Spotted horses are depicted in cave paintings as far back as prehistoric times and are known to have existed in Persia, China and Egypt. Spotted horses were later bred in Spain and developed into a riding horse and in the 16th Century some were taken to Mexico and from there they spread across North America. Escaped spotted horses and Mustangs were captured by the Nez Perce Indians and were used to produce horses which were fast, strong, agile and docile. The Nez Perce Indians lived near the Palouse River and the horses they bred first became known as the A Palouse and then later the Appaloosa. The horses were later captured by the US army and in 1938 the Appaloosa was recognised as a breed.
Today, many people use the term "appaloosa" to describe the pattern of a spotted horse (of any breeding) and this should not be confused with the Appaloosa breed with Mustang origins developed by the Nez Perce Indians and outlined here.
The Appaloosa horse stands 14.1 to 15.2 hh.
The Appaloosa has mottled skin on the muzzle, around the eyes and on the genitals. It also has white sclera and striped hooves. Appaloosa horses can be any solid colour or spotted.
There are several distinct spotted patterns and each horse is unique. "Leopard Spot" is a white horse with evenly distributed coloured spots, "Near Leopard" is similar to Leopard Spot but with coloured head and legs, "Spotted Blanket" is mainly coloured with a white back and/or hindquarters within which there are coloured spots, "White Blanket" is mainly coloured with a white back and/or hindquarters without spots, "Snowflake" is coloured with white spots over the body, "Frosted Hip" or "Frosted Blanket" is coloured with white frosting or white spots over the loin and hips, "Marble" is coloured at birth but roans with age to almost white, "Few Spot" or "Few Spot Leopard" is white with just a few spots.
The Appaloosa has a broad head, compact body with short straight back, sloping shoulders, strong legs, sparse mane and tail. It has a smooth action.
The Appaloosa horse is courageous and docile.
The Appaloosa horse is used as a general riding horse, for ranch work, trail riding and as a circus horse.