The coat patterns now collectively known as "appaloosa patterns" have existed for millenia. The appaloosa coat pattern has fascinated Man since the first hunters recorded its spotted image on their cave walls in what is now France. The peoples of Europe and Asia coveted spotted mounts, wars were fought over and with them, and appaloosa patterned horses were often presented as gifts to the highest rulers. Legends abound about the power, tragedy, and courage of spotted horses, from Persia's Rustam and his spotted mount Rakush, to the Blood Sweating Horses of China, to the story of the Ghostwind Stallions, told by a Native American man here on our own American continent.
The North American History of the appaloosa began with the Nez Perce (Neemeepoo) Native American Indians. Up until the association with the Nez Perce and their geographic location, the spotted horse and its various color patterns went by various names. The term "appaloosa" is thought to have been developed by the slurring together of the words "A Palousey", referring to the spotted horses from the Palouse River region.
The Nez Perce were documented to have had several thousand head of fleet, well formed horses, with some being appaloosa spotted. According to the Journal of Lewis and Clark, these horses were comparable to the finest blooded horses in Virginia. When the Nez Perce were driven from their homeland by the U.S Army, their fine horses were dispersed-- some were destroyed, some escaped to join wild horse herds, and some found new jobs with soldiers, farmers, army Indian scouts, and even circuses.
The Appaloosa Horse Club was founded in 1938 by a farmer and horse breeder by the name of Claude Thompson. This marked the official beginnings of the Appaloosa as an American breed with recorded pedigrees. He and others had been gathering what they could of the spotted horses. They began the arduous task of preserving, improving and re-creating the fine spotted horses of legend. They advocated crossing to purebred Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Morgans and other fine riding horses where necessary and possible, to refine and improve the Appaloosa.
The Appaloosa Horse Club issued its first written Breed Standard in the 1940s. Breeding rules continued to evolve. Crossing out to other breeds was not discouraged. The "Tentative" registration system was set up in the 1950s so that Appaloosas with an other-breed or unknown parent(s) could earn "regular" ApHC papers by producing a certain number of registered Appaloosa offspring.
Through the 70's and early 80's, categories were also established and refined for the previously unregisterable solid non-characteristic products of Appaloosa breeding, allowing those solids to be registered for use as breeding animals, and eventually to be showable. Crossing to other breeds became limited to registered Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Arabian, and registration of breeding stallions and mares from unknown bloodlines was halted.
The Appaloosa was marketed early-on as "America's Best Rough Country Stock Horse", and seemed equally at home working stock, jumping, playing polo, and as a family mount. This trend for versatility still exists-- today Appaloosas can be found excelling in many disciplines. They are known for their family-type dispositions and for their general soundness and durability. Colors can range from solid to roan to blanketed to all-over spotted leopard.