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8 Things You Didn’t Know About The Appaloosa

Appaloosas are known for their beautiful spots, but there is so much more to this gorgeous horse. You might already know that the Appaloosa is a distinctly American breed developed by the Nez Perce people. Do you know these other 8 facts about Appaloosas?

#1 – They’re the state horse of Idaho.

Image source: normanack via flickr


In 1975, Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus signed legislation naming the Appaloosa the state horse. Idaho was also the first state to offer a custom license plate featuring a state horse.

#2 – They have 3 things in common other than their spots:

Image source: Jean via flickr


Mottled skin around the muzzle, eyes, anus, and genitalia; striped hooves; and eyes with a white sclera. These three attributes aren’t exclusive to the breed, but most Appaloosas have at least two of those traits. It is rare for horses other than Appaloosas to have the whites of their eyes showing unless they’re rolling their eyes back, making this trait more unique to the breed.

#3 – The coat color is a combination of a base color with an overlaid spotting pattern.

Image source: Karakal via wikimedia commons


Base colors include bay, black, chestnut, palomino, buckskin, roan, gray, dun, and grulla. There are several different pattern variations to the markings. The spots overlay darker skin and are often surrounded by a halo – the skin next to the spot is also dark but the overlying hair coat is white.

#4 – You can’t always predict a grown Appaloosa’s color at birth.

Image source: Appaloosas via wikimedia commons

Many horse breeds change colors as they grow up, and Appaloosa foals don’t always show classic leopard complex (the genetic mutation that causes their distinctive spots) characteristics when they’re born. Appaloosas with varnish roan and snowflake patterns are the most likely not to show their true color pattern at birth.

#5 – The Nez Perce people became exceptional horse breeders.

They lived in eastern Washington, Oregon, and western Idaho and gelded inferior horses and traded away poorer stock for the purpose of improving the breed. They became well-known horse breeders by the early 19th century.

#6 – The horses were originally called “Palouse horses” by settlers…

Image source: Pitke via wikimedia commons


…in reference to the Palouse River that ran through what was once Nez Perce country. The name changed over time to include Apalouse, Appalucy, Apalousy, and Appaloosie before settling on Appaloosa.

#7 – Appaloosas are often used in Western movies and television series.

Image source: Sue Nichols via flickr


Examples include Cojo Rojo in the Marlon Brando film “The Appaloosa,” Zip Cochise ridden by John Wayne in the 1966 film “El Dorado,” and Cowboy, the mount of Matt Damon in “True Grit.”

#8 – Prior to the introduction of the horse, the Nez Perce were sedentary fishers.

The introduction of horses changed their culture forever. They soon became famous throughout the Northwest for their hunting skills and craftsmanship on top of their horse breeding. They became more nomadic, trading their stone community houses for tipis.


(H/T: Wikipedia and Appaloosa Horse Club)

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