The British Appaloosa Society

  Welcome to The British Appaloosa Society

Breed History 




When looking into the history of the Appaloosa breed it comes to light that historians are not  totally sure of the origin of the breed. However the one thing to be sure of is that the history  of the breed is as unique as each horses rich and fascinating coat pattern.



The earliest recorded evidence of spotted horses can be found in cave paintings at Lascaux and Peche-Merle in France. These date back to Prehistoric times of approximately 18,000 BC. For all we know these remarkable pictures may depict the remotest of ancestors of the present day Appaloosa breed.



It is reported through history that spotted horses were found in many countries for example  China, Austria, Denmark and France to name but a few.


It is almost certain that the American-based Appaloosas originated from Spain through the Spanish Conquistadators who took vividly marked horses with them to America. Although some historians believe that Russian fur-traders took them. The other theory is that spotted horses were shipped to the West cost of America to be traded to the Spanish settlers &  Indian people when they went out of fashion in Europe in the late 18th Century. 




The American horses became associated with the Nez Perce Indian tribe who lived in what is today Washington & Oregon. They developed a strict breeding programme in which they encouraged certain traits such as temperament, endurance, distinctive looks and intelligence.  Which are still used today.


By the early 1800’s they had become notable breeders and impressed the explorer Meriwether Lewis with their breeding accomplishments. He noted in his diary on the 15th  February 1806 that


"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 horses and would make a figure in any country."


Unfortunately for these fine horse breeders they were pressured to give up most of their land resulting in the Nez Perce War of 1877. The consequence of this was their herds were dispersed by the US Cavalry, through selling them and slaughtering the rest. Thus after 1877 the American breed was nearly extinct.




As late as the 1930’s an Appaloosa would still be referred to as ‘a Palouse Horse,’ most  probably due to the Polouse river that ran through the heart of Nez Perce country. Over time the name evolved into ‘Palousey’, ‘Appalousey and finally ‘Appaloosa’.

Following an article in the "Western Horseman" in 1937 interest was stimulated in this distinctive breed and an organisation was formed in 1938 to serve that rising interest. The founders of that organisation when naming the new organisation did not invent a new name but used one of the names which were in current parlance the "Appaloosa".

It is due to the success of that organisation "the Appaloosa Horse Club of America" that the name Appaloosa has now become the world-wide accepted name for the breed that it is today.


But what are the origins of the British Appaloosa, and more importantly, what lies in the future?



In England, spotted horses can be found illustrating early manuscripts bearing either saints or nobles upon their backs. Charles II had a strangely marked grey with red on his rump named 'Bloody Buttocks'. In the 18th and 19th centuries, one or two spotted horses appeared in English paintings like John Wooton's Lady Conway's Spanish Jennet now in possession of Lord Hertford at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire as pictured below by kind permission. 



Although it is claimed there were indigenous spotted horses in Britain, it is likely that these came originally from the continent. This is thought to be due to the French Cave paintings stated earlier which geographically speaking, is a close neighbour.


There is no evidence to suggest that spotting patterns have arisen independently anywhere else in the world, hence it is a viable assumption that the cave dwellers in France were painting something new. As the spread from Southern Europe continued, the spotted horses interbred with native stock and eventually took on conformation appropriate to their new homes.




British horses have more recently experienced a convergence of different spotting lines from around the world, as representatives from America and Danish lines found their way back to our shores.

In augmenting our so-called indigenous stock, Ireland has been a rich source. Ireland also had "native" stock but around the turn of the century came the era of American travelling circuses. There are stories of spotted stallions standing to local mares, which no doubt swelled the native population to good advantage



The Spanish riding school used Appaloosas as far back as 1760 - This picture depicts Johann Elias Ridinger riding in 1760 

In the 1970s American stallions were being exported to Australia at regular intervals, using  Britain as a staging post for quarantine reasons. Mare owners were able to secure services to these stallions and hence another important convergence of bloodlines took place. Since then, good American horses have been imported in their own right.


Under the co-ordination of the British Appaloosa Society, this "cocktail" has formed the basis for a future breed. In 1987 a grading system was implemented, which made provision for a six generation "journey" to stud book status.

Fourth generation horses are currently being produced and it is exciting to consider that their grandget will be the first acclaimed pure bred Appaloosa in Britain.

As the grading towards stud book status progresses the inconstancies in type and quality of the foundation stock are gradually being smoothed away to produce a superior riding horse - athletic, colourful and willing. A horse of which we can all be proud..... A BREED IN THE MAKING.