Appaloosa Horses

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Appaloosa Horses

Appaloosa horses are an American horse breed known for their spotted coat patterns. They are a versatile breed that excels at many English and Western riding sports, sprint racing, and halter competitions. It is one of the most recognizable and popular horse breeds in the United States.

By Unknown author – Haines, Francis (1963) Appaloosa: The Spotted Horse in Art and History, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, p. 76 ISBN: 0912830212., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3481998

A Very Brief History

In North America, native people of the Pacific Northwest developed the original Appaloosa horse breed. Modern Appaloosa horses can trace their bloodlines to the foundation bloodstock. It has a partially open studbook that allows some Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Arabian horses to be included in the breed which influences the body types of Appaloosas. Learn more here…


The Appaloosa color coat can have small round spots or speckles. They can have a dark base coat with light spots, white with dark spots, roan with patches of spots, or have a dark base coat with a white “blanket” and spots over the hindquarters.

Appaloosa Horses on Pinterest

Check out some of the amazing appaloosa horse pictures we found on Pinterest.

Spotting Patterns in Appaloosas

Examples of various patterns that can appear on Appaloosa horses.

Snowflake Appaloosa

When a dark body is adorned with white spots or flecks, it is commonly referred to as snowflakes.

A snowflake appaloosa will often develop more and more spots and flecks as it grows older, and it is also normal for the size of the spots and flecks to increase.

Roan Blanket / Frost

A horse with roaning over croup and hips.

The blanket normally covers the hip area, but isn’t necessarily limited to the hip area only.

If there are white and/or dark spots within the roan blanket, it’s simply known as roan blanket with spots.

varnish roan

Appaloosa Roan / Varnish Roan / Marble

This is a distinct version of the leopard complex, and is characterized by:

  • Intermixed dark and light hairs.
  • A lighter color on the forehead, jowls and frontal bones of the face.
  • A lighter color on the back, loin and hips.

In some horses, darker areas appear along the edges of the frontal bones of the face. Darker areas can also be present on legs, at the point of the hip, behind the elbow, on stifle and above the eye.

Dark points located at bony areas are known as varnish marks and distinguishes this pattern from a traditional roan.

Blanket / Snowcap Appaloosa

A solid white covering the hip area, and contrasting against the base color of the horse, is known as a blanket or a snowcap. The white covering doesn’t have to be limited to the hip area; it can extend further.

Leopard Appaloosa

A white horse with dark spots is called a leopard if the spots are distributed all over the body.

If the horse is mostly white but with a bit of color remaining around the flank, neck and head, it is known as a few spot leopard.

If a few spot leopard is completely white with only mottled skin showing, it is known as a mottled appaloosa.

Blanket With Spots

A white blanket (snowcap) where there are dark spots within the white segment.

I most horses displaying this pattern, the spots will be of the same color as the base color.

Other Appaloosa Horse Characteristics

appaloosa sparse mane tail

Sparse Mane & Tail

A thin mane and tail are commonly seen on Appaloosa horses.

appaloosa sparse mane tail

Mottled Skin Around the Eyes, Lips, & Genitals

appaloosa sparse mane tail

Vertically Striped Hooves

appaloosa sparse mane tail

Visible Sclera

The sclera is the part of the eye surrounding the iris. All horses have white around their eyes that is only visible if they roll their eyes back. A characteristic seen in Appaloosa horses more than in other horse breeds is a visible white sclera when their eye is in a normal resting position.

Base Coat Colors

Appaloosa horses can have a base coat color of black, bay, chestnut, dark bay/brown, palomino, dun, black, cremello/perlino, buckskin or grulla.


Chestnut horses (also known as sorrel) are a reddish-brown color with the same color or lighter mane and tail. They vary from light golden-red to dark brown known as Liver Chestnut. The mane and tail may also be a blond color, also known as a Flaxen Chestnut.


Bay horses & ponies have a brown or reddish-brown body with black points on their legs, and a black mane and tail.


Palomino horses & ponies have a golden colored coat with a white or cream colored mane and tail.


Cremello colored horses are not white, but are cream colored from birth. They have a light mane and tail, pink skin and blue eyes.


A Brown colored horse looks like black, but has a brown sheen in the sunlight. It also looks like dark bay, but not all points are black.


Dun colored horses & ponies have a golden colored body with a black mane, tail & legs. To be considered a Dun, the horse must have a dark dorsal stripe & many will display dark striping on their shoulders, legs & forehead. If they do not have the dorsal stripe, they are considered a Buckskin.


Grulla or Grullo colored horses have the Dun gene and appear to be mouse-colored or tan-grey. They have dark tips on their ears, a dark face and legs, and have a dorsal stripe that runs down their back. Grulla horse & ponies often have dark stripes on their legs, forehead, back, shoulders or neck.


Black horses & ponies have no brown or red hair. They may have white markings on face or legs.


Buckskin horses & ponies have a golden colored body with a black mane, tail & legs. They are very similar in color to a Dun, although they will not display dark striping on their shoulders, legs & forehead, or a dorsal stripe down their back.

Play the Appaloosa Horse Game

How to Play: Go to the Choose Your Appaloosa game. Click the green flag to begin. Choose the horse’s markings and colors. Go to the Main Tail page or Tack Room page to choose more details to customize your horse and add a saddle, bridle, and leg wraps. Click Done to see your final horse design and add the horse’s name.

ApHC logo

The Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC)

The Appaloosa Horse Club formed as the breed registry in 1938. Solid colored horses can be registered with the ApHC if they have mottled skin and one other leopard complex characteristic, however the ApHC does not allow ponies or draft horses to be included.

Find ApHC On Social Media

Other Spotted Horse Breeds

Other breeds of horses that can have a leopard-spotted pattern

The spotting pattern in horses is formed by the Leopard Complex Pattern (LP) pattern gene which is very old and can be found in many breeds around the world. Spotted horses date back to ancient times and have appeared in prehistoric cave paintings, artwork from Ancient Greece, and the Han dynasty China.


Examples of Spotted Horse Breeds Include:

Changing Patterns

Coat patterns don’t always stay the same as the horse ages; they tend to evolve over a horse’s lifetime.

For example, Appaloosa horses with a varnish roan coat pattern are not always born looking like roans. Often they are born with spots and as the foal ages, those spots gradually turn into patches of varnish roan.


Did you know

In the Appaloosa breed, coat patterns are variable and some horses display patterns that doesn’t fit neatly into just one specific category.

Appaloosa icon

Welcome to your Appaloosa Horses Quiz

Your Name (Required for leaderboard & certificate)
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What characteristics are often found in the Appaloosa horse breed?
What is the scelera?
What is a Leopard Appaloosa?
What is a Snowflake Appaloosa?
Horses must have spotting to be registered as Appaloosa horses.
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Appaloosa Horses


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Play the Appaloosa Horse Coat Patterns Matching Game

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