Appaloosa Horses - a brief history

Spotted Horses and horseback riding have been depicted throughout history dating back as far as 18,000 BC! China, Persia, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, France and the Ancient Mediterranean World (among others) all have stories of Great Spotted War Horses, believed to be ancestors of our modern day Appaloosa. 

   Some say the Spanish introduced the horse to the America's, and some say they were already here.  Native American Indians, throughout history, have been regarded as excellent horsemen, and the modern Appaloosa can be traced directly to both the Nez Perce and Palouse tribes.  These tribes were both known as exceptionally skilled horsemen, and their mounts, which included many spotted individuals, were prized and envied by other tribes.

  Historians believe they were among the first tribes to breed selectively for specific traits - such as intelligence, bravery, speed, endurance and a calm demeanor - keeping the best and trading or gelding those that were less desirable. 

  When white settlers began arriving in this Northwest region, it is believed that they called the spotted horses seen by the Palouse River or owned by the Palouse tribe "Palouse horses" or "a Palouse horse".  Over time, the name was shortened and slurred to "a Palousey", then to "Appalousey".

  During the Nez Perce war of 1877, Appaloosa horses were among those that helped Chief Joseph, wanting only peace, lead his people more than 1,300 miles in just over 3 months towards Canada, over some of the roughest terrain in the United States.  The U.S. Cavalry simply could not keep up with them.  Thinking he was already in Canada,  Joseph stopped to rest his people and their fearless mounts. It was only then that the Cavalry were able to close in and force Chief Joseph to surrender - a mere 40 miles from the Canadian Border!  

  Knowing it was the Appaloosa horse that nearly led to the escape of the Nez Perce, the cavalry confiscated all they could catch, and auctioned them off.  A bounty was put on the heads of the Appaloosa's that escaped, and hundreds more were hunted and destoyed.  The cavalry so feared the Appaloosa, that a federal law existed until 1935, prohibiting the breeding of Appaloosa to Appaloosa. Butch Cassady's favored horse was his Appaloosa, named MineGuard, whose stregth, speed and stamina allowed Butch many a getaway. 

   Finally, in 1938, Claude Thompson and a group of dedicated horsemen in Oregon recognised the outstanding traits of these horses, and they formed the Appaloosa Horse Club.  This new international breed registry focused on the preservation and improvement of the spotted horse, whose numbers were diminishing.  Thompson and the other original members of the ApHC practiced selective breeding and the remnants of the line slowly bred back to the impressive hardy, surefooted, easy going Appaloosa the Nez Perce cherished.  To this day the Appaloosa has stood out in showing, equitation, rodeo and ground work., not to mention for its spots and flashy splashes of color.

  No two Appaloosa's markings are identical, and while many carry the spotting all over its body, an equal amount will have the famous white "blanket" over it's hips and loins with colored spots.  Appaloosa's eyes have similarities to human eyes, in that they have a white sclera - the area around the dark pupil.  Most other horses have dark sclera.  Striped hooves on legs with no other white markings is another unique trait of the Appaloosa. 

  A sparse mane and tail, often referred to as "broomstick" is common to these beautiful horses, and should not be held against them!  It is said the indians desired this trait, as a long mane and tail could easily get caught up in the brush , thus alerting game being hunted of their presence.

  The Appaloosa is kind, intelligent, independant and courageous.  It can also be fierce--making it the ideal war horse of the past.  For the present, these characteristics make it the desired, versatile horse that it is.  Our herd, many of whom were bred, born and raised on the ranch, encompass all these traits, as well as a calm demanor, and pretty good sense of humor! 

  Whether this is your first time riding a horse, or you are a seasoned rider, we hope that you will embrace these magnificent creatures as we have, and make Spotted Horse Ranch a destination for you and your family for many years to come!