Horses of the West
A horse comes racing across the Idaho plain. It is quick, strong, and sure-footed. It can climb rocky hillsides easily. Its coat has bright, bold spots. What is this powerful spotted horse? It is an Appaloosa.
This breed once carried Native Americans on buffalo hunts. But by the late 1800s, America’s Appaloosas were almost all gone. Luckily, some lived on. Today, Appaloosas live in many parts of the world. Their special look makes them one of the most beautiful horse breeds in America.
This Appaloosa lives on a farm.
- Sometimes you can feel an Appaloosa’s spots! In winter, the spots sometimes have longer hair.
What Do Appaloosas Look Like?
Appaloosas come in many colors, and they are best known for their spots. The spots are different sizes and shapes. They show up in different places, too. Some Appaloosas have spots all over. Others have only a few spots – or none at all.
People have given names to the patterns of spots. A big patch of white over the back and hips is a blanket. It looks like a blanket thrown over the horse.
Some Appaloosas have a leopard pattern. They are white with dark spots. Snowflake Appaloosas are just the opposite. They are dark with light spots. Marble Appaloosas are lightly colored with really tiny dark spots. Frost Appaloosas are dark with tiny light spots.
- Some Appaloosas have plain white blankets. Others have blankets with spots.
- Many Appaloosas have dark and light stripes on their hooves.
Appaloosas hove spots on their skin, too! In fact, they are known for their mottled skin. The skin is pink with dark dots. You can see it around their noses and mouths.
Appaloosas’ eyes are different, too. Most horses have eyes that look all dark. On people s eyes, you can see white around the outside. You can see the white on an Appaloosas eyes, too.
A horse’s height is measured from its withers to the ground. Appaloosas measure about 57 to 61 inches (145 to 155 centimeters). They are not very heavy horses. Most of them weigh 950 to 1,175 pounds (430 to 530 kilograms).
This Appaloosa has a leopard pattern.
- People often use the word hands to say how tall a horse is. A hand is 4 inches (10 cm). Appaloosas are about 14 hands high.
Newborn Appaloosa foals have long, skinny legs. But they can stand up soon after they are born. The mother keeps a close watch on her foal. The foal drinks its mother’s milk to grow strong. After a while, it starts eating other foods.
Appaloosa foals sometimes change color as they grow up. Lighter-colored foals often get darker when they lose their baby hair. Gray foals get lighter as they grow.
- Appaloosa foals can look very different from their parents. And spots and colors sometimes change as the horses age.
Appaloosas in History
Spotted horses have been around for thousands of years. People even drew pictures of them long ago. These ancient spotted horses were not Appaloosas. Europe and Asia had many types of horses. Some of them happened to have spots.
North and South America had no horses when Europeans arrived. Some of the Europeans’ horses got loose. Native Americans quickly put them to use. Some Native groups made horses a big part of their lives.
Many people think Appaloosas came from Spanish explorers’ horses. Some of these horses had spots – and some got loose. Native Americans traded the horses throughout the West. In the 1700s, Nez Perce Indians began raising them. They kept only horses that were fast, strong, brave, and smart. Not all of the Nez Perce’s horses were spotted, but the spotted ones became the best known.
- In ancient China, spotted horses were valued. An important book talked about “heavenly horses.” People thought these might be spotted horses.
Soon, people knew a Nez Perce horse when they saw one. The Nez Perce lived in Idaho and Washington. They were near the Palouse (pah-LOOS) River. People called a Nez Perce horse “a Palouse horse.” Over time, the words turned into “Appaloosa.”
In 1877, the U.S. army drove the Nez Perce people from their homelands. Led by Chief Joseph, the Nez Perce headed f or Canada. They rode over 1,300 miles (2,100 kilometers). Their fast, strong horses made them hard to catch. But the army caught them just outside Canada. The Nez Perce’s horses were taken, given away, or left behind. The breed was almost lost.
In the 1930s, some people became interested in Appaloosas again. They began to raise them. The Appaloosa Horse Club was started in 1938. This brought even more attention to the breed. Today, Appaloosas are well known anti well loved.
Appaloosas need lots of space to run and rest.
- Some people believe that Appaloosas came from Russian horses instead. They think Russian fur traders brought some spotted horses to America.
What Are Appaloosas Like?
When strangers come near, Appaloosas sometimes get jumpy. But these horses like attention. If they feel safe, they are very friendly. Anti they are easy to handle.
Appaloosas are also smart and easy to train. Sometimes they can be stubborn. But most of them work very well with people.
These horses have lots of energy. They are strong and brave, too. Anti they are gentle and easygoing. They make good horses for young people or new riders.
These energetic Appaloosas are playing together.
- Spending time with horses can help children with special needs. Gentle Appaloosas are good choices for this work.
Appaloosas at Work
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, people in the West loved circuses. Appaloosas often starred in Western circus shows. These horses had a smooth gait. They could stop, start, and turn quickly. They could do different tricks. People liked them for rodeos and roundup work, too.
Today, Appaloosas are known as all-around horses. They are still used for calf roping. They do well in horse shows, too.
Some are trained for jumping. Appaloosas’ strength and endurance make them great for cross-country races. Ami lots of people ride Appaloosas just for fun.
This cowboy is riding an Appaloosa as he prepares to rope a star.
- Endurance racers go 25 to 100 miles (40 to 161 km) in a single day! Some races are even longer. The horses might go 50 miles (80 km) each day.
Years ago, Appaloosas were found only in North America. Now they are popular in other countries as well. There are Appaloosa horse clubs as far away as Australia. People raise Appaloosas in South America, too. This beautiful horse breed has become very popular in Europe.
People are working to keep Appaloosas from getting mixed with other breeds. This will help Appaloosas keep their special look. It will also help them keep their spirit.
Appaloosas do not live everywhere in the world yet. But people are finding out what wonderful horses they are. Someday, Appaloosas might be found in every country.
This young Appaloosa is enjoying a dear day. You can dearly see its leopard pattern.
- Some Appaloosas have a gait called the “Appaloosa shuffle.” This smooth, tireless gait is something like a running walk. The legs on the same side move together.