Knabstrupper Vs Appaloosa: Two Spottiest Horses

So, you’ve got as far as knowing you like spotty horses. Where do you go from here? You need a comparison of the two spottiest, a breakdown of Knabstrupper vs Appaloosa. Look no further, you’ve found it! Read on to learn about the similarities and differences of these leopard-spotted lovelies.



The Knabstrupper is a Danish horse, and the breed was only established in 1812, when a chestnut mare with leopard complex blanket spots was bred with a one-color stallion. The result was a little colt with serious spots!

The son and his mother were then bred with other horses and produced multiple offspring with spotting, thus establishing Knabstrupper as a breed.

Nowadays, it is uncertain whether any purebreds from the breed remain, because of so much crossing in with other horses over the years. Appaloosas were introduced to the breed in 1971, to bring new blood to the gene pool, so these two breeds share and awful lot of characteristics.

The Appaloosa originated in America. Artwork depicting spotted horses has been found in prehistoric cave paintings from ancient Greece to all the way to China, and paintings exist showing spotted horses being used for riding as far back as the 16th century.

However, it was the Nez Perce Native American tribe that first began selectively breeding these spotted horses, and have shaped the breed into what we know it as today.

By 1877, following many wars and resettling of the Nez Perce, few Appaloosas remained but they luckily continued to be bred, mainly for working ranch horses or circuses.


knabstrupper horse
Knabstrupper Horse

Knabstruppers are generally found in the 15.2 to 16 hands range, but pony sizes (under 14.2 hands) are also found.

Appaloosa height varies from 14 to 16 hands, though the breed does not allow pony or draft sizes to be registered.


Obviously, if you’re looking into Knabstruppers you’re looking for spots. The spots, (which are caused by a genetic mechanism called the Leopard Complex, in case you’re interested), vary wildly from horse to horse in this breed, from full body spotting to a blanket covering to a “snowflake” effect.

Knabstruppers share the Apaloosa’s mottled skin around the muzzle, eyes and genitals, and the horizontally striped hooves and white sclera.

Appaloosa coloring is distinctive, and differs from other breed colors not just because of the spots. The Appaloosas all have the distinctive white sclera (the part of the eye surrounding the iris) which is visible on all horses if the eye is rolled back, but on Appaloosas and Knabstruppers this is visible when the eye is in a normal position.

Some appaloosas are born with no spotting at all, but with the mottled skin around the muzzle, eyes and genitals, which allows them to still be recognised as Appaloosa. As well as the distinctive markings, many Appaloosas also have a notably sparse mane and tail, due to the gene which causes the spotting.


Knabstrups generally have either a Warmblood or Baroque conformation, with a large, attractive frame. The head of the Knabstrupper is expressive, the neck well proportioned leading into a long shoulder, with a strong back. These horses have short and muscular loins and strong legs with plenty of bone.

The Appaloosa has a wide range of body types, because the main characteristic bred for was the distinctive coloring and because several different horse breeds were involved in developing the breed.

The “original” Appaloosa was a tall, rangy horse, similar to the traditional Spanish horses that were common on the plains of America before 1700.

After the defeat of the Nez Perce, the American government provided them with draft horse mares to breed to the original stallions, which diluted the breed and produced stockier foals.

After the addition of the Quarter Horse and Arabian into the Appaloosa breeding, horses that were good performers in sprinting and halter competition became more commonplace. What I’m trying to say is, there is no one easily definable body type of the appaloosa!


The Knabstrupper, because of its interbreeding with so many other horses, doesn’t really have any stand out gait characteristics. It is, however, renowned for being extremely hardy with great stamina, and has a smooth movement from the shoulder with a long stride.

Appaloosas have a really interesting gait pattern, which is known as the Appaloosa, or Indian Shuffle. This is where both legs on the same side of the horse move together, rather than laterally as with other breeds.

This action comes from the hips and shoulders with a rolling action, and gives a smooth, gliding ride as it won’t throw you from side to side like a standard horse riding gait.


appaloosa horse

The Knabstrupper is known for its kind and gentle temperament. The founding mare was reportedly a lovely character, and this has passed down through the generations. Knabstruppers are also highly intelligent, lively and friendly, and are known for being curious to the point of nosiness!

Appaloosas are intelligent, independent and curious. They have been used as war horses in the dim and distant past, because of a fierce aspect to the personality – don’t worry though, these days there’s not much call for riding to battle, so your spotted friend can be used for general riding and yard fun!


The tall and athletic nature of Knabstruppers makes them ideal for equestrian sports such as driving and dressage. They are also renowned for their jumping skills, and can excel at showjumping.

Also, because of their distinctive color and striking appearance, they are sought out as horses to be used for display or circus acts.

Appaloosas are used for both Western and English riding, with disciplines including cutting, reining, roping, bending, as well as eventing, showjumping and hunting. They are great for endurance and trail riding due to their stamina.

Appaloosas are also bred for racing, thanks to the introduction of the Quarter Horse into the breed. Despite the fact that you wouldn’t instantly associate Appaloosas and racing, an Appaloosa still holds the record for the 4.5 furlong distance which was set way back in 1989!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are these horses the same breed?

In a word, no. Although they are both spotty and can often look very similar, the Appaloosa comes from America, while the Knabstrupper comes from Danish warmbloods. They both share the Leopard Complex gene that produces the spots though.

2. Do these horses have health issues?

Both of these breeds are susceptible to Equine Recurrent Uveitis, which can cause blindness. They are thought to have a genetic predisposition to this disease, but luckily it can be treated with veterinary care.

3. What is unusual about these horses?

In case the spots weren’t enough for you, there are other things that separate these breeds from others. Both of these horses share the distinctive white sclera around the eye, whereas most horses’ eyes are completely brown all the way around. They also have striped hooves, and mottled skin around the mouth and nose.

4. Are these horses famous?

A well known Appaloosa called Cojo Rojo was ridden in the movie The Appaloosa by Marlon Brando, while another, Zip Cochise, was ridden by John Wayne in El Dorado. The most famous Knabstrupper was Mikkel, who was a racer who was only ever defeated once – and he would pull a carriage 41km to the racecourse before competing!

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