The Appaloosa is most widely known as the spotted horse. Drawings of horses displaying spotted color scheme have been found in the prehistoric caves in France. Spotted horses later appear in Chinese artistry dating from 500 B.C. and Persian art of the 14th century, and throughout most of Europe. Appaloosas were most likely imported from the Near East or Spain with shipments of goods to Mexico about 1600. The spread of the horses northward was made by the Plains Indians and by about 1730, the Nez Perce had them. During the exploration of the West, the Nez Perce were the only tribe to have Appaloosas in numbers. The Nez Perce chose horses with intelligence, stamina, sturdiness and colorful markings and they chose to breed them in preference to other horses from the 1730's to the 1830's.
Close contact with the people of the tribe demanded a quiet, sensible disposition. This trait is common to Appaloosas today. The combination of stamina needed for racing and hunting, and disposition and good sense necessary for life around the camp tended to produce a superior horse. The breed nearly disappeared after the Nez Perce War of 1877. The Nez Perce, led by Chief Joseph, made a daring 1,350-mile dash to Canada over some of the most rugged terrain in the West, outrunning five U.S. Armies while transporting goods, women and children. But for a telegraph line and handy steamer to ferry troops across the Missouri, they would have made it. After the surrender of Joseph at the Bear Paw Mountains in Montana, the Appaloosas bred to perfection by the Nez Perce were sold and began to become assimilated into other breeds.
The Appaloosa Horse Club, Inc., (www.appaloosa.com) the official breed registry for Appaloosas, was formed in 1938 by a group of men determined to keep the famed Nez Perce war and hunting horses from slipping out of sight forever. A few of the descendants of the Nez Perce horses made up the foundation stock. Since then the growth of the Appaloosa Horse Club, Inc., has been rapid. The Appaloosa is suited for all activities ranging from parade, show, cow horse, trail, pleasure, polo, racing to jumping. The Appaloosa Horse Club, Inc., Moscow, Idaho, is the National Breed Association and official registry for Appaloosa Horses.