Spotted horses have existed since pre-historic times – pre-historic man drew spotted horses on cave walls. Three-thousand-year-old Chinese paintings show colorful spotted horses. In the United States, the Appaloosa as a breed originated in the American West. It is descended from horses selectively bred by the Nez Perce Indians who lived near the Palouse river in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The Nez Perce took great pride in their horses’ appearance and abilities. Any stallion which was not of superior quality was gelded. This, combined with carful breeding, led to a pure and magnificent breed. The Appaloosa is a very popular breed, and there are over 570,000 registered throughout the world.
The most outstanding characteristic is the Appaloosa’s “spotted” coloring. The varied patterns and colors are the blanket, leopard, snowflake, and marbleized roan. The spotted portion of the hair can be felt since the darker hair grows at a different rate than the background hair. The average Appaloosa stands between 14.2 and 15.3 hands. Horses less than 14 hands at maturity cannot be registered. The Appaloosa weighs between 800 and 1000 pounds, and has strong legs and quarters. The Appaloosa Horse is increasingly popular and is used for stock work, show, and even show jumping.
The Appaloosa is descended from horses originally brought to America by the Spanish beginning in the 1500s. Spanish horses are frequently spotted due to the Barb blood they carried. The spooted horse was found attractive to the Nez Perce Indians, and hence they bred horses with this coloring in mind. The Nez Perce bred their horses in the canyons of the area near the Palouse River. The canyons proved ideal enclosures for separating horses for seletive breeding.
When Lewis and Clark encountered the Nez Perce, Lewis was truck by the quality of their horses. he described their horses as “an excellent race; they are lofty, elegantly formed, active, and durable…” After incursions into their tribal lands and harassment by white settlers, the Nez Perce attempted to flee. Led by Chief Joseph, the Indians and 3000 of their horses attempted a 1600 mile march to Canada. In battles with the pursuing U.S. Cavalry, the Nez Perce lost many horses – 900 in one battle along. Only 1100 horses survived the ordea of the Indian’s defeat, and these were dispersed threatening the breed’s future.
After Appaloosas were dispersed in the Indian wars, stockman still raised them for working cattle. In time, the circuses discovered the Appaloosa and his decorative appeal. The demand of the big shows raised the price of Appaloosas. A horse trader in Oregon in 1870 bought up many spotted horses, sorted them in matched pairs, and sold them for $3,000 or more to the circuses. His prices to ranchers and Indians seldom reached $100 a head. The Barnes Circus in 1914 was famed for its Liberty Horse Act which featured 12 Appaloosas. The famous equestrians, Ella and Fred Bradna and Fred Derrick, used Appaloosas when they toured with Barnum and Bailey and later Ringling Brothers.
Buffalo Bill (William Cody) was a cavalry scout, buffalo hunter and theatrical showman. In his famous Wild West Show, his favorite mount was a spotted horse variously called Sultan or Van. Rose Bonnier, the leading equine painter in France in the nineteenth century, painted a portrait of Buffalo Bill on Sultan, when he brought his Wild West Show to Paris during a trou of the continent in 1889. The flashy Appaloosas had popular appeal and Cody used them to a great advantage in his show. He assembled horses from all over the world for the Cossack, Gaucho, and Cowboy rider; but for his own mount, he chose the Appaloosa. Mrs. Cody had a matched pair of Appaloosas, white with black spots, which she drove to a carriage.
An 1937 exhibition of Appaloosas in art and an article on the breed in the Western Horseman Magazine created a new interest in the Indian’s spotted horse. The result was incorporation of the Appaloosa Horse Club in 1938. It barely stayed alive through World War II, but new research on the spotted horse in the old world interested more people in the breed. The first all-Appaloosa show was held at Lewiston, Idaho, in 1948. In 1950, the Appaloosa Horse Club was recognized by the National Association of Stallion registration Boards. Canada and England also formed Appaloosa Horse Clubs and many regional clubs were formed within the U.S. The modern Appaloosa is a fast-growing and popular breed.
For more information, contact:
The International Colored Appaloosa Association
P.O. Box 99
Shipshewana, IN 46565
Appaloosa Horse Club
2720 W Pullman Rd
Moscow, ID 83843