Moscow, Idaho – Most people probably know that the spotted Appaloosa horse originates right here in the Inland Northwest. Hundreds of years ago, the foundation for today’s Appaloosa was the hardy, spotted horses bred by the Nez Perce – or Nimiipuu – who were well-known for being excellent and very selective horse breeders.
Nimiipuu horses became known as Palouse Ponies which later turned into Appaloosa. It’s the state horse of Idaho, and on the outskirts of Moscow you will find the Appaloosa Museum which is dedicated to the history of this special spotted horse, and the people who love it and work to protect its characteristics.
Most Appaloosas are spotted in one manner or another. They often have dark spots on a white base color, but some are palomino or solid colored bay or brown. They always have a white ring visible around the dark center of their eyes – something called a sclera – and their hoofs are striped black and white.
The spots on an Appaloosa are as unique as a human fingerprint: no two horses are exactly alike. They are family horses as they lived with the Nimiipuu who bred them, and later became favorite horses of white settlers on small homesteads in this area.
The Appaloosa nearly became extinct after the Nez Perce War of 1877, which pitted a few hundred Nimiipuu warriors against the United States Army. The war forced the tribe and all its horses to trek north attempting an escape to Canada. Traveling with women and children, the Nimiipuu made it 1,300 miles – but was forced to surrender in the end. The army confiscated the horses, forced the Nimiipuu in exile out of state, and the Appaloosa nearly became extinct.
The Appaloosa Horse Club was founded in 1938 by a small group of breeders who realized something had to be done to preserve this special horse breed. And today you can find Appaloosas competing in any horse sport you can imagine, from dressage to reining and show jumping.
The Nimiipuu maintains horse breeding programs, and at one point imported Akhal-Teke stallions to cross with Appaloosas in an attempt to get closer to the original Nimiipuu horse.
The Appaloosa Museum holds a collection of Nimiipuu saddles and artifacts, as well as many displays about famous Appaloosas and their owners. The museum is hosting its family and horse event, Appy Fest, July 10th at 10:00 a.m.
Visit www.appaloosamuseum.com or call (208) 882-5578 for more information on hours and events.