 miles they were forced to surrender in the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana, just short of the border. Their belongings were confiscated and their horses were slaughtered.
The survival of the breed depended on a few remaining horses and in 1938 the Appaloosa Horse Club was formed to preserve the breed, based on the descendants of those survivors. The registry quickly grew and within 50 years, it was the third largest horse registry in the world, with over 400,000 registered horses.
Today's Appaloosa stands between 14.2 and 15.2 hands high and is compact, with strong legs.
The most distinctive characteristic of the Appaloosa is the coat color and their are five main coat patterns that are recognized in the Appaloosa.
Leopard - white over all or part of the body, with dark spots in the white area.
Blanket - spotted patch located over the hips.
Snowflake - white spotting can occur all over the body, but concentrated over the hips.
Marbleized - mottled pattern covers the entire body.
Frost - white specks on a dark background.
In addition to the distinctive coat colors, Appaloosas also have other distinguishing features, which are seen even in horses that have solid coat color. The sclera, the area of the eye surrounding the iris is white instead of the usual dark color seen in other breeds, and the skin around the muzzle and genitalia is often noticably mottled or spotted.
Appaloosa horses are not the only horses with this spotted coloring. Other spotted breeds include the Knabstruber, the Pony of the Americas and the Colorado Ranger Horse. Breed profiles for these breeds will be added as time permits.
In the US, the Appaloosa is popular as a stock and pleasure horse, and is regularly used in the western riding disciplines such as western pleasure, barrel racing and others.
The Appaloosa has become increasingly popular in the English disciplines of jumping and dressage and the Appaloosa Sport Horse has been developed using Appaloosas of the "English riding type" with conformation and movement suited to those disciplines.
The Encyclopedia of the Horse - Elwyn Hartley-Edwards. ISBN 1-56458-614-6
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Appaloosa Breed Spotlight
An at-a-glance profile of this colorful breed.
From the Editors of Horse & Rider magazine
Typically stands 14.2 to 15.2 hands.
Typically weighs 1,050 to 1,200 pounds.
Has seven main coat patterns:
Blanket. A solid white area, normally over the hip area, with a contrasting base color.
Spots. White or dark spots over all or on some portion of the body.
Blanket with spots. A white blanket that has dark spots within the white.
Roan. A light-colored area on the forehead, jowls, and frontal bones of the face; also over the back, loins, and hips. Dark areas may appear along the frontal bones of the face, and also on the legs, stifle, above the eye, point of hip, and behind the elbow.
Roan blanket. Roan pattern consisting of a mixture of light and dark hairs, over a portion of the body. The blanket normally occurs over, but not limited to, the hip area. Roan blanket with spots. A roan blanket that has white and or dark spots within the roan area.
Solid. A solid base color, with no visible Appaloosa coat pattern. Needs to have mottled skin and one other Appaloosa characteristic to qualify for regular registration.
The Nez Percé Indians developed the Appaloosa horse from Spanish stock, some of which carried spotting genes. Through selective breeding, they created a unique horse breed that's strong, fast, and sure-footed. However, an influx of white settlers to the Northwest almost caused the Appaloosa's demise. By 1877, the United States was forcing Indians onto reservations. Many of the Nez Percé refused to give in, and, under Chief Joseph, eluded the U.S. Cavalry for months. They trekked toward Canada over 1,300 miles of mountainous terrain.
When Chief Joseph finally surrendered, the Nez Percé were forced to relinquish their horses. Soon the qualities so prized by the tribe were lost or severely diluted due to indiscriminate breeding.
But Claude Thompson of Moro, Oregon, realized the value of preserving the breed, so he began the Appaloosa Horse Club in 1938. Since then, the Appaloosa horse has become an integral part of Western events, as well as distance riding, racing, and jumping.
IS THIS BREED FOR YOU?
This is a suitable breed for you if your horse-shopping checklist includes: versatility; hardiness; athleticism; tractability; agility; endurance; unique appearance; sure-footedness.
Name: The Nez Percé Indians lived in an area known as Palouse country. Their horses became known as Palouse horses. "A Palouse horse" slurred together became "Appaloosey." In 1938, the Appaloosa Horse Club officially adopted the name "Appaloosa."
Celebrity owners: Famous Appaloosa horse owners include John Lyons (Bright Zip), Cindy Crawford (Risqueschancellor), Loretta Lynn (owner of 27 Appaloosas), and Richard Gere (Sure I'm Silky).
Showing: The ApHC is the only breed registry to offer a Challenged Riders Leadline class at its national show.
History: Images of spotted horses appeared on Chinese vases, wall hangings, and statues dating back to circa 500 B.C.
Special Breed Notes
Registry: Appaloosas that are crossbred to Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, and Arabians can be registered with the ApHC; however, horses with draft, pony, albino, overo or tobiano pattern(s), Pinto Horse, or Paint Horse breeding may not.
History: Since 1965, the ApHC has offered the week-long Chief Joseph Trail Ride, retracing a different portion of the 1,300-mile route the Nez Percé took to evade the U.S. Calvary.
Foundation sires: Notable foundation sires include Bright Eyes Brother, Prince Plaudit, Joker B., Colida, Mansfield's Comanche, Red Eagle's Peacock, Wapiti, and Chief of Fourmile.
For more information, contact Appaloosa Horse Club, 2720 Pullman Rd., Moscow, ID 83843; (208) 882-5578; fax (208) 882-8150; e-mail aphc@appaloosa. com; or visit www.appaloosa.com.
This article first appeared in the February, 2000 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.
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