Three of the main identifiable characteristics, in addition to the variety of coat patterns of the Appaloosa, are mottled skin, white sclera and striped hooves which can be present on plain coloured Appaloosas. They can sometimes be recognised through their sparse mane and tail, a feature that avoided entanglement with thorny shrub.

Mottled Skin– In addition to the muzzle and eye areas, mottled skin is also found on the genitals. Mottled skin is different from commonly found pink skin in that it normally contains dark areas of pigmented skin. The result is a speckled or blotchy pattern of pigmented and non-pigmented skin.


White Sclera – The sclera is the area of the eye that encircles the cornea – the coloured or pigmented portion. The Appaloosa sclera is white and usually more readily visible than other breeds. It is a distinctive characteristic (known as the ‘human eye’) provided it is not in combination with a large white face marking.


Striped Hooves – Many Appaloosas will have bold and clearly defined vertically light or dark striped hooves. However, many light coloured horses tend to have thin stripes in their hooves and some hoof markings can be the result of an injury to the coronet so this trait should be used along with other characteristics.


Author’s Health tip:-

The Appaloosa is a hardy breed known for its resilience and the general care required to maintain good health and well-being is similar to other breeds. However some of their characteristics such as the mottled skin around their mouth and face can make them susceptible to sunburn and wind scald if there is no shelter for them.



Appaloosas are characteristically recognised for their outstanding coat patterns but these aren’t the only distinguishing factors that identify them from other breeds. Due to Appaloosas being a recognised breed and not just a colour, many are born solid coloured with no spots at all.

A remarkable aspect of the Appaloosa is the myriad of coat colour and pattern combinations. There are eight common terms used to describe some Appaloosa patterns but there are many which may not fit into specific categories easily.


Blanket – There are three main types of blankets:- 

  • Spotted blanket – white or dark area over loins and/or hip but with light or dark spots.
  • White blanket – solid white area normally over, but not limited to, the hip area with contrasting base colours.
  • Frosted blanket – dark base colour with either frost or white markings over loins and hip.

Leopard – There are also three main types of leopard:-

  • Leopard spot – white base colour with dark spots over the entire body
  • Near leopard – leopard coloured body markings but with different coloured head and legs.
  • Few spot leopard – basic colour of white with just a few spots.

Snowflake – Dark base colour with white spots and freckles over body.

Solid – Plain coloured with no spots but can show other characteristics as mentioned earlier



Research conducted by scientists has found that the Appaloosa or LP gene is responsible for Appaloosa patterning and other colour characteristics, while other factors, possibly genes, determine the exact spotting pattern. It should be noted that not every horse with the Lp gene exhibits hair coat spotting. However, even some solid horses will exhibit characteristics such as vertically striped hooves, white sclera of the eye, or mottled skin around the eyes, lips, and genitalia.

Sometimes, Appaloosas may also exhibit sabino or pinto type markings, but these are not desirable and are discouraged by the ApHC registration rules. The Appaloosa Project, a genetic study group, has also done extensive research on the interactions of Appaloosa and pinto genes and how they affect each other. The genes that create these different patterns can all be present in the same horse. However, because pinto genes, particularly the overo pattern, may “cover-up” or obscure Appaloosa patterns, pinto breeding is discouraged by the ApHC, which will deny registration to some horses if they have excessive white markings.

Another key fact about the Appaloosa is that they are known to completely change their coat colour and markings from when they were born. Some Appaloosas born solid coloured have been known to ‘colour out’ as they get older and become more spotted or coloured. Others have been born with one or two spots or distinct blankets, and colour out to be leopards with lots of spots all over their bodies. For example, some near leopards often colour out to become full leopards and some solid coloured foals often colour out to become snow flaked. The solid colour Appaloosas are important in passing on ‘colour’ and quite often solid coloured mares will produce highly coloured or spotted foals if bred with an Appaloosa stallion. Few spot Appaloosa stallions are also known to pass on a high degree of colour to their offspring.


There is no guarantee that breeding the same mare to the same stallion will produce a coloured coat pattern as can be seen in this photo of twin Appaloosa foals as one twin has a spotted blanket and the other has a solid colour.

Blanket Spot
Few Spot Leopard
Frosted Blanket
Leopard Spot
Near Leopard Spot
Solid Colour
White Blanket

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