An Appaloosa is a western horse with tiger spotting, but not every spotted horse is an Appaloosa, not every Appaloosa is a spotted horse. The descent and the presence of certain breed characteristics characterize an Appaloosa.

Origin and History

In the 18th century, spotted horses that had come to America by ship from Europe came to the area of ​​the Nez Perce Indians. At first, they exchanged goods for horses, later they stole some and learned to handle them. They began to breed horses specifically and especially appreciate those with a special coat of paint. Their breeding specialized in persistent and elegant horses, only the best were paired with each other. This made the Indians very successful and the breeding association for Appaloosas recognized for Europe, “Appaloosa Horse Club Germany e. V. “writes:

It is certainly not thanks to the Nez Perce that there are spotted horses, but it is thanks to them that there is the Appaloosa, which is characterized by its enormous performance.

The spotted horses got their name from the area where the Nez Perce Indians lived: the river Palouse. At first, the horses were called “Palouse” or “Palouse horses” and “A Palouse” became the name Appaloosa. Unfortunately, there is also a sad chapter in the history of the Appaloosa horses: In 1877 the Nez Perce Indians had to move to a reservation. On this way through the Snake River, about 900 horses drowned in the river’s freezing current. The mad move of the Indians became more and more an escape and a war campaign, which finally forced the Indians to give up after countless battles. The horses of the Indians were auctioned and the Appaloosa breeding came to an end: the widespread colorful animals were randomly crossed with other horses. Still, a couple of people tried to save the breed and keep breeding it: Claude Thompson and Dr. Francis Haines founded the Appaloosa Horse Club USA (ApHC) in 1938. But there were only a few horses: in 1940 there was only 21 Appaloosa registered with the association. The association now has almost 700,000 horses worldwide.


The Appaloosa is people-oriented – so much so that lovers of this breed refer to it as a large dog that follows its people closely. That of course makes him particularly pleasant to deal with, capable of learning and friendship. In addition, the Appaloosa is often very persistent and willing to perform.


An Appaloosa is between 1.42 and 1.62 meters tall. The medium-sized western horse has a noble head, a rather short back, and a strong foundation. It should be handy, fast, and well-muscled. The following features are typical of the Appaloosa: an eye with a white border (the so-called human eye), striped hooves, a spotted skin, and of course its coat pattern. A distinction is made between different patterns: “Blanket” is a horse that has a kind of blanket on the croup. “Spots” are called light and dark spots. “Roan” is the name for white burin hair that changes with the seasons and can spread further with the age of the horse. “Solid” is the name given to a single-colored horse.

Suitability / Use

The Appaloosa is one of the western horses and is of course particularly suitable for the typical western disciplines. Like the quarter horse, it also has a “cow sense”, the sense that allows the horse to work on the cattle independently and drive it. This makes an “Äppi”, as the horses are often affectionately called, suitable for all western disciplines. Whether pleasure tests, in which the comfortable gaits are assessed or in the trail, in which dexterity is required on obstacles, the Appaloosa has a talent for all these tests. Of course also for reining, western horsemanship, and western riding, with their special riding tasks, as well as the hunter tests. But the Appaloosa can also work on cattle: Whether cutting or “Working Cowhorse” – thanks to its Cow Sense, the Äppi can also handle these tasks. Not to be forgotten is its suitability as a diverse leisure horse! Whether trail riding or easy dressage tasks, almost anything is possible with an Appaloosa. There should also have been Äppis in smaller jumping competitions!


When kept in a species-appropriate manner, the Appaloosa is easy to keep.

Diseases Typical of the Breed

Unfortunately, like the Quarter Horse, the Appaloosa has problems with certain genetic defects. EMH (Equine Malignant Hyperthermia), GBED (Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency), HERDA (Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia), HYPP (Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis), and CSNB (Congenital Stationary Night Blindness) occur. Some, like GBED, HERDA, or SCID, may even lead to death in foals. HYPP leads to seizures and EMH is also life-threatening. PSSM leads to crate-like symptoms. Breeding horses should be tested.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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