The Appaloosa
- Mother Nature's Most Favored Member of the Equine Family
by: Cecil A. Dobbin
--Part 1 of 3--

The Appaloosa is a horse that is involved with a great many more characteristics than other horses. For some reason, we want to study the Appaloosa under the same conditions that have been established for horses that are not Appaloosa. When this happens, we have a jigsaw puzzle that when completed has many pieces left over. In the case of the Appaloosa there does not seem to be answers provided that would explain the wide and varied conditions.

We think that to best understand the Appaloosa, one must be deeply involved with a great many Appaloosas for not less than three generations. This includes the full life span because the possibilities are strong that changes will occur at different stages in an Appaloosa's life, including the later years.

Let us first tackle the question that is on most every owner's mind. Is the Appaloosa a breed? Breeds of horses were developed by people like you and me.... only God can make an Appaloosa. Man can develop a Thoroughbred. Man cannot develop an Appaloosa.

Therefore, technically the Appaloosa should be considered a species; within the species man can develop an Appaloosa breed or a wide range of breeds, all of which are Appaloosa.

Is the Appaloosa a color? No more so than any other breed of horse. All display color except the white horse; white is colorless (or the absence of color). Most Appaloosas are recognized as an Appaloosa because of the pattern to the coat. The Appaloosa has several different patterns to their coat which may display any of the equine colors.

The Appaloosa has many more characteristics than other horses. The Appaloosa, in all likelihood, was the first horse from which all other horses originated. We say this because man cannot develop an Appaloosa, however man has the capabilities of deleting the Appaloosa characteristics and creating solid colored horses.

If it were possible to return all horses and breeds of horses back to their natural state, all would lose their identity but the Appaloosa (the pinto might retain its identity, however man can develop a pinto).

We offer here a gene chart which consists of 25 principle features. It is these features that separate the Appaloosa from all other horses. Along with the chart are comments compiled as reminders when presenting the chart verbally.

Capable of creating a great number of Appaloosa breeds
White Hair Syndrome
Integration of Patterns
Appaloosa White
Lacy Appaloosa Pattern
Appaloosa Snowflake
Appaloosa roan (red and blue) with or without spots
It takes an Appaloosa to produce an Appaloosa
Blanket-hipped pattern with or without spots
Appaloosa is dominant over all breeds of solid colored horses
Leopard Appaloosa pattern
Most important basic characteristic is parti-colored skin
A percentage are born solid then develop pattern design in early life
White sclera encircling the eye
Utilize all basic colors, pattern invades leaving Appaloosa Trademark
Wide variety of colors to its eyes
Some born of base color and pattern, to then lose them to white
May display striped hooves
Small number of Appaloosas do not express color change
Sparse hair in the mane and tail
Color and pattern changing capabilities
Referred to as a color breed, but is recognized because of coat pattern
Time table of color change
Coat pattern development of the fetus
Man cannot create the Appaloosa pattern

Any and all studies of the Appaloosa have, up to now, been a concentrated effort directed at color. Somehow, persons involved with an Appaloosa study feel color will furnish answers, when in fact throughout history the concentration of color has prevented an understanding of some of the more basic features that separate the Appaloosa from all other horses.

Our study of the Appaloosa over the past 30 plus years involves a study of the Appaloosa gene. In turn, we feel the gene will furnish answers to the color questions.

We developed here a chart showing the Appaloosa gene with many of the more important Appaloosa features concentrated, not unlike the computer chip. In time the Appaloosa breeder will be able to call up their desired features.

What is shown in the Appaloosa gene chart are features that determine what an Appaloosa is. You will note that conformation standards, breed standards or other standards that deals with type are not mentioned in the gene chart. We are dealing here only with features that are common to the Appaloosa.

  1. Only an Appaloosa can produce an Appaloosa. The same applies to the gray horse. Only a gray horse can produce a gray. Neither the Appaloosa nor the gray will always produce an Appaloosa or a gray, however if an Appaloosa is produced, at least one parent must be an Appaloosa. If a gray is produced, one parent must be a gray. We offer gray and Appaloosa for comparison in this matter because records will prove this to be a fact.

  2. The Appaloosa, when bred to the pure state, will be dominant over all breeds of horses.

  3. As a visual feature, we place Appaloosa parti-colored skin at the top of the list in importance. As an Appaloosa feature it appears to be the commander.

  4. (Grouped with #5, below.)

  5. Even though the white sclera is listed separate from the eye as an Appaloosa characteristic, we place them together for the following reason. The Appaloosa displays almost all the same eye color as humans; black, brown, blue, green, gray, etc.

  6. All Appaloosas do not display striped hooves. Some that have white sox or stockings may or may not have striped hooves.

  7. The Appaloosa may have a sparse amount of hair in the mane and tail. Here again we are talking about a feature that is not found in other breeds which would make it an exclusive trait of the Appaloosa, one not to be denied but should be promoted.

  8. (Grouped with #9 and #10, below.)

  9. (Grouped with #8 and #10, below.)

  10. A high percentage of all Appaloosas are involved with Color Changing Capabilities. This in turn may bring about a different appearance to the Appaloosa pattern. Color change most always runs its course in the first 10 years of the Appaloosa's life. The degree of color contrast, spots and pattern that has established itself will then remain basically the same throughout the remainder of the animal's life (the gray gene can upset the time table). Even though the Appaloosa is often referred to as a color breed, it is for the most part recognized by the Appaloosa patterns. The Appaloosa can and does utilize all equine colors. However, it has a limited number of Appaloosa patterns that evolve and establish these designs.

  11. (See #16, below.)

  12. The pattern of the Appaloosa must have served a purpose as they are a creature of Mother Nature. Man cannot create an Appaloosa pattern. Give him a white hair along with a bay hair and he will never create the Appaloosa pattern even though white and bay are common features of the Appaloosa.

  13. A percentage of all Appaloosas, perhaps between 10%-20%, do not express color change. The pattern as well as color will remain the same throughout the animal's life.

  14. Some Appaloosas are born of a base color and pattern which will be lost to white.

  15. The Appaloosa can and does utilize all equine base colors. These colors may well belong to all horses. In other words, the Appaloosa has not been given definite colors that would make it an Appaloosa. It is made to use any and all equine colors.

    The Appaloosa is furnished with pattern design features which it transmits into the basic color, leaving the Appaloosa Trade Mark.

  16. One of the more confusing features of the Appaloosa would be how and why the Appaloosa pattern establishes itself with the development of the fetus, while a good percentage do not start pattern development until after birth.

  17. (See #23, below.)

  18. (See #23, below.)

  19. (See #23, below.)

  20. (See #23, below.)

  21. (See #23, below.)

  22. (See #23, below.)

  23. The pattern design may be one of the unsolvable mysteries of the Appaloosa. This is because the Appaloosa, as we know it today, may as an individual produce offspring that display several different pattern designs (Example:   a blanket-hipped Appaloosa may produce offspring ranging from snowflake, Appaloosa roan, etc.).

    In our study of the zebra, it establishes there were seven different species of zebra, each with its own pattern design, each ranged in their own territories in Africa. Outside of a very limited number, man was never able to domesticate the zebra as they have other members of the equine family. Therefore, the different species remained in their own part of the world to where man was able to conduct a study.

    Each Appaloosa pattern design may have at one time ranged in its own special part of the world. However, as man is able to domesticate the Appaloosa, they may have brought the different patterns together as we know the situation today.

  24. First, let us think in terms of but one bay hair. This bay hair, when shed, is replaced by the Appaloosa white hair. When we multiply the great number of white hairs that make themselves known in this manner, we have seen a roaning condition develop.

    The base colors such as bay, chestnut or any of the equine colors belong to and are part of all horses. The Appaloosa White Hair Syndrome invades these colors and established Appaloosa pattern and designs and demonstrates Appaloosa conditions.

  25. This factor demonstrates the full capabilities of the Appaloosa. The Appaloosa has the ability to convert the offspring of any solid-colored breed to all the factors found in this chart. In short, an Appaloosa mated to any solid-colored breed or even a grade horse, can convert the resulting offspring to Appaloosa.

    This fact opens the door to almost unlimited possibilities for not only the Appaloosa but the Club (Appaloosa Horse Club) itself.

Copyright © Cecil A. Dobbin. All rights reserved.

This article first appeared on the world wide web in January 2001 at URL:

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