Appaloosa Horse

Appaloosa Horse

The Appaloosa is a horse breed best known for its colorful leopard-spotted coat pattern. There is a wide range of body types within the breed, stemming from the influence of multiple breeds of horses throughout its history. Each horse’s color pattern is genetically the result of various spotting patterns overlaid on top of one of several recognized base coat colors. The color pattern of the Appaloosa is of great interest to those who study equine coat color genetics, as it and several other physical characteristics are linked to the leopard complex mutation (LP). Appaloosas are prone to develop equine recurrent uveitis and congenital stationary night blindness; the latter has been linked to the leopard complex.

Artwork depicting domesticated horses with leopard spotting patterns exists from Ancient Greece through the Early modern period; the Nez Perce people of the United States Pacific Northwest developed the original American breed. Appaloosas were once referred to by settlers as the “Palouse horse”, possibly after the Palouse River, which ran through the heart of Nez Perce country. Gradually, the name evolved into “Appaloosa”. The Nez Perce lost most of their horses after the Nez Perce War in 1877, and the breed fell into decline for several decades. A small number of dedicated breeders preserved the Appaloosa as a distinct breed until the Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC) was formed as the breed registry in 1938. The modern breed maintains bloodlines tracing to the foundation bloodstock of the registry, and has a partially open stud book that allows addition of some Thoroughbred, American Quarter Horse and Arabian blood.

Today the Appaloosa is one of the most popular breeds in the United States; it was named the official state horse of Idaho in 1975. It is best known as a stock horse used in a number of western riding disciplines, but is also a versatile breed with representatives seen in many other types of equestrian activity. Appaloosas have appeared in many movies and one is a mascot for the Florida State Seminoles. Appaloosa bloodlines have influenced other horse breeds, including the Pony of the Americas, the Nez Perce Horse, and several gaited horse breeds.

Breed characteristics

The Appaloosa is best known for its distinctive, preferred leopard complex spotted coat. Spotting occurs in several overlay patterns on one of several recognized base coat colors. There are three other distinctive, “core” characteristics: mottled skin, striped hooves, and eyes with a white sclera. Skin mottling is usually seen around the muzzle, eyes, anus, and genitalia. Striped hooves are a common trait, quite noticeable on Appaloosas, but not unique to the breed. The sclera is the part of the eye surrounding the iris. Although all horses show white around the eye if the eye is rolled back, to have a readily visible white sclera with the eye in a normal position is a distinctive characteristic seen more often in Appaloosas than in other breeds. Because the occasional individual is born with little or no visible spotting pattern, the ApHC allows “regular” registration of horses with mottled skin plus at least one of the other core characteristics. Horses with two ApHC parents but no “identifiable Appaloosa characteristics” are registered as “non-characteristic,” a limited special registration status.

There is a wide range of body types in the Appaloosa, in part because the leopard complex characteristics are its primary identifying factors, and also because several different horse breeds influenced its development. The weight range varies from 950 to 1,250 pounds (430 to 570 kg), and heights from 14 to 16 hands (56 to 64 inches, 142 to 163 cm). However, the ApHC does not allow pony or draft breeding.

The original “old time” or “old type” Appaloosa was a tall, narrow-bodied, rangy horse. The body style reflected a mix that started with the traditional Spanish horses already common on the plains of America before 1700. Then, 18th-century European bloodlines were added, particularly those of the “pied” horses popular in that period and shipped en masse to the Americas once the color had become unfashionable in Europe. These horses were similar to a tall, slim Thoroughbred-Andalusian type of horse popular in Bourbon-era Spain. The original Appaloosa tended to have a convex facial profile that resembled that of the warmblood-Jennet crosses first developed in the 16th century during the reign of Charles V. The old-type Appaloosa was later modified by the addition of draft horse blood after the 1877 defeat of the Nez Perce, when U.S. Government policy forced the Indians to become farmers and provided them with draft horse mares to breed to existing stallions. The original Appaloosas frequently had a sparse mane and tail, but that was not a primary characteristic as many early Appaloosas did have full manes and tails. There is a possible genetic link between the leopard complex and sparse mane and tail growth, although the precise relationship is unknown.

After the formation of the Appaloosa Horse Club in 1938, a more modern type developed after the addition of American Quarter Horse and Arabian bloodlines. The addition of Quarter Horse lines produced Appaloosas that performed better in sprint racing and in halter competition. Many cutting and reining horses resulted from old-type Appaloosas crossed on Arabian bloodlines, particularly via the Appaloosa foundation stallion Red Eagle. An infusion of Thoroughbred blood was added during the 1970s to produce horses more suited for racing. Many current breeders also attempt to breed away from the sparse, “rat tail” trait, and therefore modern Appaloosas have fuller manes and tails.

Color and spotting patterns

The coat color of an Appaloosa is a combination of a base color with an overlaid spotting pattern. The base colors recognized by the Appaloosa Horse Club include bay, black, chestnut, palomino, buckskin, cremello or perlino, roan, gray, dun and grulla. Appaloosa markings have several pattern variations. It is this unique group of spotting patterns, collectively called the “leopard complex”, that most people associate with the Appaloosa horse. Spots overlay darker skin, and are often surrounded by a “halo”, where the skin next to the spot is also dark but the overlying hair coat is white.

It is not always easy to predict a grown Appaloosa’s color at birth. Foals of any breed tend to be born with coats that darken when they shed their baby hair. In addition, Appaloosa foals do not always show classic leopard complex characteristics. Patterns sometimes change over the course of the horse’s life although some, such as the blanket and lepoard patterns, tend to be stable. Horses with the varnish roan and snowflake patterns are especially prone to show very little color pattern at birth, developing more visible spotting as they get older.
The ApHC also recognizes the concept of a “solid” horse, which has a base color “but no contrasting color in the form of an Appaloosa coat pattern”. Solid horses can be registered if they have mottled skin and one other leopard complex characteristic.

Base colors are overlain by various spotting patterns, which are variable and often do not fit neatly into a specific category. These patterns are described as follows:

Spots: General term that refers to a horse that has white or dark spots over all or a portion of its body

Blanket or snowcap: A solid white area normally over, but not limited to, the hip area with a contrasting base color.

Blanket with spots: A white blanket which has dark spots within the white. The spots are usually the same color as the horse’s base color.

Leopard: A white horse with dark spots that flow out over the entire body. Considered an extension of a blanket to cover the whole body.

Few spot leopard: A mostly white horse with a bit of color remaining around the flank, neck and head.

Snowflake: A horse with white spots, flecks, on a dark body. Typically the white spots increase in number and size as the horse ages.

Appaloosa roan, marble or varnish roan: A distinct version of the leopard complex. Intermixed dark and light hairs with lighter colored area on the forehead, jowls and frontal bones of the face, over the back, loin and hips. Darker areas may appear along the edges of the frontal bones of the face as well and also on the legs, stifle, above the eye, point of the hip and behind the elbow. The dark points over bony areas are called “varnish marks” and distinguish this pattern from a traditional roan.

Mottled: A fewspot leopard that is completely white with only mottled skin showing.

Roan blanket or Frost: Horses with roaning over the croup and hips. The blanket normally occurs over, but is not limited to, the hip area.

Roan blanket with spots: A horse with a roan blanket that has white and/or dark spots within the roan area.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appaloosa

 

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