Appaloosa Breed Spotlight

  • 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 char- acteristic to qualify for regular registration.

The Nez Perc? 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 Perc? 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 Perc? 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.


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 Perc? 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 Perc? 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

This article first appeared in the February, 2000 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.

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