The Appaloosa breed has captured the hearts of horse lovers from around the world. Their unique spotted coats are a result of the genetic traits passed down by their Native American Nez Perce ancestors, and they have come to symbolize pride in heritage, perseverance and the close bond between humans and horses. However, many people have questions about whether or not these distinctive markings will change as the horses age.
While the spotting and color of an Appaloosa may change over time, these changes are very rare and can affect just one or two areas of the body. In some cases, this is due to an increase or decrease in the size of a particular spotted area on the body, while in other instances, the white markings will grow darker and appear more prominent. These occurrences are not considered to be part of a typical spotted Appaloosa pattern, but rather a reversion to a more solidly colored phenotype.
The most common and recognizable Appaloosa pattern is the Blanket pattern, which features a dark base color with a blanket of white across the hindquarters. This blanket can be a clean, roaned or flecked white and can extend over the entire rear of the animal, or just the hips. In either case, the animal must also display spots of the base color on the field of white.
Another favored Appaloosa pattern is the Snowcap, which showcases a solid white covering over the hip area of the animal. This covering can be a clean or roaned white, and it must contain a certain amount of spotting of the base color. Snowcaps also tend to show more white spotting around the head, flanks and genitalia, which can make them look similar to a varnish roan Appaloosa.
Other spotting patterns include leopard, few spot leopard, flint and mottled. A few spot leopard Appaloosa will typically have a few scattered white spots on a dark base color, while a flint Appaloosa will have a small patch of white surrounded by the solid color and some of the characteristic leopard spotting. Mottled Appaloosas will have white flecks or spots on a dark base color, and these can be as subtle as just a few round’spots’ inside a blaze or snip.
In addition to these traditional spotting patterns, some Appaloosas are able to exhibit a speckled pattern that is similar to roaned or flinty blazes on other horses. This patterned appearance is not considered to be an official spotting pattern, but instead classifies as pumpkin skin or mottled skin.
In some cases, the pigmentation of an Appaloosa’s skin will fade as it ages, which can lead to the color of the animal becoming more uniform and obscuring its characteristic spotted pattern. This phenomenon is most commonly seen in foals that are born with classic leopard spotting, but it can occur in other spotted or white horses as well. As a foal grows into an adult, this coloration process can become more pronounced, with the spots and flecks enlarging to form larger and more prominent spotted areas.