When you think of a horse, it is usually an image of one with a plain, shiny coat. Spotted horses aren’t a common sight but there are plenty of spotted breeds of horses that date back centuries. If you’ve been wondering what horses have spots, you’ll find an extensive list today to quench your curiosity .
Spotted horse breeds have always been a representation of royalty and were exchanged as gifts. Their unique patterns and mystical appearance made them so famous among European elites which is why they were imported and exported even before studbooks.
So, without further ado, let’s see what these breeds are:
10 Horse Breeds That Have Spots
The following list of 10 horse breeds that have spots provides information about their coats, appearances, history, and much more.
When you talk of horse breeds with spotted coats, Appaloosa is the most recognised one globally. However, not all Appaloosas have spots. Some horses may have a solid-colored, plain coats. Moreover, spotted patterns in Appaloosas are not the same for every horse. They vary in color as well as design, the most recoginsed of which include the Leopard pattern, Chestnut blanket, and Bay blanket.
The Appaloosa breed was obviously loved for its spotty appearance. The people of Nez Perce not only loved these horses but are also credited for encouraging their breeding. In addition to the spots, these horses also stand out for their strength and stamina. Their height ranges from 14 to 16 hands, making them ideal for riding. If you’re interested in buying one, then make sure you check out our article on the cost of buying and maintaining an Appaloosa horse.
The Knabstrupper breed originates from a place in Denmark called Knabstrup. Back in the day, the Chinese travelled through Denmark quite often, so they bred horses for speed and strength to travel long distances in shorter time periods. The Knabstrupper horse breed served as carriage horses, during this time.
These horses are the size of a pony with less than 14.2 hands in height. However, some stand tall between the size of 15.2 and 16 hands. This is due to the introduction of Appaloosas to the breeding of Knabstruppers. Consequently, the spots and patterns are also pretty similar to those of Appaloosas.
3. British Spotted Pony
As the name suggests, the British Spotted Pony originates from the United Kingdom. They fall under the category of miniature ponies with their size of 10.3 hands. The cobs and riding horses among them are small – no taller than 14.2 hands.
The leopard pattern is the most common in these spotted horses. So much so that the British Spotted Pony was the ultimate choice of horse for riders who wanted to camouflage. These friendly horses are more courageous than they look, not to mention, intelligent. The British Spotted Pony is a fun horse for kids and a great companion for adults, too.
4. Nez Perce Horse
The next among horse breeds with spotted coats is the Nez Perce Horse. Despite a long history, this horse has only been recognised by the breed registry in recent years. It carries the blood of Appaloosas and Akhal Tekes with the looks of a Quarter Horse.
The bright coat with beautiful spot patterns is the same as Appaloosas. An added quality is that the Walkaloosas are ideal for ranch work and endurance riding.
6. Tiger Horse
The Tiger Horse Association was founded in 1994. It has been working to preserve the Tiger horse breed. Unlike the name suggests, these horses have leopard-like sports instead of tiger-like stripes. However, their bright colors and tiger tones give them this name.
The Tiger Horse was bred in Europe although it originates from Spain. Eventually, it was exported to North America and Canada as it gained more fame. The Tiger Horse is among horse breeds with a special gait called ‘Indian Shuffle’. Cowboys, in particular, are a fan of such horses due to the comfortable four-beat ride of this gait.
7. Pony of the Americas
The Pony of the Americas is a fun mixture of different types of horses. A cross between an Arabian-Appaloosa and a Shetland pony was what first brought this magnificent creature into our world. This resulted in a white-coated horse with black paint-like markings all over.
It has a muscular, strong body with a dished head that gives it a very Arabian look. The physical strength of the horse is paired with a gentle temperament. The height of the horse ranges between 11.2 to 14 hands. Pony of the Americas are used mostly for riding and performance activities since they are easy to train and are great for children.
8. Colorado Ranger
The next name in the list of horses with spots is the Colorado Ranger. This intelligent horse is sized 14 to 16 hands, just like an Appaloosa. A whooping 90% of Colorado Rangers are registered in the Appaloosa Horse Association due to the stark similarities in the two breeds.
Originating in the USA, the Colorado Rangers come in solid colors, too, but the public’s favourite is always the one with leopard spots. The energy of this breed makes it suitable for trail riding. These horses have also been a part of many English discipline events.
9. Noriker Horse
The Noriker Horse dates back to the 1500s when it was an Austrian breed known as the Pinzgauer horse. Later, it was refined with the Spanish bloodline. Back in the day, Noriker horses were used to carry goods, especially in the mountains. Today, they are mostly used as carriage horses and for forestry work.
The horse comes with beautiful leopard spots. You’ll also find some horses with Roan and Tobiano patterns. Generally, the males among this breed are more likely to be spotted than the females. The strong build of these horses stands between 16hh and 17hh.
10. Icelandic Horses
The Icelandic Horses are believed to be among the purest horse breeds worldwide. This is mainly due to the strict horse import policies for native animals. These horses descend directly from the famous Mongolian horses that were used to conquer Asia and Europe.
With a height of 13.5 hands, these horses are no bigger than a large pony. While there are four dominant colors of these horses, the spotty ones are usually only the white ones. Moreover, the gait of Icelandic Horses is also unique. They have 5 speeds. These include the usual 3 which are walk, trot, gallop, along with the addition of tolt and flying pace.
Genetics of Spots in Horses
The spots on a horse are a result of genetic variation. This is why each horse has a different version of patterns. However, these spots are generalised in some categories based on the dominant genes which are described below.
This pattern has colorful leopard spots all over the body. The base color is mostly white. However, a horse with a Snowflake or Varnish Roan pattern has a colored base with white spots all over.
Splashed White Gene
A horse with a colored base that has white patches on the belly and legs like a bucket of white paint was splashed on it carries this gene. Such horses often have blue eyes.
Horses with this gene type have, at the very least, two feet or legs colored completely white. The white extends to the rest of the body in patches which causes a spotty pattern. These white patches mostly have roan edges.
The Tobiano Gene results in white vertical patterns that are mostly regular but may vary depending on the genetic variation from horse to horse. Horses with the Tobiano Gene have colored hair on their heads.
Spotting patterns in Appaloosas
When you think of what breeds of horses have spots, Appaloosas are always the first to come in mind. This is because this spotted horse breed definitely has the most prominent patterns among all horse breeds with spotted coats. What’s even better is that Appaloosas have various spotting patterns which give you a wide selection based on your preference.
The Snowcap pattern on an Appaloosa is basically a white ‘blanket’ on the hip area of the horse while the rest of the body is colored. Sometimes, this white area has spots of the same color as the rest of the body.
Another variation of the Snowcap is a blanket with roan edges. Some horses have spots in this roan blanket too.
The Marble or Appaloosa Roan pattern is a mix of dark and light hairs. The lighter coat covers the frontal bones, hips, forehead, and loin. The legs and edges of the eyes are usually covered in dark hair. A distinguishing feature of this pattern is that the bony areas are always dark.
Some other patterns commonly found on Appaloosas include:
- Partial spots only on one part of the horse’s body
FAQs Related to Horses with Spots
Before concluding, let’s answer some of the most frequent questions asked by equine enthusiasts regarding spots in horses.
Appaloosa is the most well-known American horse breed that is spotted. It originated in the USA which is why it is among the most commonly found spotted horses in the country.
Other than Appaloosas, common horse breeds with spots include Knabstrupper, Walkaloosa, Icelandic Horse, British Spotted Pony, and many more.
There are spotted horses that have a certain genetic variation that results in a spotty pattern. The genes that cause spots include Leopard Complex, Tobiano Gene, Splashed White Gene, and Sabino-1. The most common horse breeds with these genes are the Appaloosa, Knabstrupper, Colorado Ranger, Walkaloosa, and British Spotted Pony.
Other than these breeds, some Warmblood breeds may also get spots if they have the blood of Appaloosas or Knabstruppers running through them. Any horse bred with a spotted horse breed can develop a spotty pattern. This is why spotted horses have now become so common in the USA.
Appaloosas are the horse that has black spots. This horse breed has various spotting patterns and designs. One of these is the leopard pattern. The horse with a leopard pattern has a white body with black spots all over. This pattern is not only very noticeable and prominent, but it is also one of the most attractive.
The leopard pattern is not only limited to Appaloosas. Other horse breeds with this black spotty pattern include Colorado Ranger, Knabstrupper, British Spotted Pony, Walkaloosa, Tiger Horse, and Noriker Horse. The Pony of the Americas also has black spots on a white body, although these spots are more like paint splashes than a leopard print.
A white base covered in black spots is called the leopard pattern. All horses with the Leopard Complex gene have this pattern. Appaloosas, Tiger Horse, British Spotted Pony, Knabstrupper, and Colorado Ranger are the most common horse breeds that have a white base with black dots. The Pony of the Americas, too, has black spots, although sparse.
American Quarter Horses rarely have a pinto pattern on their bodies. Even when they do, the white color is restricted to the spine of the horse. Moreover, the spots are pretty jagged and non-uniform. Usually, Quarter Horses have a solid-colored coat without any patterns or spots.
While a Quarter Horse doesn’t have a spotted pattern, you can opt for a similar horse that does. The Nez Perce Horse looks just like an American Quarter Horse. However, since it carries the genes of an Appaloosa, it has a spotted pattern. You can get the best of both worlds in a Nez Perce.
You now know what horses have spots. While it is a result of genetic variation, the spotty patterns are definitely a fun bonus feature in horses. It is an additional quality on top of the regular features one looks for in a horse.
Our favorite, in this regard, is the Walkaloosa. It has the beautiful patterns of an Appaloosa with the added benefit of a comfortable gait. However, no matter what kind of horse you need, you can easily find one in a spotted breed. That is if the physical appearance appeals to you.