The history of the Appaloosa horse is simply fascinating. We know that it was known to primitive man through cave paintings discovered in France and other European locations. The ancient Greeks and Persians have referred to them in ancient writings from the eleven and twelve hundreds. Because of this breeds spotted coat we are assured that they are the Appaloosa breed.
The breed that we have in The United States today it is believed by many are descendants from the Spanish explorers horses that came here in the mid seventeen hundreds; they were brought to South America first and with time migrated north. Another theory is that they migrated here on their own from the Asia ice bridge crossing into Alaska from the 1200’s to the 1400’s; this is difficult to document as the land there is always frozen which makes it impossible to investigate possible clues. There is credibility for this theory because in China, Russia and Kyrgyzstan there’s proof that this breed did exist; however, in a war between Russia and Kyrgyzstan the breed was nearly totally destroyed.
There is yet another theory that this breed was introduced into the American North West (in Oregon and Washington State) by Asian fur traders in the1600’s. At about 1811 the Nez-Perce native Americans began to breed them specifically for hunting and war as they found them strong, smart and easy to ride. For these Native Americans this breed was a sign of prestige and wealth. Sadly many of these horses were killed in wars with the white settlers
There are several times when the breed was severely compromised The first time was in 1887 during an eleven thousand mile drive into the mountains by the American Cavalry. Both in the 1970’s and 1980’s interbreeding nearly rendered the pure bred appaloosa extinct.
How did the appaloosa horse receive its name?
The name “Appaloosa” was given to these horses by the Nez-Perce American Indian tribe who lived in The North American Territory; a French explorer (Etienne Marchand) is credited with originating the name. In Idaho and the state of Washington there is the Palosa River, and these horses were given their name from that river. The English translation of the term spotted horses in Spanish is another way that they got their name.
There are many interesting features of this breed
We should first be aware that today in The USA there are conflicting opinions of what is a genuine purebred Appaloosa horse. Many believe that the only purebred Appaloosas can come from a blood line of Arabian or Qatar thorobreds. Others claim that horses with coats of a spotted nature are Appaloosa. This is a perpetual debate that continues today.
The purists insist that only documented and verified breeding affidates with genetic backup tests over nine generations can prove that an appaloosa horse is a genuine purebred. In America this experiment is still in progress over decades and it is believed that the birth of a foal in 2024 will be able to prove this theory or not.
This breed has been highly compromised over the centuries due to interbreeding with other herds of multiple genetic origins. In fact, this is the reason today that so much debate continues over what is a true genuine appaloosa horse.
There are many diverse coat patterns for appaloosas:
- White with black
- White with red
- The white blanket (also known as the “snow cap” if completely white)
- The white blanket with spots (spots are present only if there is an L.T. gene)
- The leopard (is spotted with black hair, head and hips)
- The peacock leopard (exhibits the pattern of a peacock throughout its coat)
- The sorrel peacock leopard (has a chestnut spots)
- It is also possible to have a solid colored appaloosa
- A solid black all over coat is the rarest of the appaloosa breed
We also have diverse body types for these horses again because of interbreeding throughout history. The life span for this breed is between 26 to 30 years. There are never any two appaloos that look alike. However, there are some characteristics that only a genuine pure bred appaloosa has:
- One is that the white in their eyes is more vibrant and evident
- The other is that a ring called the “solara” encircles their eyes
- And yet another is that their hooves are striped.
What and where is their place in the USA today?
The appaloosa horse is considered to be a good family and riding horse. Ranchers use it to control cattle herds, but it is not viewed as a workhorse. This horse is an integral part of American history as it reflects the history of the USA. It is considered to be an American breed.
Why is this breed important?
This breed is important because as mentioned above it represents American history. It is very strong and has assisted mankind in so many pursuits such as transportation, farming and developing industry. It is strong, resilient and has always been at the side and disposal of men.
How is the continuation of this breed handled?
In the 1930’s lovers of horses organized to revive this breed as it was popular throughout the country; they established breed clubs and organizations to protect them. In 1938 a Registry was created in order to work toward re-establishing the purebred appaloosa. It was then decided that it would take nine generations of meticulous pedigree and genetic documented proof of parentage and bloodline to fully re-establish a pure, genuine appaloosa horse breed.
In Oklahoma and Texas there are horse shows yearly that feature the appaloosa in various demonstrations and competitions that are well attended by their fans.
The ICAA (International Colored Appaloosa Association) was formed to promote and further protect this breed several decades ago.
Why do photos of this breed make interesting wall art?
These horses always make beautiful and interesting wall art not only for their stature but for their unique coat colouring. The energy we see expressed by these animals in their natural habitats is a joy for us to witness on the walls of our home. They bring excitement and the outdoor world indoors.