Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The History of Appaloosa Horses

by Misty M. Beller

All my life I’ve been a horse lover, and was blessed to grow up on a farm. My older brother and I each had ponies of our own and rode hours every day. When we were old enough to graduate to full-size horses, we met neighbors who also had horses and loved to ride together. The two mares they rode had a mottled black and white spotted look, which I knew to be part of the Appaloosa breed. Through years of riding together, I developed a deep appreciation for those two Appaloosa horses, as well as respect for the entire breed! Those two mares proved they could outrun and outlast any of the other horses in our riding group. 

 Leopard Appaloosa

As I met other Appaloosas, I learned the breed has a wide variety of coat patterns, from dramatically spotted horses (called leopard Appaloosas) to solid horses whose rumps sport white “blankets” (with or without spots). You don’t always know what pattern a horse will have at its birth. 

Appaloosa mare with blanket on rump. Foal is born without a spot pattern, which will grow in later.

I’ve long wanted to include Appaloosas in one of my stories, especially since the breed was said to have begun in the Nez Perce tribe who lived just west of the Rocky Mountains. Most of my books are set in the majestic Rockies, so anything from that area snags my attention!

The animal takes its name from the Palouse River, which is the area where many of the Nez Perce people lived. When white settlers and soldiers came to the area in the mid-1800s, a war ensued between the Nez Perce tribe and the whites.
Photo of Chief Joseph, Nez Perce leader during the war between his tribe and the U.S. Army. Photo taken in November 1877 by O.S. Goff in Bismarck -- photo courtesy of Dr. James Brust (public domain)

After the Nez Perce War, the Appaloosa breed nearly died out as the U.S. Army killed some of the animals and bred the remaining stock with draft horses. But in 1938, a number of concerned supporters of the breed created the Appaloosa Horse Club to preserve these beautiful horses and regain their earlier refinement through selective breeding. This process is continuing today and the Nez Perce tribe is a leader in this effort.

When I was brainstorming ideas for a new series, I realized this was the perfect time to include Appaloosas! Especially since my story is set in 1830s, before the conflict between the Nez Perce tribe and the white people.

This series follows band of five good friends—as close as brothers. One sets off on a mission to find the famed Paloose horse bred by the Nez Perce tribe. When he doesn’t return as promised, the other four set off to find him. Thus begins the journey of a lifetime…
In my latest release, Hope in the Mountain River, I was able to include many of my personal experiences with Appaloosas. I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with Appaloosa horses! Or is there another breed you’ve always admired?


Misty M. Beller is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic mountain stories, set on the 1800s frontier and woven with the truth of God’s love.

Her latest release, Hope in the Mountain River, is an epic journey along the path taken by the Lewis and Clark expedition—an epic journey through breathless landscapes and adventure so intense, lives will never be the same.

For a limited time, you can get one of Misty's bestselling novels free here:


  1. Very interesting post! I've seen the "blanket" appearance, but not the leopard spots. I've had limited experience and exposure to horses, but think they are a majestic, beautiful animal.

  2. I come from Vermont, which is known for the American Morgan horse. I love the history of the Appaloosa, which I had not heard before. Kudos to those trying to bring back the pure breed.

    1. Oh, yes, Connie! I still remember reading the book, Justin Morgan Had a Horse, when I was a kid. That story planted in me such a firm respect for Morgans!

  3. Misty this past year I saw a documentary on the Appaloosa. A woman in Australia bred them and believed they originated in Asia. A journalist paid her way to Krakastan (I believe ) or Mongolia where they found herds of them. Through DNA testing they confirmed the lineage. She purchased some and had them ship home to improve her herd. The story of these horses and how they managed to strive and go undetected by the outside world was fascinating. The woman's dedication to the bred was heart warming. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading your story.

  4. What a neat story! I love to hear about people who are committed to restoring things almost lost. :-)

  5. I love appaloosas and always wished I had one. I think I fell in love with them when I was a kid and watched the Disney movie, Run Appaloosa, Run. Did you ever see it? They are such pretty horses.

  6. I love horses, and I have been fascinated by the different patterns on the Appaloosa. Thanks for a great post on their history.