Recent history of the Appaloosa

For more information about the early history of the Appaloosa, and how the breed almost feel into extinction after the Nez Perce war, please go to our article “History of the Appaloosa, part 1”.

The Appaloosa breed is saved from oblivion

The Western Horseman

One of the driving forces behind the preservation of the Appaloosa horse was Francis D. Haines, a history professor from Lewiston, Idaho. In January 1937, an article written by him about Appaloosas was published in the Wester Horseman magazine, introducing the readers to the breed’s history and calling for its protection from extinction.

Haines had put a lot of work into researching the breed prior to writing the article, including extensive traveling with his friend George Hatley who was a big Appaloosa fan. Haines and Hatley visited numerous Nez Perce villages, collecting information about the horses and their history, and taking pictures.

Dick Spencer, longtime publisher of the Western Horseman, was also a big promoter of the breed, and he would go on to support the breed by letting many subsequent articles about Appaloosas get into the magazine.

The Appaloosa Horse Club

Haines article helped revive public interest in the breed and the Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC) was formed the following year by a small group of horse breeders, of which one was Claude Thompson.

The registry kept by the ApHC was housed in Moro, Oregon for nearly ten years before the club moved to Moscow, Idaho. By then, the club was led by Haines friend George Hatley.

In the early days, many Arabian horses were bred with Appaloosas to revitalize the breed. Out of the first 15 horses registered with the newly formed ApHC, no less than ten were Appaloosa-Arabian crosses. Eventually, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse lines were utilized as well, and also crosses from certain other breeds, including Standardbreds and Morgans. It wasn’t until 1983 that the ApHC limited the number of permitted outcrosses to Arabians, American Quarters and Thoroughbreds.

Old time vs. modern appaloosas

Old time Appaloosa

The original “old time” or “old type” Appaloosa was tall and narrow-bodied with long and slender limbs. These traits came from the Spanish-origin horses common on the plains of North America before the 18th century.

The old time Appaloosas often had a convex facial profile that resembles that of warmblood-Jennet crossings. The Jennet was a small and well-muscled Spanish horse noted for its smooth and ambling gait. It was an ideal light riding horse, and as such popular for long-distance travel in both Europe and North America.

In the 18th centuries, pied horses fell out of fashion in Europe and were therefore shipped in large quantities to North America were they could still fetch a pretty penny. These horses were usually tall and slim Thoroughbreds, and they came to influence what was to become the Appaloosa.

The old-time Appaloosas often had a sparse mane and tail, and there is possibly a genetic link between the leopard-complex and sparse mane and tail growth.

Modern appaloosa

As mentioned above, the Appaloosa Horse Club promoted the mating of old-fashioned Appaloosas with American Quarter Horse and Arabian bloodlines.

Genetic material from the Quarter Horses helped create Appaloosas that were better at sprint racing than the old-fashioned Appaloosas (who had been chiefly used for tasks were sprint-speed was of little importance).

The introduction of Arabian bloodlines was instrumental in creating certain cutting and reining Appaloosas, a process in which the Appaloosa foundation stallion Red Eagle was of imperative importance.

In the 1970s, quite a lot of Thoroughbred blood was introduced to the breed in a effort of bettering the Appaloosas’ results on the race tracks.

When it comes to the mane and tail, many of today’s Appaloosa breeders dislike what they call “the rat tail” of the old-type Appaloosa and are actively encouraging fuller tails (and manes).

The Nez Perce horse

In the late 20th century, the Nez Perce commenced a breeding program for the Nez Perce horse. You can read more about this in the article “The Nez Perce Horse” on this site.