The Appaloosa is renowned for its spectacular spotted coat and is recognized by equine enthusiasts everywhere. However, did you know that the Appaloosa horse isn’t the only breed that sports a spotted coat? Many other breeds also boast that distinctive spotted appearance.
Spotted Horse Breed History
Despite the fact that spotted horses may appear few and far between, they have been around for a long time. Early paintings in European caves show depictions of spotted horses. Additionally, some recorded breeding pedigrees date back centuries.
Recent DNA has concluded that spotted horses roamed Europe well before horses were imported and exported, and before studbooks existed. We also know that royalty held spotted horses and ponies in high regard. This was perhaps due to their mythical and magical perception. They elegant horses held great value value and were often sent as gifts to royalty.
After World War II, interest in the spotted horse peaked once more, and many of them were exported to varying countries across the globe. These countries included Australia, America and Canada. The British Spotted Horse Society was established in 1947 to keep a register of spotted ponies. It split in 1976 to also form the British Appaloosa Society.
Due to breeding, many horses, such as Warmblood breeds, may boast spotted coats if they have Knabstrupper in their genes. Spotted horses are more common today in America and Canada than in the UK. However, these breeds appear in all corners of the globe.
We’ve put together a list of these unique breeds, as well as some fascinating information on each spotted horse breed:
The Appaloosa is the most widely internationally recognized spotted horse breed. The Appaloosa Horse Club in America formed in 1938. Appaloosa horses are one of the most popular breeds in the USA, favored for many Western disciplines for their strength and agility. These unique horses generally stand between 14.2hh and 16.2hh. This makes them an excellent size for riding and many other equestrian activities.
Although the Appaloosa is famed for its spots, not all Appaloosas have spots! Spotted Appaloosas can appear in several colors and patterns. These include Bay blanket, Chestnut blanket, Dun with Roan blanket, Leopard, Bay Roan, and other variations. The indigenous Nez Perce people treasured spotted horses over non-spotted horses. In fact, the Nez Perce horse is credited for helping to breed the Appaloosa.
The Knabstrupper exhibits the same spotted coloring characteristics of the Appaloosa, although both breeds were created exclusively. Likewise to other spotted breeds, the leopard gene complex produces the spotted coloring. Knabstruppers stand between 15.2hh and 16.2hh and are used for many equestrian disciplines. The Knabstrupper hails from Denmark originally, specifically from the Knabstrup area.
Knabstruppers are very much like the Warmblood sports horse in their physical build and temperament. This is why they often turn their hooves to dressage and show jumping. Because Knabstruppers are so often linked with the Warmblood, some Warmblood breeds, such as the Polish Warmblood, will have a spotted coat. This comes from the Knabstrupper in their lineage. The breed is relatively rare in the USA and more commonly seen in Europe.
British Spotted Pony
The British spotted pony breed exists in Britain and comes in two size categories. These categories are 8 to 10.2hh and up to 14hh. The British Spotted Pony Society was founded to register the studbook. They did this in an attempt to preserve the breed that has a long history in the UK and Europe.
Nez Perce Horse
The Nez Perce Horse is a spotted horse breed witha long and fascinating history. These beautiful horses were traditionally only known to a group of people indigenous to North America, where the horse got its name. Explorers and traders alike sought after the Nez Perce horse before they were brought to the wider world’s attention.
The Nez Perce horse is lean, athletic, and long-necked. This breed demonstrates strength and speed that is prized for hunting and racing. Some are heavier boned and suited well as workhorses. The Nez Perce almost became extinct at one point, before they were saved and bred with the Appaloosa horse and the Akhal-Teke. Just like the Appaloosa, the Nez Perce horse appears in various colors and coat patterns.
Contrary to their name, Tiger horses are a spotted horse breed rather than striped. They have coats very similar to the Appaloosa, and they originally come from Spanish horses. Tiger horses were bred in Europe before they were favored for other breeds such as the Thoroughbred and exported to North America and Canada. Records show that the Spanish referred to this type of horse as the Caballo Tigre because of their intriguing color patterns.
One of the most notable traits of Tiger horses is their gait. This gait is known as the “Indian Shuffle,” a comfortable four-beat riding gait that was prized by cowboys who would pay good money for a “Shuffler.” The Tiger Horse Association was founded in 1994. The association exists to register and preserve what’s left of the Tiger horses.
Pony of the Americas
This colorful and hardy spotted horse breed dates back to 1954. It started when a Shetland pony breeder bred one of his horses with an Arabian-Appaloosa. The result was an eye-catching white colt with black paint-like markings splattered all over his coat. The colt was named Black Hand, because one of the markings on his hind resembled the shape of a black hand.
The Pony of the Americas typically presents a small, Arab-style dished head and a muscled and strong body, with markings like that of the Appaloosa. They generally have a gentle temperament and make wonderful riding ponies, praised for their agility and strength.
The Colorado Ranger is an American breed from the Colorado High Plains, best known as a ranch horse. It is used for various ranch activities and Western sports. This horse was not originally bred with the aim of achieving a spotted coat. Regardless, many of the foals were spotted. So, breeders began to include the coat patterning as one of their goals.
Colorado Rangers generally stand between 14.2hh and 16hh. This makes them an excellent size for riding horses. They have sloping shoulders and a short, strong back and are known for their athleticism and goo disposition.
What’s your favorite spotted horse breed? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by Anna Wilson