Spotted horses have been around for an extremely long time, and people have been infatuated with spotted coats on horses throughout history. A strong interest in these beautiful and unique horses continues to this day.
There are many different horse breeds that can have a spotted coat pattern. This is thanks to a couple of different genes causing spotting on a solid coat. This can include both white and colored spots depending on what genes are involved.
In this article, we will be explaining everything that horse lovers need to know about spotted coat patterns on horses.
Keep reading to learn about what horse breeds can have a spotted coat pattern and how these spots occur.
Why Do Horses Have Spots?
Like any other coat characteristic, the spotted pattern on a horse is thanks to the horse’s genetics.
Most of the time a spotted coat is due to the presence of the Leopard spotting gene in horses.
Leopard spotting is present in many horse breeds including the Appaloosa, the Knabstrupper, and several others.
However, the leopard pattern is not the only gene complex that can cause a spotted coat in horses. These mainly include white spotting genes.
Spotted Horse Breeds
There are many different horse breeds that can have spotted coat patterns.
They include many different pony breeds such as the British Spotted Pony and the Pony of the Americas along with some other horse breeds such as the Appaloosa and Knabstrupper.
Here are some of the most stunning spotted horse breeds.
The origins of the Appaloosa horse date very far back, and the horses that came over with the Spanish conquistadors are what really began the breed.
The Nez Perce people of the American northwest are what took these horses and bred them into the beautiful and versatile horses that we know today.
For a brief part of the breed’s history, the Appaloosa almost died out. In the early 20th century new found interest in these horses from the American people inspired a breeding program that preserved the breed.
Most of the time the spotted pattern of the Appaloosa is caused by the Leopard gene. This causes dark brown or black spots on a white coat.
There are more types of spotted Appaloosa horses than just the Leopard Appaloosa though. Snowflake Appaloosas have white spots on a dark background coat.
British Spotted Pony
British Spotted Ponies are typically white horses that have dark spots.
There can be some variation in the spotted pattern and their coat colors, and these ponies have a similar coat to the Appaloosa.
The snowflake pattern of white spots on a colored background can also occur in British Spotted Ponies.
The British Spotted Pony is native to Great Britain, and they could be seen roaming around the British countryside as wild horses.
Their striking appearance has led to people domesticating them and eventually breeding them.
The British Spotted Pony Society made the breed officially recognized in the 1940s.
Today the British Spotted Pony is mainly used as a mount for children, and they are known for their lively and even temperaments.
Like many other purebred horses, British Spotted Ponies can often be seen in the show ring as well.
Nez Perce Horse
The Nez Perce Horse is a cross between the Appaloosa and an Asian horse breed called the Akhal-Teke.
Due to the fact that these horses are very closely related to the Appaloosa, they are very similar in appearance as well.
In addition to solid colors, the Nez Perce horse can also have a spotted coat pattern just like the Appaloosa.
This breeding program was funded and supported by the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho and the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Additionally, a nonprofit organization called the First Nations Development Institute provided funds for the Nez Perce horse breeding project in order to support native American culture.
The Knabstrupper horse has Danish origins that date all the way back to the 17th century.
Originally this horse breed was generally reserved for the royal and noble families of Europe, and today remains to be one of the rarest horse breeds.
The Knabstrupper is famous for its beautiful spotted coats. Most of the time their coat is made up of dark spots on a white or cream base coat.
These horses are often mistaken for the Appaloosa, but they are actually more closely related to other old European horse breeds such as the Fredricksburg Stallion.
Although the Knabstrupper is a horse that is fairly rare, they are generally used for performances, carriage drawing, and general riding today.
The Knabstrupper usually has a very friendly and agreeable temperament and a strong build, which makes them an all-around great horse for riding and work.
The Tiger Horse is a very new horse breed that was originally created in the United States in the 1990s, and they were not officially recognized until 2011.
The horse breeders that created the Tiger horse aimed to create a horse that closely resembled the original Appaloosa horses from Europe and the ancient spotted Soulon horse from China.
These horses are of medium size and they generally have dark spots over a white coat. Oftentimes these horses also have color on their legs, head, and chest.
The tiger horse is mainly used for trail riding, but they are sometimes used for jumping and equine sports as well.
Another notable fact to include about the Tiger Horse is that they have a very versatile gait.
In addition to lateral gaits like the Indian shuffle, these horses can also exhibit the diagonal fox trot, stepping pace, and running walk.
Pony Of The Americas
This Pony of the Americas is yet another type of horse that is relatively new.
These ponies were created in the United States in the 1950s after the Appaloosa was crossbred to several different types of ponies.
The Pony of the Americas has kept their Appaloosa ancestor’s spotted coat pattern while retaining their medium pony size. The result of this appearance is a sort of mini appaloosa horse.
The Pony of the Americas is a very popular horse among younger riders due to its easy-going temperaments and smaller size.
Ponies of the Americas are generally a good choice for novice handlers due to their high trainability and agreeable nature.
This coupled with this pony’s stunning good looks has made them a very popular horse breed in the United States.
The Walkaloosa is essentially a cross between the appaloosa and a horse of a gaited breed such as the Missouri Fox Trotter or the Paso Fino.
The result of this crossbreed is essentially a gaited horse with the coat colorations and patterns found in the appaloosa. Of course, this includes both the leopard and snowflake coat patterns.
The Walkaloosa breed was created as a way for horse owners to register their gaited appaloosas after the Appaloosa Horse Club limited their registration to only include horses with ambling gaits.
Now the Walkaloosa is an established breed with a registry and breed standard.
Today the Walkaloosa is a popular choice among competitive riders and endurance racing. Walkaloosas can also be seen performing in show jumping and dressage.
The Noriker horse is an Austrian draft horse that was bred to thrive and work in mountainous regions.
The origins of the Noriker are incredibly old, and these horses’ ancestors date all the way back to ancient Greece and Rome.
From there the predecessors of the Noriker went on to create this hearty, European breed.
The Noriker can come in a variety of coat colors and patterns. Bay Norikers can often be seen, and the spotted leopard pattern is seen as well.
As for their physical build, the Noriker has a muscular build with a deep chest with a low center of gravity.
The build of the Noriker horse is important for their climbing ability, strength, and balance as their original purpose is to work in a mountainous setting.
The Noriker can still be seen working in the Austrian Alps today, but they can also be seen as general riding horses. Norikers can sometimes be seen by equine sport goers as well.
Colorado Ranger Horse
The Colorado Ranger, sometimes also called the Colorado Rangerbred, gets its name from the Colorado High Plains where the breed was originally created.
This breed is the result of the cross-breeding of the Arabian, Barb, and Ranch horses in the late 1800s.
The Colorado Ranger Horse Association was created in the 1930s to set this breed apart from others and to establish a unique breed standard for them.
Even though Colorado Rangers can have spotted coats that are similar in appearance to the Appaloosa, the two-horse breeds are not related.
Today the Rangerbred can still be seen walking trails, living on ranches, and participating in western sports.
American Miniature Horse
The American Miniature horse was created over time by selectively breeding smaller ponies.
In the beginning, they were primarily used for work in mines or as a pet for the European nobility. Today, the miniature horse is mainly kept as a pet.
The miniature horse can come in a very large array of coat colors and patterns. Among these possible coat types are leopard spotting.
When it comes to their build the miniature horse is very small, and it should never be ridden by anyone.
Even though you cannot ride a miniature horse, it is still recommended that those who own one provide them with plenty of exercise as they can be prone to obesity without it.
Having a large yard and engaging in activities like agility training can help to keep your miniature horse trim and healthy.
Is a Paint Horse Considered A Spotted Horse?
The Paint Horse also called the Pinto horse, is not considered to have a spotted coat.
This is because the Paint horse will have patches of color rather than small spots like the Appaloosa.
This coat pattern is often referred to as piebald if the coat is black with large white patches or skewbald for other base coat colors with large white patches.
That being said, some people may consider these wide white-colored patches to actually be spots.
They are just not caused by any of the same genes that cause smaller spots like the leopard-spotted coat or the snowflake spotted coat.
Can Quarter Horses Have Spots?
The Quarter horse can occasionally have a spotted pattern, but it is not common.
Quarter horses with this coat type will also need to have a proven Quarter Horse pedigree before being officially registered as well.
When it comes to the quarter horse solid-colored coats are much more common, and even the pinto coloration is more common than spotted quarter horses are.
If you are looking for a spotted horse that appears to be similar to the Quarter horse, then the Walkaloosa or the Nez Perce horse may be a better option.
Can Shetland Ponies Have Spots?
According to their breed standard, the Shetland pony is not supposed to have a leopard-spotted pattern like the above horse breeds on our list.
These horses can come in an extremely wide variety of colors and patterns besides the leopard-spotted though. These include the pinto and bay coat patterns.
The occasional Shetland Pony breeder may try to produce a leopard-spotted Shetland Pony, but this coat pattern does not adhere to the Shetland Pony’s breed standard.
As a result, leopard-spotted Shetlands cannot be registered and are likely the result of a crossbreed within their line.
If you are looking for a spotted horse breed then you have a wide variety to choose from.
There are many large spotted horses such as the Appaloosa, the Noriker, the Colorado Ranger, and more.
There are also many great spotted pony breeds out there that are smaller as well. These range from the British Spotted pony to the very tiny miniature horse.