A short view of the Appaloosa Horse History
Research into art and the history of the horse breeds
reveals that "leopard-spotted" horses of the Appaloosa type
have been popular since ancient times. Cave paintings in
France, dated from as far back as 20,000 years ago, show
spotted horses, art from ancient China shows Appaloosa-like
horses, The Mongols prized them as war horses, and in
ancient Persia leopard-spotted horses were revered as the
horses of the great Persian hero Rustan.
The renowned Lipizzaner Horses of Europe were often spotted
in the early years, and spots and mottled skin, two of the
Appaloosa horse characteristics, are still often seen in
The Spanish explorers first brought horses to the Americas
in the 1500's, via Mexico. Their Andalusian Horses often
sported spotted coats. The Native Americans traded for
and/or stole horses from the Spanish and later traded them
among themselves and by the 1700's most Native American
groups in North America were using and breeding horses.
The Nez Perce of what would become the Northwestern United
States were especially dedicated to horsemanship and careful
breeding of their horses, and horses bred and trained by the
Nez Perce were highly prized by the other tribes. The white
settlers called the horses "Palouse horses" because the Nez
Perce lived in what was called Palouse country after the
Palouse River in northern Idaho. The name gradually was
shortened to Appalousey and eventually Appaloosa.
Horses were trained by the Nez Perce for buffalo hunting and
for war. Only the best horses were chosen for these tasks,
and horses that had speed, intelligence, strength, courage,
and beautiful markings were the most valuable.
In the late 1800's the Nez Perce lost their war with the
U.S. Calvary and their horses were left behind in Montana or
distributed to settlers. But eventually an article about
them attracted the attention of many horsemen and the breed
began to be recovered. Appaloosas grew in popularity as
their owners discovered that they are not only strikingly
beautiful but excellent all-around horses, easily trained
and with great dispositions. Appaloosas are now popular all
over the world as family horses as well as in western
pleasure, working cow horse and dressage.