Appaloosa Heritage Articles


Charles O'Bryant III
456 Waynick Road
Reidsville, NC 27320


Evolution of the Appaloosa
Letter to SR Breeders
SRBB Collective Ad
Sun Appaloosas
Sunspot Pete Article
Sunspot Revel
Sundance Breeders


Appaloosa Heritage

The Appaloosa's heritage is as colorful and unique as its coat pattern. Usually noticed and recognized because of its spots and splashes of color, the abilities and beauty of this breed are more than skin deep.

Appaloosas are found in nearly every discipline. Setting speed records on the race track, excelling at advanced levels of dressage, jumping, games, reining, roping, pleasure, endurance and as gentle family horses -- any of these roles can be filled by the versatile Appaloosa. Their eager-to-please attitudes and gentle dispositions make then a pleasure to work with in any area.

Humans have recognized and appreciated the spotted horse throughout history. Ancient cave drawings as far back as 20,000 years ago in what is now France depict spotted horses, as do detailed images in Asian and 17th-century Chinese art.
The Spanish introduced horses to North America as they explored the American continents. Eventually, as these horses found their way into the lives of Indians and were traded to other tribes, their use spread until most of the Native American populations in the Northwest were mounted (about 1710).

The Nez Perce (Neemeepoo) of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho became especially sophisticated horsemen, and their mounts, which included many spotted individuals, were prized and envied by other tribes. Historians believe they were the first tribe to breed selectively for specific traits -- intelligence and speed -- keeping the best, and trading away those that were less desirable.

When white settlers came to the Northwest Palouse region, they called the spotted horses "Palouse horses" or "a Palouse horse." Over time the name was shortened and slurred to "Appalousey" and finally "Appaloosa."
During the Nez Perce War of the late 1800's, Appaloosa horses helped the Nez Perce avoid battles and elude the U.S. Cavalry for several months. The tribe fled over 1,300 miles of rugged, punishing terrain under the guidance of the famed Chief Joseph. When they finally surrendered in Montana, their surviving horses were relinquished to solders, left behind or dispersed to settlers. Nothing was done to preserve the Appaloosa until 1939, when a group of dedicated horsemen formed the Appaloosa Horse Club for the preservation and improvement of the diminishing spotted horse.

Now an international breed registry, the ApHC -- along with the Appaloosa Museum and Heritage Center -- is located in Moscow, Idaho. More than half a million Appaloosas are on record, with nearly 11,000 new horses registered and 30,000 members annually. Moscow also is the source of the official publication of the ApHC and Appaloosa horse, the "Appaloosa Journal", a monthly, award-winning magazine.

As Appaloosa numbers grow, so do ApHC programs and services. There are many ApHC approved regional shows and a World and National Show held annually. To make owning an Appaloosa challenging and fun, these shows offer numerous awards in three main competition levels: youth, non-pro, and open.

There is something for everyone in the world of Appaloosas. Many are fine tuned show horses and well conditioned athletes, but some also hold the distinction of being reliable family horses. Often chosen for children's mounts because of their level heads and even temperaments, Appaloosas win hearts as quickly as their color turns heads.

For more information about Appaloosas, ApHc programs, services, or "Appaloosa Journal" subscriptions, contact the ApHC at 5070 Hwy, 8 West, Moscow Idaho 83843; (208) 882-5578 or email aphc@appaloosa.com  . Visit their website at http://www.appaloosa.com  



The Nez Perce tribe of northern Idaho and northeastern Oregon became superior breeders, selecting stallions and mares with care and gelding inferior male animals. These Nez Perce horses have come down to us as today's highly popular Appaloosa breed. 

The neighboring Cayuse tribe also bred fine horses. It has been said that the Nez Perce and Cayuse horses were of such quality that other Indian tribes often chose to steal them - or, if necessary, to barter for them - in preference to Spanish horses.

Meriweather Lewis encountered Nez Perce Indian horses in 1806 and noted in his journal: "Their horses appear to be of an excellent race; they are lofty, elegantly formed, active and durable; in short many of them look like fine English coarsers and would have made a figure in any country."

One reason for the superior breeding practices of the Nez Perce and Cayuse was their location in the high mountain valleys, where peaceful pursuits could be carried on with greater security from attack by hostile tribes. Also, the forage in these areas was better than that of the plains. None of the Plains tribes bred horses with anything like the care that Cayuse and the Nez Perce did.  

On October 5, 1877, Chief Joseph and a handful of weary Nez Perce braves capitulated to the US Army. It was the sixth day of a siege following a surprise Army attack . The Nez Perce were outnumbered five to one, their supplies were gone, and they were unable to resist further.  

Thus came to a pathetic end one of the proudest of the Indian peoples, a tribe hounded from the mountain fastnesses which for centuries had protected them from the fierce Blackfeet. With them they still had eleven hundred of their carefully bred spotted horses, which today are called Appaloosas after the Palouse River that runs through the traditional land of the Nez Perce. (Some nine hundred other animals had been lost during the long retreat, while attempting to swim the flooded canyon of the Snake River.) 

The horses they surrendered to the Army were sold off to traders from the East. Many others, which had been on the open range at the start of the campaign, were corralled by white settlers under the Government's "finders-keepers" policy. Still others roamed in wild herds.

The Ghostwind horses are Appaloosas that originated from the Nez Perce American Indian's Ghostwind Stallions. The book written by Don LaLonde, "The Story of the Ghostwind Stallions", tells the story of the bloodline developed and perfected by the Nez Perce Indians before the war. It tells of the stallion ' Winged Hawk ' (the only stallion remaining at the end of this war) and the life of George Longrass and how he bred for the Ghostwind Stallions.  

That the breed survived at all was due in no small part to the circuses and Wild West shows which found the gaudy appearance of the spotted animals to have special appeal. As a result, a few small breeders kept the strain alive. Even so, by the 1930's it verged on extinction.

Then, in 1937, Dr. Francis Haines, the leading authority of these horses, published an article in the Western Horseman called "The Appaloosa or Palouse Horse," which prompted an astonishing number of letters of inquiry. The following year the Appaloosa Horse Club was formed. It had six charter members. 

Little happened during the war years, but the growth of the organization -- and the breed -- after the war was nothing short of astonishing. In September, 1947, the club established permanent headquarters at Moscow, Idaho, where it now maintains a central stud book and registry for Appaloosa foals.

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Evolution of the Appaloosa ] Letter to SR Breeders ] SRBB Collective Ad ] Sun Appaloosas ] Sunspot Pete Article ] Sunspot Revel ] Sundance Breeders ]

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