Tuesday, August 11, 2009

History of the Appaloosa Horse

When writers use the breeds or colors of horses in their novels, I often wonder how much the authors know about these magnificant animals. Once an avid horsewoman, I was partial to the pinto (see July post), but the history behind the Appaloosa is facinating.

Appaloosa horse, although often recognized for its colorful coat patterns is a breed of horse, and not a color. In fact, not all Appaloosas have a colorful coat pattern but can come in solid colors as well. Coat pattern or not, there is much more to the Appaloosa than its color.

Appaloosas are very versatile having great endurance. Although they can be stubborn, most Appaloosas are extremely intelligent and have excellent dispositions.. Some physical characteristics that are shared by most Appaloosas include mottled skin, vertically striped hooves, a white sclera which encircles the iris, and a short mane and tail. Most appaloosas also have strong sturdy legs and hooves, and are generally very sure-footed.

History: The Appaloosa breed was originally bred in the Inland northwest of America by the Nez Perce Indians. Before the horse had been introduced to them, the Nez Perce were sedentary fishermen.The horses changed The Nez Perce's culture forever. The horses enabled them to hunt buffalo easily, and the Nez Perce soon became known throughout the Northwest for their hunting skills and craftsmanship. These new found skills allowed the Nez Perce to trade for goods and services.

The Nez Perce became excellent horsemen as well as the only Native Americans known to selectively breed their horses. The horses were bred to be strong, fast, sure footed, and intelligent mounts. A short mane and tail was bred into the horses so that they could not easily be caught in brush. Meriwether Lewis wrote the following of the Nez Perce's horses, in his diary on Feb. 15, 1806 : "Their horses appear to be of an excellent race; they are lofty, eligantly [sic] formed, active and durable…some of these horses are pided with large spots of white irregularly scattered and intermixed with black, brown, bey [sic] or some other dark color."

In the mid-1800s, settlers came to the Nez Perce reservation. The Nez Perce War of 1877 began when some of the Nez Perce rebelled against treaties imposed by the settlers.

The Nez Perce never referred to their horses as 'Appaloosas'. The name Appaloosa comes either from the Palouse River, along which the horses were abundant known to be abundant, or from the Palouse tribe, whose main village was on the Palouse River. The Palouse River flows through eastern Washington and north Idaho.When Chief Joseph surrendered in Montana in 1877, the Army confiscated most of the horses. The horses were then indiscriminately bred, and many of their unique traits were lost or severely diluted.

Settlers first referred to the horses as 'A Palouse Horse,' which was soon shortened to 'Appalousey.' The name Appaloosa was made official in 1938.In the late 1800s and early 1900s, because of its use in round ups and rodeos, people became more interested in the Appaloosa breed. On March 25, 1975, the Appaloosa was named Idaho's State horse.

Colors: The Appaloosa Horse Club describes five basic coat patterns: Leopard -- Large dark spots completely covering a white body, Snowflake -- a dark body with light spots or speckles, Marble -- A light coat covered in small dark speckles, Frost-- A dark coat covered in small light speckles, and Blanket -- White on hips and/or loins. Darker spots may or may not appear on the white blanket. However, some appaloosa's are 'solid,' meaning that they do not have any coat pattern. Height: 14.2hh upwardsUses: Appaloosas are a light breed used for showing and riding. Today they are used in a wide variety of sports, from rodeo and trail riding, to jumping, showing, and endurance riding.


Paty Jager said...

Growing up we had an appaloosa. He was brownish gray with black and white spots on his rump and striped hooves. We called him Smoky. My brother broke both Smoky and my horse who were half-siblings. He could beat my buckskin in a short race from the house to the barn, but if we raced from the mail box or sheep barn (mile or better) my horse would win every time. And he did have a stubborn streak in him. If he didn't want to go he put up a tussle until he realized you weren't backing down.

Fun blog!

Tanya Hanson said...

Oh Loretta, what a fabulous, fascinating post. I am totally enamored of the Nez Perce. I am not a horsewoman and am so envious of you all who are!


Celia Yeary said...

Loretta--fascinating about the Appaloosa. The photo is beautiful, too. Interesting that the Nez Perce were the first to selectively breed their horses--it shows the intelligence of these People.I love to see a beautiful horse in a green pasture.It's a thing of beauty. Celia

Mary Ricksen said...

I love the breed. They are awfully smart too!

Loretta C. Rogers said...

I enjoyed all of your comments. Thanks for dropping by.

Hywela Lyn said...

I've just caught up with this post. I left a message on the WRP loop about a lovely black blanket spot Appaloosa called 'Joe Glow', one of the most beautiful, talented and intelligently sensitive horses I've ever me, and a reining champion. It's a touching story about how he reached out to a human youngster and left her with a memory she'll cherish all her life.

We owe the Nez Perce a great deal!

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Hywela, I read your post on WRP loop. It brought chills--it was a wonderfully touching story. Animals seem to have a sense about them that makes then so special. thanks for sharing.

Ali W said...

I have had the honour of working with Joe Glow. He is the most amazing horse to be with, he never put's a foot out of place. One minute he can be covering a mare, that same day he would be giving my 10 year old daughter a reining lesson. The only time I had a tear in my eye at my wedding 3 years ago, was when Joe was led down the church path for me to ride after the ceremony... The bells were ringing, 160 guests stood around him and I climbed on board in full wedding gown complete with veil... he didn't bat an eyelid. He amazed the crowds with his back up and spins!!!
A truly magical horse!!!! xx

Hywela Lyn said...

Just caught up with your post, Ali. What a thrill to be able to ride him at your wedding. He is such an exceptional and beautiful horse. I had the honour of fitting him with a working saddle and he was as gentle as a child's pony.