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The Appaloosa is a very popular horse breed in the United States, where it is used for both English riding and Western riding, as well as trail riding and endurance riding. It is highly suited for work on a traditional ranch and many appaloosas are utilized as stock horses.


Within Western riding, the Appaloosa is renowned for its ability to perform exceedingly well in disciplines such as reining, roping, cutting, pole bending, and barrel racing.

In horse races, the appaloosa tends to do best at middle-distances (more than 350 yards but less than 0.5 miles). In 1989, an appaloosa set an all-breed record for 4.5 furlongs that still holds today.



The appaloosa sports a distinctive coat where the base color is overlaid by various patterns. Striped hooves and mottled skin are common features.

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

Dark spots on an appaloosa may be surrounded by a “halo”, where the overalying hair coat is white even though the skin next to the spot is dark.

It is not unsual for an appaloosa to change their pattern a bit as they mature and age.

Solid-colored appaloosas?

Can a solid-colored horse without any contrasting pattern be a true appaloosa? Yes, it can, and it can be registered with the ApHC if it has mottled skin AND at least one more leopard-complex characteristic, e.g. visible white sclera or striped hooves.

If the horse doesn’t fulfil these requirements, but both parents are registered with the club, the horse will be registered as a non-characteristic.


Appaloosa foals are usually born with a light coat. It is not unusual for a foal to initially not display any of the leopard-complex characteristics; these characteristics can take quite some time to develop.

Appaloosa horse

Body type

Multiple horse breeds have contributed to the modern-day appaloosa and as a result, several different body types are present (and celebrated) within the breed.

The height is within the 14 – 16 hands span. The ApHC doesn’t allow pony or draft breeding.

Naturally, the healthy and desirable weight of an appaloosa will vary depending on its height. Some small appaloosas weigh around 950 lbs as adults, while really tall ones weight up towards 1,250 lbs.

The eye

The sclera is white, and this white color is typically visible around the iris when a standard appaloosa keeps its eye in a straigh-forward position.

This characteristic is not uniqe to the appaloosa, but it is more common in this breed.

Are all horses with striped hooves appaloosas?

No, striped hooves can appear in many horse breeds.

Did you know that….?

  • The appalosa is strongly associated with the Native American Nez Perce (Niimíípu) people, and closely related to the Nez Perce horse.
  • The Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC) and breed registry was formed in 1938. The stud book is still partially open.
  • The appaloosa was named state horse of Idaho in 1975, but it also has strong historical ties to the states Washington and Oregon.
  • The state of Idaho offers a license plate featuring an appaloosa horse.
  • The athletic team Florida State Seminoles has two official mascots. One mascot represents the historical Seminole leader Osceola, while the other one – named Renegade – represents Osceola’s appaloosa horse.
  • Appaloosas can be seen in a wide range of movies and TV-series depicting life along the U.S. frontier. There is even a 1966 Western film named The Appaloosa, starring Marlon Brando.

Why is it called appaloosa?

The European settlers associated the appaloose with the Nez Perce people, and called it Palouse horse after the River Palouse that ran through the land of the Nez Perce.

Eventually, “a Palouse horse” developed into “Apalouse horse”, which then became “Appaloosa”. In old texts, the name is spelled in many different ways, e.g. Appalucy, Apalousey, and Appaloosie.