How did the horses and the Nez Perce come together?
It was the Spanish who introduced their horses into Mexico in the 1500's. Somewhere around the 1700's, many of their horses had wandered their way into the northwestern United States. At that time the Nez Perce people were fishermen and hunters, though limited in their travels. When the horses arrived, their lives were changed forever. Now, they had a means to travel greater distances with ease.
How did the Spanish horses get to be all spotted?
The Nez Perce, were to become the first horse breeders in the North American continent. As they learned horsemanship, so too came their breeding skills. They had a particular affinity for the few prized spotted horses that were in the herds and soon started culling and breeding from that stock. They bred for size, good conformation, feet were very important, heart, strength, agility, a good mind and for color patterns. Their knowledge soon became such that they were able to begin specific breeding programs from their stock and to develop prized patterns, which gave birth to developing a heretofore unknown horse breed. It was a unique breed that came to be known as the Appaloosa horse. The Appaloosa, is the first true North American horse breed.
How did the Appaloosa get its' name?
When the West started to become settled, people came into areas of the country that had only been inhabited by Native Americans. Rivers, mountains and other obvious landmarks often gave rise to names for the settlements. In the area where the Nez Perce lived, there is a river called the Palouse River in what is now northern Idaho. Many of the settlers became familiar with the colorful native ponies in their area and started calling them such colloquial names as "Palousey" or it's "a Palousey" horse. Over time, the colloquial name gave rise to the more familiar and now breed accepted name of Appaloosa.
How did the Appaloosa come into Canada?
Native American history is fraught with battles and bloodshed. Often there was trouble between the People, settlers and the US Army. Much of the trouble was caused thru lack of understanding of the People's culture and the settlers now transported cultures. Battles, wars, bloodshed were all too often the result. In the mid 1800's, there was a flood of new settlers into the traditional Nez Perce home grounds. Conflicts soon arose and battles resulted. The Nez Perce War of 1877 occurred and thru it, the Appaloosa horse found it's way into Canada along with some of the Nez Perce peoples.
This movement into Canada had a couple of very important results. It crystallized and gave credence to the skills of the Nez Perce both as horsemen and as horse breeders. It was their sturdy horse which found itself the target of the Army. The Army had found itself baffled and befuddled by the great strength, agility and ability of the Appaloosa horse. It had depth and heart that was lacking in their own mounts. In order to control the People, it was decided to eliminate the strength of the people by eliminating the horse itself. Many, many Appaloosa horses were slaughtered or dispersed at that time. The carefully laid breeding program for these amazing horses, was laid waste and very nearly resulted in the demise of the breed as only a mere handful remained.
But, the Appaloosa is still here? How did that happen?
By the late 1800's and early 1900's, there were still just enough Appaloosas in North America that the cowboys started to notice the flashy and hearty horses. The Appaloosa began to make a small resurgence in the western lifestyle as a cow horse, round-ups and on the rodeo circuits of the day. With photography being a new up and comer, more of the general public across the new nation began to see the amazing coat patterns. Interest in preserving and growing the breed began, the Appaloosa could be saved as a breed.
The Appaloosa Horse Club or ApHC (United States) was formed in the 1930's to help preserve and breed the horses. It is now one of the leading equine registries in the world. In March of 1975, the Governor of Idaho, signed a bill naming the Appaloosa horse as the official State Horse. It was a fitting and deserving honor extended to a horse that had held such an important role in the history of Idaho and it's peoples both native and settlers.In Canada, the Appaloosa Horse Club of Canada or ApHCC, was formed in 1954. It has the role of growing, protecting and preserving the breed in Canada. It is incorporated with the Animal Pedigree Act of Agriculture as an evolving breed.
Much of the breeding wisdoms of the Nez Perce peoples, has been lost. There is much to re-learn and recover.
We are grateful to those organizations and people who continue on in the work and have dedicated themselves to the Appaloosa horse.