The appaloosa horse can be traced back at least to the Mongols in ancient China. It is the oldest identifiable breed of horse. It wasn’t called the appaloosa until it became associated with a place that would become Idaho. The horses were well known on the Palouse prairie of northern Idaho, and over the years those Palouse horses, became appaloosas.
The spotted horses came to the Northwest by way of Mexico. Spanish conquistadors lost or traded away enough of them to assure thriving herds in the new world. The Shoshone Tribe had them first, but it was the Nez Perce who perfected the breed.
Horses gave the Nez Perce a greatly expanded range, and produced a whole new way of living for them. They became buffalo hunters, and developed trade relationships with other tribes far removed from their traditional range.
The appaloosa breed was nearly lost when the great Nez Perce herds were split up and scattered following the Nez Perce War. An ambitious plan to save the horses brought the breed back from near extinction in the 1930s.
Today, thousands of the tough little horses with spotted blankets on their rear quarters can be seen in Idaho and around the world. If you visit Moscow, Idaho, don’t miss the Appaloosa Museum, where you can learn the complete story of the breed that became Idaho’s State Horse in 1975.