app heads dreaBeautiful Leopard Appaloosa Foals - Photo Courtesy of Decker's Red Eagle Appaloosas       

The Appaloosa Horse

Mary Holt

    The Appaloosa horse is fascinating, colorful breed with an interesting American and European history.

The History of the Appaloosa Horse 

     In the 1500s, the Spaniards introduced horses, some carrying the spotted coat genetics, to Mexico. Horses rapidly spread throughout North America as many were used by the European settlers or the horses escaped and became wild. Often, Native American tribes captured and domesticated these feral horses. One tribe called The Nez Perce became excellent horsemen and breeders. They developed large herds of horses noted for their strength, intelligence, beauty and exotic coat colors.

Adventurous settlers roamed into the area of the Nez Perce tribe. Just as the Chincoteague pony, Tennessee Walking Horse or Missouri Fox Trotter, the Appaloosa’s name derives from their environment.To the settlers, the spotted horses became known as “A Palouse Horse” after the Palouse River, which runs through Northern Idaho close to the home of the Nez Perce. Eventually, the horse breed’s name changed to “Palousey,” “Appalousey,” and finally “Appaloosa."


Courageous American settlers flooded onto the Nez Perce reservation in the mid-1800s. The result of such a drastic action developed into the Nez Perce War of 1877. Because of this the Nez Perce’s herds were distributed throughout the western plains of America.1

Appaloosa Origin Facts  

    It has been suggested that Appaloosa coloring first appeared 20,000-40,000 years ago. This has been based on date assignments given by long-age Evolutionists to ancient cave paintings that include the spotted horse, such as those found in Lascaux and Pech Merle France. The long-age Evolutionists used Carbon-14 dating to test carbon-containing artifacts in the cave in an effort to support the long ages which horse evolution requires. However, many scientists recognize that Carbon-14 testing is often unpredictable and faulty. It is especially subject to fault if the carbon-containing life-form died when atmospheric carbon levels were very different from today. Such was certainly the case during the ice age, when people lived and painted horses, bulls, and other animals in the Lascaux and Pech Merle caves.

    Appaloosa coloring, is in fact, based upon coat color genes and processes that regulate the expression of those genes each generation. The genes specify different molecules of color called pigments. White hair has no pigment and dark hairs have the most pigment. A gene expression pattern is unique to the horses of Appaloosa breeding. Patterns like these can change quickly—in one generation—so thousands of years were not needed for variations in coat color to appear.1

    According to the book of Genesis in the Bible, the History Book of the Universe, the ancestors of all the horse kind were created approximately 6000 years ago on the Sixth Day of the Creation Week. Almost 2,000 years later, two horses were taken on board Noah’s ark. After the Flood, this pair quickly generated many horse variations, in cluding horses with three hoofs (“polydactyl”, multi digit horses still live today!)2, solid coat colors, patchy coat colors, and various sizes. Today’s horse breeds are their descendants.

    Darwinian evolution requires new and progressing genetic material; the Appaloosa coat color actually does not support the theory. The earliest depictions of this coat color pattern show that they were the same as some of today’s horses. Horse fossils also show that ancient horses had similar sizes and shapes as modern horses. That is not progressive evolution.Similarly, diseases multiplied by inbreeding illustrate that today’s horses are less robust than our horses’ ancestors. Due to the sin of mankind, who are all born in Adam’s sinful pattern, the earth and all living organisms are currently cursed to age, lose genetic information, and fall apart until the time when Christ Jesus will recreate a new cosmos. Horse diseases, such as Appaloosa horses being the most susceptible of horse breeds to develop eye diseases causing temporary or permanent blindness3,4 reflect this curse, while horse color patterns reflect the creative work of God.

Hair Pigment Granules Photo from Fred Gremmel's "Coat Colors In Horses", The Journal of Heredity, 30(10):437-445, Oct 1939

1. Thomas, B. Dog Coat Varieties Come from a‘Surprisingly’ Elegant Program.ICR News. Posted on September 8, 2009. See also, Thomas, B. Rapid Variation in Dog Breeds Is‘Regulated,’Not ‘Evolved.’ ICR News. Posted on February 2, 2010. See also: Lightner, J. 2006. Colourful creature coats. Creation. 28(4): 33-34.

2. Weinhart G., et. al., “Polydactyly in a Foal—a Case Report”, Tierarztl Praz 1996; 24:275-77, F.K. Shattauer Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Stuttfart— New York

4. The Appaloosa Project,“Equine Recurrent Uveitis”, 9/26/11


Appaloosa Characteristics

● Mottled Skin

The appaloosa horse is unique because of its mottled or partly colored skin. The appaloosa horse is easily detected because of this.

● Vertically Striped Hooves

Another characteristic of the appaloosa coloring is the vertical striped lines on their hooves.2

● White Sclera

A characteristic that is most often very visible on the appaloosa horse is the white sclera which encircles the iris.3

● Thin Mane & Tail                                                                                     

An Appaloosa’s mane and tail is often thin, stringy and fine in texture. This feature was valued as it helped the horse escape entanglement of briers.4

● Strong Sturdy Legs & Hooves

The sound, sturdy structure of the legs and hard hooves is often displayed by well-bred Appaloosas.5

● Weight & Height                                                                           

The weight of the appaloosa horse varies from 950 to 1250 pounds. Height ranges from 14 to 16 hands. 6

Typical Appaloosa Coat Patterns: 7    

app fewspot bluhawk drea   Fewspot 


Can look solid white with a few spots of any base color.

Photo Courtesy of Decker's Red Eagle Appaloosas


 app leopard prattssullyfire drea




Dark spots of any base color and size across entire body with main body white.

Photo Courtesy of Decker's Red Eagle Appaloosas

app snowcap filly drea


● Snowcap or White Blanket


Any base color with white over back and rump.

Photo Courtesy of Decker's Red Eagle Appaloosas
app blkblanket darrelldodds


● Blanket


Any base color with white over loin, croup and haunches with dark spots within the blanket.

Photo Courtesy of ApHC - Image by Darrell Dodds


goskipparock 250 x 186


● Snowflake


Any base color with white "snowflake-type" spots over entire body.

Photo Courtesty of MJ Stables

app varnishmare leopardfoal drea


● Marble or Varnish Roan


Blue or Red roan over entire body with varnish marks on face, point of hips wither, elbows, stifles, knee's or hocks.  Sometimes more or less spots on body. (Mare in photo is a Marble or Varnish Roan.  The foal displays Leopard coat pattern)

Photo Courtesy of Decker's Red Eagle Appaloosas

app frost dianerice


● Frosted Tip


Any dark base color with white spots over loin and hips, sometimes dark spots mixed in.

Photo Courtesy of ApHC - Image by Diane Rice


What Appaloosas Are Used For

    Due to their pleasant dispositions and versatile abilities, Appaloosas make tremendous all around horses. The Appaloosa can be trained in driving, jumping, trail riding, cattle events and reining. They also excel in English riding styles and are often trained for racing. Appaloosas are a popular choice for circuses performances, drill teams and other publicity events due to their striking coloring and intelligence. 8 


Bright Zip with John Lyons


Special thanks to John and Jody Lyons for their written permission to feature Bright Zip on this page!


A Famous Appaloosa in History

    Bright Zip is one of the best known Appaloosas in recent history.  Born in 1975, this striking chestnut blanketed stallion was destined to revolutionize horse training techniques with his world reknown Christian horse trainer/owner, John Lyons.

    Horsemen and women worldwide have breathlessly watched John Lyons as he used this smart stallion to demonstrate step-by-step approaches to gentle horse training.  Together Bright Zip and Mr. Lyons were a dynamic team and introduced a legendary improvement in the horse training world through their symposiums.

    Bright Zip was by Wild Zip out of Mighty Lu.  In 1997 Bright Zip was inducted into the Appaloosa Horse Club's Hall of Fame as an outstanding ambassador for the breed.
Visit John Lyon's Website



To read more about the Appaloosa Horse, Visit,        

Be sure to ask the Appaloosa Horse Club about their free educational and breed promotional materials just for kids/youth!  The Appaloosa Horse Club's youth website is  



1. The Appaloosa Horse Club, "Appaloosa History", <>, 2/2/2011

2. The American Appaloosa Association Worldwide, "Characteristics of the Appaloosa,", 2/2/2011

3. Reference 2

4. Draper, Judith, The New Guide to Horse Breeds, Lorenz Books, 27 West 20th Street, New York City, NY 1001, pg. 154-155

5. Reference 4

6. Reference 4

7. Reference 2

8. The Appaloosa Horse, "The Appaloosa Horse",, 2/2/2011