The Appaloosa horse is steeped in a rich history, beginning with the Spanish explorers who brought horses to the New World in the 1500s. By the 1700s, the Spanish and their horses had made their way into the West of North America, catching the eyes of many Native American tribes. Originally a sedentary tribe of fisherman,
the Nez Perce Indians expanded their lifestyle and, as a result, their
wealth, by using horses they acquired from the Spanish to hunt,
trade and excel in war.
The Nez Perce were particularly drawn to colorful horses and
became the first to selectively breed for a specific trait: spots. Settlers
in the area would refer to these horses as a “Palouse Horse” in refer-
ence to the Palouse River running through the region of Northern
Idaho inhabited by the Nez Perce. As time passed, the name evolved
into “Palousey,” “Appalousey,” and finally “Appaloosa.”
Wars between the settlers and the Native Americans in the 1800s
led to many tribes losing the majority of their horses. After the Nez
Perce War of 1877, the Nez Perce horses were dispersed throughout
The Appaloosa was at risk of extinction before the 1930s, when
the breed gained attention in western roundups and rodeos for its
flashy coat and consummate skills as a stock horse. Enthusiasts began
collaborating to conserve and expand the breed, and in 1975, the
Appaloosa was officially named the state horse of Idaho.
Today, equestrians across North America and around the world
enjoy the Appaloosa for its color, strength, stamina, easygoing nature,
and versatility. In addition to western disciplines, the Appaloosa can
be seen in dressage, jumping and endurance riding. There is also a
racing industry specifically for Appaloosas.
KIM KLIMEK is a freelance writer based in Kentucky.
As multi-talented as it is multi-colored,
the Appaloosa always stands out.
BY KIM KLIMEK