The Idaho Horse and Its Significant Role in State History

The Appaloosa was named the state horse of Idaho for the role it played in state history. In the 1700s, the Nez Perce tribe began breeding the horse, which provided the tribe with more mobility and was used for hunting and fishing.

“The Nez Perce tribe became excellent horsemen and herders, creating large herds renowned for their strength, intelligence and beauty,” notes the Appaloosa Horse Club website. The tribe was known throughout the Northwest for their hunting skills and craftsmanship. These skills allowed the Nez Perce to trade needed goods and services.

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In the mid-1800s, settlers flooded the Nez Perce Reservation – leading to the Nez Perce War of 1877. According to the Office of the Idaho Secretary of State, Appaloosa horses helped the untreated Nez Perce , under the leadership of Chief Joseph, escape the American ordeal for several months.

Settlers called the tribe’s horses “a Palouse horse” in reference to the Palouse River in north-central Idaho. Eventually the name evolved, becoming “Palousey”, then “Appalousey” and finally “Appaloosa”.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, interest in the breed gradually began to grow when Appaloosas began showing up in western roundups and rodeos – according to the Appaloosa Horse Club. The club, which was charted in 1938, works to preserve and improve the Appaloosa breed. Based in Moscow today, it is one of the world’s leading equine breed registries, according to its website.

On March 25, 1975, Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus signed a bill naming the Appaloosa as a state horse.

Today, you can learn about the state horse by visiting the Appaloosa Museum and Heritage Center in Moscow.

Helen L. Cuellar