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The Appaloosa

Although Appaloosas are readily recognized by their spotted coats, some "Appys" are solid in color. The Appaloosa Horse Club recognizes 13 different base colors, including bay, black, chestnut, white, and palomino. The identifiable characteristics of the breed are: white sclera around the eye; striped hooves; sparse, short mane and tail; and, mottled skin around the nostrils and genitalia, a characteristic unique to Appaloosas. Appys range in height from 14.2 to 16 hands.

Appaloosa patterns are:

  • Blanket - white over the hip area with a contrasting base color;
  • Spots - white or dark spots over all or a portion of the body;
  • Blanket with spots - a combination of the above two;
  • Roan;
  • Roan Blanket - has roan pattern over a portion of the body, usually the hips;
  • Roan Blanket with Spots - the roan blanket has spots within it; and,
  • Solid - coat has no contrasting color in the form of an Appaloosa coat pattern.
  • Leopard coats are white with dark spots;
  • Snowflake coats have dominant spotting over the hips;
  • Frost coats have white specks with a dark background.

There is a distinct difference in physical characteristics between the American and European Appaloosa. In the US, Appys have been crossed with Quarter Horses and have taken on the size and build of this breed. The European Appaloosa resembles the warmblood breeds and has been bred to withstand the rigors of jumping and dressage. This latter type is gaining popularity in the United States.


The spotted gene in horses is as old as the species of equine. Cro-Magnon cave art depicts spotted horses, and spotted horses were often highly esteemed in Europe and Asia and were often included in 17th century Chinese art.

In the United States, the Appaloosa was developed by the Nez Perce Indians who lived in Northeast Oregon along the Palouse river (northwest US). Historians believe the Nez Perce were the first tribe to breed selectively for specific traits, adhering to a strict, selective policy, keeping the best animals and trading away less desirable ones. The Nez Perce used Spanish horses "liberated" from the Spanish explorers (see the History of Mustangs for details) as their foundation stock, keeping those horses who carried the hereditary spotting genes.

When the white man wiped out most of the Nez Perce tribe, its horses were dispersed to settlers and allowed to breed randomly. It wasn't until 1938 that a group of dedicated horsemen formed the Appaloose Horse Club to revive the breed.

For more information, contact the Appaloosa Horse Club, Inc.

This article was kindly provided by Michelle Staples, Staples Stables

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