Breed focus: Appaloosa

The Appaloosa originated from America and is best known for its colourful coat patterns and used by American Indians as a hardy mode of transport.

The word Appaloosa is derived from the word Palouse, the name of a river found in north-western USA. It was in this region that this type of horse was used by the Nez Perce tribe, and although they never actually called their spotted steeds ‘Appaloosas’, they did value them for their hardiness in the rugged mountain conditions.

Appaloosa horses were derived from descendants of Spanish stock brought to Mexico by the Conquistadors in the 17th century. It is claimed that descendants of these horses spread north through the United States via traders who bartered them with native Indians for goods, and as wild mustangs, only to be caught and tamed by the Nez Perce tribe.

The Appaloosa type nearly perished when native American Indians were forced onto reserves during the late 1800s and their horses slaughtered, or left to roam the mountains and plains. In 1938 the American Appaloosa Horse Club began, with a few descendants of the Nez Perce Appaloosa being used to develop the breed we as we know it today.

The first Appaloosas were imported into Australia in 1967 and the Australian Appaloosa Association was formed in 1971. It is claimed that there are currently nearly 20,000 registered Appaloosas nationwide with 18 Appaloosa Associations.

The Appaloosa stands at approximately 14.2-15.2 hands high and is a great all-rounder for any riding discipline. They are famed for their spotted or mottled coat colour that can spread across the whole body or just across the rump but this is not the defining characteristic of the breed standard.

To be registered as an Appaloosa a horse needs to have a white sclera (the area of the eye surrounding the iris), the skin should be mottled and the hooves must be marked with vertical black and white stripes.

There five principal coat patterns for Appaloosa horses: Leopard, Snowcap, Blanket, Marbleised and Frost. Some horses can also be one solid colour and not show any of the below patterns.

  • Leopard pattern: a white area over all or part of the body with dark egg shaped spots on that area.
  • Snowcap: white spotting occurs all over the body but is usually concentrated over the hips.
  • Blanket: the coat colour of the hips can be either spotted or white (in which case it is called a Snowcap blanket).
  • Marbleised: there is a mottled pattern all over the body.
  • Frost: white specks on a dark background.

For further information about the hardy and versatile Appaloosa, visit the Australian Appaloosa Association website.

Written by: Dannii Cunnane

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