Last Updated on February 12, 2022
Spotted horses have been popular for thousands of years, but how does this unusual coat color occur? Let’s find out all about leopard Appaloosa markings!
What Is A Leopard Appaloosa?
A leopard Appaloosa is a horse that has a very distinctive set of coat markings. The Appaloosa breed of horse is one which has a high probability of exhibiting leopard markings, but other breeds of horse can also inherit this coat coloring.
Appaloosa horses are famed for their distinctive spotted coats, and many horse lovers dream of owning a beautiful spotty horse. But these horses are not just nice to look at – the Appaloosa breed is an athletic and versatile riding horse too!
This breed comes with many different types of markings, that are shown on a wide range of base coat colorings. The spotted markings on an Appaloosa horse are described as blanket spots, leopard spots, snowflake spots, or marbled coloring.
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Is Appaloosa A Breed Or Color Of Horse?
This is something that many horse lovers get confused about – are all spotted horses Appaloosa? And are all Appaloosa horses spotted?
There is a specific breed of horse called Appaloosa, and many horses of this breed have spotted coloring. Not all Appaloosa horses have spots, but they will most likely carry the gene that will pass on spotted coat markings to any offspring.
The Appaloosa breed of horse is a medium sized equine, normally between 14 and 15 hands high. They have compact, muscular bodies and are very agile and athletic. The origins of the Appaloosa breed can be traced back to the indigenous Nez Perce people, who favored spotted horses and would often select them for breeding.
What Breeds Of Horse Are Spotted?
So, if a horse has spotted coat markings does this mean it is an Appaloosa? No, not at all! The Appaloosa is a breed that is highly likely to carry the genes that create spotted coat colors, but other horses can also inherit these genes. Horses of many other breeds and types can exhibit spotted markings, but it is more prevalent in certain breeds.
For example, the Knabstrupper, a warmblood type hailing from Denmark, will have spotted coat markings, as will the British Spotted Pony in the UK. The Spanish Tiger horse has spotted coat markings, and the Pony of the Americas and the Colorado Ranger are American horse breeds that carry spotted coat genes.
What Does An Appaloosa Leopard Horse Look Like?
Leopard Appaloosa markings are very distinctive, and easy to spot! The horse will have a coat that is predominately white, including the head, legs, mane and tail. They will have spots of darker hair all over the coat, giving them the appearance of a Dalmatian dog.
This particular pattern of markings is called full leopard spotting, and the coloring of the spots will vary according to the true base color of the horse.
You may also see a ‘few spot leopard’ Appaloosa, that has some dark coloring around the head, neck, and flanks.
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How Do You Get A Leopard Spotted Appaloosa?
To understand how full leopard spotting occurs, we need to learn about the basics of horse color genetics. All horses inherit one basic color gene from their dam and their sire, which can be either red or black. It is the combination of these two genes that gives the three base colors of horse – black, red (chestnut/sorrel), and bay.
Some horses have just these base color genes, and their color will be black, bay, or chestnut. However, many horses also inherit color modifying genes, that alter the base coat color.
In a leopard spotted Appaloosa, a specific set of genes needs to be passed on from the parents. The first of these is one called leopard complex spotting, which creates a white pattern in the coat. This causes the base color of the horse to become white in some areas.
The leopard spotted Appaloosa will also inherit a modifier gene, that acts on the leopard complex spotting gene to increase the amount of white areas in the horses coat. This is called Appaloosa Pattern-1.
So, the combination of these two genetic coat color modifiers turn the base color of the horse’s coat white, but not all of it! What we are left with are spots of colored hair, which has not been turned white.
What Color Spots Do Appaloosa Leopard Horses Have?
The spots on a leopard Appaloosa are patches of hair that have not been affected by the leopard complex and Appaloosa Pattern-1 coat modifier genes. this means they will show as the original base color of the horse, whatever that may be!
So, if the base color of the horse was black, you will see black spots, and if it was chestnut or bay, you will see brown spots.
However, it is not always that simple! The color of a horses coat can be affected by more than one modifier gene, and a leopard Appaloosa can have a range of different base coat colors.
Many of these are created by the presence of a color dilution gene. These lighten the base color of the coat, causing a range of different colors. Base coat colors accepted by the Appaloosa Horse Club include buckskin, palomino, cremello, perlino, roan, dun, grullo, and grey.
So, if a horse had a palomino base coat color and leopard spotting pattern, you would see golden spots on a white base coat. Absolutely beautiful!
So, as we have learned, a leopard spotted Appaloosa can be identified by its white body and darker colored spots. This distinctive pattern is created by a specific set of genes that turn the base color of the horse white. Other breeds of horse can also carry these genes, so a horse with a spotted coat is not necessarily an Appaloosa.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this unusual horse color! Have you always dreamed of owning a spotty horse? Or maybe you have questions about how to breed a horse with this unusual coloring? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE