ORIGINS OF THE APPALOOSA BREED
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 and believed that the American-based Appaloosas originated from Spain through the Spanish Conquistadors 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 BREEDING:
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 to this day.
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 Palouse river that ran through the heart of Nez Perce country. Over time the name evolved into ‘Palousey’...... ‘Appalousey’ and then 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 it 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 organization, 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?
BRITISH APPALOOSA ORIGINS:
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.
Up to recent evidence to suggest that spotting patterns have arisen independently anywhere else in the world, it was 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.
(Recent findings, a copy at the bottom of page suggest a link much earlier to Siberia and Eastern Europe)
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.
Present day, 21st Century now sees our sixth generation horses currently being produced and it is exciting to consider that we are now breeding the first acclaimed pure bred Appaloosa in Britain.
Genotypes of predomestic horses match phenotypes painted in Paleolithic works of cave art
Archaeologists often argue whether Paleolithic works of art, cave paintings in particular, constitute reflections of the natural environment of humans at the time. They also debate the extent to which these paintings actually contain creative artistic expression, reflect the phenotypic variation of the surrounding environment, or focus on rare phenotypes. The famous paintings “The Dappled Horses of Pech-Merle,” depicting spotted horses on the walls of a cave in Pech-Merle, France, date back ∼25,000 y, but the coat pattern portrayed in these paintings is remarkably similar to a pattern known as “leopard” in modern horses. We have genotyped nine coat-color loci in 31 predomestic horses from Siberia, Eastern and Western Europe, and the Iberian Peninsula. Eighteen horses had bay coat color, seven were black, and six shared an allele associated with the leopard complex spotting (LP), representing the only spotted phenotype that has been discovered in wild, predomestic horses thus far. LP was detected in four Pleistocene and two Copper Age samples from Western and Eastern Europe, respectively. In contrast, this phenotype was absent from predomestic Siberian horses. Thus, all horse color phenotypes that seem to be distinguishable in cave paintings have now been found to exist in prehistoric horse populations, suggesting that cave paintings of this species represent remarkably realistic depictions of the animals shown. This finding lends support to hypotheses arguing that cave paintings might have contained less of a symbolic or transcendental connotation than often assumed.