What Color Is This Horse? II: Appy Edition

Hint: Once again, the answer is neither blue/black nor white/gold.

Earlier this week, in the spirit of a divisive question that tore the Internet apart (“What Color Is This Dress?”), we decided to launch a series about horse colors. Part I tested reader knowledge of Pinto coat patterns; today’s topic is the appaloosa.

Oh, and in case you were curious about the results of our informal reader survey:


Not unlike optically-challenging dresses, Appaloosa coat patterns can be a bit confusing. How well do you know your spots? Let’s find out!

What would you call the coat patterns of the horses below?

Wager your best guess and then check it against the answers below.

Photos/text shared under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.








Bonus questions!

8. Does the Appaloosa Horse Club breed registry accept horses with little or no visible spotting pattern?

9. What gene is responsible for Appaloosa coat coloring?




1. Blanket with spots: A white blanket which has dark spots within the white. The spots are usually the same color as the horse’s base color.

2. Leopard: A white horse with dark spots that flow out over the entire body. Considered an extension of a blanket to cover the whole body.

3. Snowflake: A horse with white spots, flecks, on a dark body. Typically the white spots increase in number and size as the horse ages.

4. Mottled: A few spot leopard that is completely white with only mottled skin showing.

5. Roan blanket or “Frost”: Horses with roaning over the croup and hips. The blanket normally occurs over, but is not limited to, the hip area.

6. Appaloosa roan, marble or varnish roan: Intermixed dark and light hairs with lighter colored area on the forehead, jowls and frontal bones of the face, over the back, loin and hips. Darker areas may appear along the edges of the frontal bones of the face as well and also on the legs, stifle, above the eye, point of the hip and behind the elbow. The dark points over bony areas are called “varnish marks” and distinguish this pattern from a traditional roan.

7. Blanket or “Snowcap”: A solid white area normally over, but not limited to, the hip area with a contrasting base color.

8. The ApHC recognizes the concept of a “solid” horse, which has a base color “but no contrasting color in the form of an Appaloosa coat pattern.” Solid horses can be registered if they have mottled skin and one other leopard complex characteristic.

Appaloosas are not strictly a “color breed.” All ApHC-registered Appaloosas must be the offspring of two registered Appaloosa parents or a registered Appaloosa and a horse from an approved breed registry, which includes Arabian horses, Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds. In all cases, one parent must always be a regular registered Appaloosa. The only exception to the bloodline requirements is in the case of Appaloosa-colored geldings or spayed mares with unknown pedigrees; owners may apply for “hardship registration” for these non-breeding horses.

The ApHC does not accept horses with draft, pony, pinto, or paint breeding, and requires mature Appaloosas to stand, unshod, at least 14 hands (56 inches, 142 cm). If a horse has excessive white markings not associated with the Appaloosa pattern (such as those characteristic of a Pinto) it cannot be registered unless it is verified through DNA testing that both parents have ApHC registration.

9. Any horse that shows Appaloosa core characteristics of coat pattern, mottled skin, striped hooves, and a visible white sclera, carries at least one allele of the dominant “leopard complex” (LP) gene.


Are you seeing spots yet? Share your results in the comments section below! And keep it tuned to Horse Nation for Part III, coming soon. The topic: crazy facial markings!

Go Riding.


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