The ancient line of “spotted horses” acquired the name “Appaloosa” from the Nez Perce Indians. The spotted horse existed prior to that time, certainly…but known by different names.
It all started in the early 1700s, when the Nez Perce' acquired its first horses. The tribe's oral history, while not supported by most non-native historians, has been passed down among some of the Nez Perce'. The first Appaloosa horses obtained by the Nez Perce' tribe came from a Russian ship that had dropped anchor just off the shore of what is now northern Oregon. Three spotted stallions were swam from the ship to a tribe waiting on shore, in exchange for goods. These special stallions were then sold to the Nez Perce', who bred them to the tribes best mares. According to lore, that was the beginning of the Nez Perce' Appaloosa.
A well documented account from George Long Grass, of Nez Perce-Flathead extraction, in 1877 states that “His great great grand father and his great grandfather had gone to Tillamook Bay ( now northern Oregon) and bought their horses from the Siletz Indians, and for those horses they had paid twice the price.” There seems to be little known about the Siletz Indians who had lost their identity very early, but George Long Grass knew of them. He stated that ships came into the bay and the horses were pushed off then towed to shore by the Siletz Indians. He also stated that in 1762 two spotted stallions were taken off one of the ships and bred to some mares and taken back aboard the ship. He believed those ships to be Russian. George Long Grass wore a thong around his neck which carried a Russian ¼ rouble dated 1758, which his greatgreat grand father had gotten in 1762 from the men who came on the ships. The coin would have been minted during the reign of the Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great.
In 1724 Peter
the Great had commissioned Lt. Bering to explore – and he discovered Alaska
in 1741 – (known then as Russian America) and for the next 60 years Russian
ships were up and down the Pacific Coast from Alaska south past Canada and as
far as California. So, from 1741 through to the 1800’s Russian traders,
hunters & trappers – with horses – were moving along the coastline of
Canada and the northwest USA. It is known that by the 1780’s they were exporting
livestock to their colonies in North America.
Whichever account you choose to believe, one thing is for certain: The
Appaloosa is strongly associated with the Nez Perce' tribe.
The Nez Perce' believed the spotted ones to be tougher than ordinary horses
and began to selectively breed for them, as well as for endurance, hard feet,
and other characteristics that have become synonymous with the Appaloosa
horse. A strict breeding program, using only the best stallions, was
established and adhered to for over a hundred years.
However, Chief White Bird and his group of Nez Perce did not surrender with Chief Joseph in 1877, but rather, escaped to Canada with Appaloosa horses.
"The Story of the Ghost Wind Stallions" by Don LaLonde and
"Horse Migration of North America" by Frank. C. Scripter
Sources: "The Story of the Ghost Wind Stallions" by Don LaLonde and "Horse Migration of North America" by Frank. C. Scripter
Some people believe that the Nez Perce involvement with the “spotted horse” for some 100 years has created the “Appaloosa” breed. Certainly, they have given the spotted horse this ‘name’. In ancient China they were known as the ‘blood sweating heavenly horses’ and were also considered superior.
The spotted horses are documented in pre-historic cave paintings, and are undeniably NOT native to North America.
The Nez Perce and most all indigenous peoples of the Great Plains, in fact, moved freely back and forth between what is now Canada and the USA – trading, hunting, and raiding – prior to 1877.
With evidence to support that these spotted horses came by Canada and to the northwestern USA via Russia, it supports the concept that the “spotted horse” or Appaloosa – by any name you give it – belongs to the world and has it’s origins in many countries.