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Are Appaloosa Horses Rare? Are They Good Kids Horses?

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Its colorful spotted coat pattern easily distinguishes the Appaloosa horse breed. Likenesses of Appaloosa horses were discovered etched in the walls of caves in France during the stone age, but are they now a rare horse breed?

Appaloosa horses are not rare but are thriving today. Appaloosa horses had a resurgence in the 20th century, and today they are treasured across the globe. Because of their fiery temperament, they aren’t good horses for kids or beginner riders.

The Appaloosa horse is a special breed. The Nez Perez tribe selectively bred horses until they developed the traits they treasured, color, stamina, and sturdiness. But are these the traits you want for a beginner rider?

Are Appaloosas Good for Beginners?

We recently went to a rodeo, and a young boy riding an Appaloosa got bucked off riding in the entry parade. This made me remember my experiences with Appaloosas and wonder if they are good for beginners.

Appaloosa’s aren’t typically good horses for beginners. They are high-strung and will challenge a novice rider. However, horses are individuals; and there are some good ones and some bad ones.

My experience with an Appaloosa was not good. I have three brothers, and our first horse was an Appaloosa. We ranged in age from five years old to nine years old.

appaloosa horses, horse breeds,
By Evelyn Belgium -blanket pattern

Our Appaloosa was aggressive and hated to be under saddle; he took us under low limbs to scrape off his back. He was unruly and hard to discipline. Eventually, my father gave him away.

I know many horsemen with similar experiences to ours. However, rarely are people warned to avoid buying Appaloosa horses for beginner horseback riders.

Surely some Appaloosa horses are excellent for beginners; however, unless the seller is someone you trust, I would avoid purchasing an Appaloosa for an inexperienced rider. You can read more about equine activities and horse breeds by clicking the link.

What is the Temperament of an Appaloosa Horse?

Appaloosa horses have temperaments you expect in hot-blooded horses. They are high-spirited and willing learners that are smart, brave, and independent. They are best suited for experienced riders.

Temperament is best described as an animal’s personality, disposition, or nature. Breed temperament is a generalization of personality traits, but it’s important to remember that each animal is an individual and may display features that aren’t typical to the breed.


The temperament of the Appaloosa has evolved over time. After native Appaloosa horses of the Nez Perce Indians were captured and sold at auction in the late 19th century, many of the horses were cross-bred to draft breeds. The breeding of the draft horse breeds created bigger-boned horses with a calm temperament.

However, in 1938 the Appaloosa Horse Society was formed to re-establish the Appaloosa horse to its more refined state. The Appaloosa Horse Society cross-bred Arabian and other hot-blooded breeds with Appaloosas to achieve this goal.

Crossing Arabian introduced not only a smaller frame but also a fiercer temperament. Typically, Appaloosa horses have a fiery personality but are willing learners and very social animals.

Picture of an almost white appaloosa.
Spotted Appaloosa

How Can You Tell if a Horse is an Appaloosa?

According to the Appaloosa horse club, there are four characteristics of an Appaloosa horse:

  • Mottled skin: Mottled skin is a unique trait of the Appaloosa horse. It is a speckled or blotchy patch of pigmented and non-pigmented skin. pumpkin skin.
  • White sclera: The sclera is the white area of the human eye. The Appaloosa is the only horse in which the white sclera is readily visible. Other horses show the white of their eyes when they roll their eyes back, up, or down. Appaloosa horses frequently have night-blindness.
  • Striped hooves: Appaloosa horses commonly have bold and clearly defined vertically light or dark striped hooves.
  • Coat Pattern: The Appaloosa is a myriad of color and pattern combinations interspersed with white. See below for more detail. 

To register an Appaloosa, the horse must have a recognizable coat pattern or mottled skin and one of the other characteristics.

appaloosa horses,
Mottled nose and white sclera

Appaloosa Coat Patterns:

  • Blanket – The blanket pattern has a solid white area typically over the hip area with a contrasting base color.
  • Spots – An Appaloosa horse with spots has white or dark spots over all or a portion of its body.
  • Blanket With Spots – Is an Appaloosa horse with a white blanket and dark spots within the white. The spots are often the horse’s base color.
  • Roan/Marbleized – White and dark hairs mixed, creating a mottled look. The white hairs form an appearance of flecks throughout a dark coat color.
  • Roan Blanket – refers to a horse having a roan pattern which consists of a mixture of light and dark hairs, over a section of the body. The blanket occurs typically over but is not limited to, the hip area.
  • Roan Blanket With Spots – A horse with a roan blanket with white and/or dark spots in the roan area.
  • Solid – a horse that has an acceptable base color without contrasting the Appaloosa coat pattern. To register a horse with this coat requires the existence of mottled skin and one other characteristic.
  • Leopard pattern: White or predominately white body, with dark spots resembling a leopard look.
  • Snowflake: The horse has a dark body coat with white flecks, mostly over its haunches.
Picture of a spotted appaloosa walking down a lane.

Are Appaloosa Horses Rare?

No, Appaloosa horses are an ever-increasing horse breed. Later in this article, we examine the factors used to place horse breeds on the endangered list. But now, let’s look at some of the numbers we have on Appaloosa horses.

How many Appaloosa horses are there in the world?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates there are over 500,000 Appaloosa horses in the United States. The USDA arrived at this figure through a calculation of the amount of new Appaloosa horses registered.

The registration numbers were provided by the American Horse Council, which takes a formal census every five years. Their poll indicated that 12,096 new Appaloosa horses were registered in 2014.

The Humane Society provides some insight into the difficulties of deriving accurate numbers of horses and specific breeds; their report can be found here. If we assume that the number of Appaloosa horses in the U.S. is correct, then the number of Appaloosas worldwide would be close to one million.

What determines if a horse breed is rare?

The Livestock Conservancy maintains a list of horse breeds considered at risk for extinction. The list of horse breeds considered at risk is classified as critical, threatened, watch, and study. The Appaloosa breed is not on any of their listings.

The Livestock Conservancy is the authority on breed conservation in the United States. They work with other conservation groups throughout the world to protect breeds from extinction.

When the economy downturns, horse breeders are negatively impacted immediately; people earning less money don’t buy horses. The modern is considered an expensive recreation.

Breeders of unique horses have a small niche of buyers, and when the market slows, they quit producing. Supply and demand are just one of the reasons a breed can become at risk of extinction.

Conservation groups work to prevent the extinction of breeds. In 2017 a collaboration was formed to identify causes of population decline and actions to take to stabilize the loss of breeds.

The Livestock Conservancy compiles a census of the breed members. The poll is used to determine which breeds are at risk. The following criteria must be met:

  • Critical: Horses with fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and an estimated global population below 2,000.
  • Threatened: Horse breeds with less than 1,000 annual registrations in the United States and an estimated global population of fewer than 5,000.
  • Watch: Horse breeds with fewer than 2,500 annual registrations in the United States and an estimated global population below 10,000. Also included are breeds presenting genetic or numerical concerns or of limited geographic distribution.
  • Recovering: Horse breeds previously listed in another category but still need monitoring.

A couple of horse breeds on the endangered list are the Akhal Teke and Clydesdale. Click on their names to read about these “at risks” breeds.

Picture of a appaloosa running fast.

Appaloosa horses around the world

The history of the spotted horse can be traced to cave wall drawings in France, through the steppe of Asia, and battles involving Alexander the Great. But it wasn’t until the breed was improved in North America by the Nez Perce Indians that they became known as the Appaloosa horse.

The Spanish Conquistadors took spotted horses to the New World. They quickly spread and were treasured by one particular tribe of Native Americans, the Nez Perce.

The Nez Perce named these spotted horses “Palouse Horse” after an Idaho river. Through selective breeding, the Nez Perce improved the breed by increasing its stamina, speed, and demeanor. The Appaloosa was the perfect hunting and warhorse.

After the surrender of the Nez Perce Indians, their horses were captured and auctioned. The Appaloosa was almost lost until Mr. Claude Thompson and Dr. Francis Haines established the Appaloosa Horse Club in 1938.

These two men, along with other horsemen, began the process of bringing the Appaloosa horse breed back to its glory. To learn about horses that are native to North America, click on the link.

Today, there are Appaloosa clubs and registries in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and of course, Australia.

Picture of a standard colored appaloosa horse.

Appaloosa horses in the United Kingdom

Spotted horses have a long history in England. In some early manuscripts, there are illustrations of saints and nobles riding horses with spots. Paintings of spotted horses from the 18th and 19th can still be seen today hanging in aristocratic family homes.

The British spotted horse is likely a convergence of many horses. The continental horse originated from France and migrated through most of Europe, along with spotted horses from America and Danish areas.

Ireland had some native stock of spotted horses. It’s believed that American spotted stallions brought to Ireland near the turn of the century were bred to mares, increasing the population of spotted horses.

During the 1970s, American studs were regularly exported to Australia. On the way, the horses were required to quarantine in England. English mares were able to breed to the studs during the quarantine period.

In 1976 The British Appaloosa Society was established, making it the oldest Appaloosa registry in the United Kingdom.

Picture of two appaloosa horses used to pull a carriage..

How long do Appaloosa horses live?

Appaloosa Horses live the same as most other similarly sized horses, 28 years old. Appaloosa horses are known for being easy keepers and generally healthy horses. So unless something unusual occurs, you should be able to enjoy your Appaloosa horse for a long time.

Are Appaloosa horses fast?

Appaloosa horses are fast. The Nez Perce bred for speed in their horses, and the modern Appaloosa horses are infused with quarter-horse blood. The quarter horse gene further increased the speed in the Appaloosa. Appaloosa horses are generally fast and athletic horses.

Why do Appaloosas have a bad reputation?

Most Appaloosa horses have a temperament that reflects how their owners treat them. If you mistreat your horse, it will often be stubborn as a mule. But if you are smarter than your horse and treat him well, then you shouldn’t have trouble with an Appaloosa.

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