Appaloosa Horse Breed Overview and Origin

Published April 7, 2021
Appaloosa Horse

The Appaloosa horse is known for his colorful spotted coat patterns. This breed is practical, hardy, and versatile. Today the Appaloosa is used as a stock and pleasure horse.

Appaloosa Horse Breed Overview

Appaloosa-type horses were seen in North America in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The spotted horses are linked with the Nez Perce tribe of Oregon, eastern Washington, and western Idaho. The Appaloosa horse is named after the river valleys, specifically the Palouse river.

Origin and History

The color of this horse was important, but the Nez Perce tribe of Oregon required hardy, practical horses sustainable for war and hunting. Yet, the Appaloosa breed was almost wiped out between 1876 and 1877 as U.S. troops seized tribal lands. Then the breed underwent a revival in 1938, when there were only a few surviving descendants of the Nez Perce horses.

Height and Weight

The size of a horse is measured in hands or "hh."

  • Height at the withers: The Appaloosa is between 14.2 and 15.2hh.
  • Weight: The average weight for this breed is between 1,000 to 1,100 pounds.
appaloosa horse running

The Appaloosa Has Five Coat Patterns

There are five different coat patterns recognized in the breed. The horse's coat color is a base color with an overlaid spotting pattern.

  • Leopard - characterized by a white area over all or part of the body, and dark, egg-shaped spots within the white area
  • Snowflake - white spotting occurs all over the body but is usually concentrated over the hips
  • Blanket - the coat color over the hips can be either white or spotted
  • Marbleized - there is a mottled pattern all over the body
  • Frost - white specks on a dark background


The breed is hardy, willing, and known to have a tractable temperament.

Appaloosa Horse with Snowman

Fun Facts About the Appaloosa

The Appaloosa is the state horse of Idaho. There are many facts about Appaloosa horses every equine lover needs to know.

  • The best specimens look like well-bred cow ponies with solid limbs.
  • Horse owners cannot expect a specific color at birth, as the pattern cannot always be predicted.
  • Appaloosa horses need experienced owners!
  • Not all Appaloosa horses have spots.
  • Light-colored horses like the Appaloosa may get a sunburn.

The Horse Is Super Popular Worldwide

There are more than 33,000 members in the Appaloosa Horse Club.

Appaloosa's Are Widely Used as Stock Horses

The Appaloosa is also known for jumping and Western and long-distance riding. Appaloosa horses are also common in endurance riding competitions and trail riding. This horse is bred for racing too!

Nice appaloosa stallion running

Large Animal or Equine Vet Consult

Seeing a large animal or equine vet is an essential step if you are interested in horses for your pasture. An equine vet may examine the horse breed and recommend if the animal is in top condition and healthy. Large animal vets vaccinate against disease, treat horses when they are sick with colic and lameness. It is essential to visit with your equine vet if you notice your horse is not drinking or eating, as these are signs there may be a problem.


The Appaloosa horse has a life expectancy of about 30 years. Horses live for a long time, so this is a big commitment. Work with your equine vet to ensure your horse is in good health.

The Appaloosa Is Hardy and Versatile

Horse lovers may reach out to The Appaloosa Horse Club or the British Appaloosa Society with questions about this type of horse or the varying coat patterns. The horse's coat color is a base color with an overlaid spotting pattern. This beautiful horse is known to many as the state horse of Idaho!

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Appaloosa Horse Breed Overview and Origin