The Appaloosa is a United States horse breed strongly associated with the Native American Nez Perce (Niimíípu) people. Unsurprisingly, it is a close relative of the Nez Perce horse breed.

The Appaloosa is a very popular horse breed in the United States, where it is used for both Western riding and English riding. It is also an appreciated choice for trail riding and endurance activities.

Quite a few Appaloosas still do traditional work on ranches and farms, and they make great stock horses. This ability to work with cattle is also noticeable when Appaloosas perform in Western riding contests and events; they tend to excel in disciplines such as roping, reining, pole bending, cutting, and barrel racing.

Movies depicting life in the Old West or along the U.S. frontier often feature appaloosas.


Named after the river Palouse

European settlers associated this type of horse with the Native American Nez Perce people. Since the river Palouse ran through the land of Nez Perce, the European settlers called the horses Palouse horses. Eventually “a Palouse horse” turned into “Apalouse horse” and then into “Appalousa”. If we look in old texts, we can see how the name is spelt in many different ways, such as Appalousa, Appaloosa, Appaloosie, Apalousey, and even Appalucy.

Horse racing

The Appaloosa is not a common choice for short-distance racing. It´s favoured type of race is middle-distance, i.e. more than 350 yards but not more than half a mile. The all-breed record for 4.5 furlongs set by an Appaloosa back in 1989 still stands today.

The ApHC

The Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC) and breed registry were created in 1938. The studbook is still partially open.

What does the Appaloosa look like?

Many different horse breeds have contributed DNA to the Appaloosa breed, which has resulted in the presence of several body types within the breed. This variation is not only permitted but celebrated.

The height can be anywhere from 14 to 16 hands, but the ApHC does not allow pony breeding or draft breeding.

The recommended weight depends largely on height. For really tall appaloosas, a desirable weight can be up towards 1,250 lbs, while there are many small appaloosas whose weight should remain around 950 lbs.

White sclera

White sclera is very common in the Appaloosa breed, and the sclera is usually visible around the iris when the eye is kept in a straight-forward position.

Important: The Appaloosa is not the only breed that can have a white sclera.

Colours and patterns

The Appaloosa foal is usually born with a light coat that will change as it matures. Don´t be surprised if the foal doesn´t display any leopard-complex characteristics as these can require quite some time to come out.

The United States Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC) accepts a wide range of base colours for appaloosas, including black, grey, chestnut, buckskin, palmino, perlino / cremello, grulla, dun, and bay.

The base colour is then (in most cases) overlaid by various patterns, and it is not unusual for this pattern to change somewhat as the horse ages.

Many appaloosas have:

  • Striped hooves
  • Mottled skin

Appaloosa horse

Can an adult horse without any contrasting pattern still be a real appaloosa?

Yes, an adult horse without any contrasting pattern (also known as a solid-coloured horse) can still be registered as an appaloosa with the ApHC provided that it has both mottled skin and at least one more leopard-complex characteristic, such as striped hooves or a visible white sclera.

If the horse doesn´t fulfil these requirements, but both parents are ApHC-registered, it will be registered as a non-characteristic appaloosa by the ApHC.

Striped hooves = appaloosa?

A common misconception is that any horse with striped hooves is an appaloosa. In reality, there are many horse breeds and mix-breeds that can display striped hooves and the appaloosa is just one of them.

Association with Idaho

The state of Idaho offers a license plate featuring an Appaloosa. The Appaloosa has been the state horse of Idaho since 1975.

Back to top