Spotted horses have been represented in ancient Cro-Magnon cave art and Chinese art dating back to 500BC. Spotted horses in Britain were depicted in cave paintings and feature in Celtic religious rituals as fertility and growth symbols.
Parchment from 1298 lists the horses purchased by Edward I for a campaign and among them is an expensive spotted Welsh Cob from Powys. These spotted ponies featured in old Welsh studbooks, including the famous sire, Gwynte Hero, foaled in 1916. During the 17th century, gifts of spotted horses were sent between European and Asian royal families.
Appaloosas in America can be traced to the Spanish invasion of the 1500s, bringing “raindrop” horses to Mexico and North America. The Nez Perce tribe “liberated” the Spanish of some horses, becoming renowned horseman and the first tribe to breed selectively.
The Nez Perce believed the spotted horse to be hardier, with more stamina than solid-coloured horses and began to establish herds bred for their endurance, hard feet and good nature.
During the wars with New World settlers of 1877, Nez Perce herds were dispersed or culled and by the 1900s, spotted horses began to appear in western round-ups and rodeos. Sellers called these horses as “A Palouse”, in reference to their Nez Perce origin near the Palouse River running through Idaho.
By 1938, the Appaloosa Horse Club was founded and formally established the Appaloosa as a breed.
Differences between American and European Appaloosas have occurred through breeding with native stock. The American breed standard is based on the size and build of the Quarter Horse, which has been used extensively to improve the American Appaloosa.
In Europe and the UK, spotted horses have been developed into riding horses suitable for use in all disciplines and can be of varying type from cob to Thoroughbred.
Appaloosas may have 13 different colours of base coat, including bay, black, chestnut, grey and palomino.
Patterns of coat include blanket: base colour with contrasting white colour over hip; spots: white or dark spots over all or part of the body; roan blanket: roan pattern over a portion of the body; roan blanket with spots: roan blanket with spots within it; solid: a coat with no contrasting colour in the form of an Appaloosa pattern; leopard: grey with dark spots; snowflake: spotting over the hips; frost: white specks with a dark background.
Spotted horses characteristically have white around the outside of the eye, striped hooves and mottled skin.
For more information visit www.appaloosa.org.uk