Nez Perce Horse

The Nez Perce Horse is a breed of spotted horse that originates from an old-line Appaloosa (the Wallowa herd) and an Akhal-Teke horse from Central Asia.

They are known for their strong, athletic build and friendly temperament.

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the Nez Perce Horse breed, including their history, characteristics and uses.

So, if you’re interested in learning more about the Nez Perce Horse, read on!

Nez Perce Horse Breed Info

Here are some of the key things you need to know about the Nez Perce Horse:

Height (size) 15.0 – 16.0 hands high
Colors Palomino or buckskin, with mottled skin and a blanket and/or spotting like an Appaloosa
Country of Origin United States of America (Idaho)
Common Uses Endurance, jumping, general riding

Nez Perce Horse Facts & Information (Breed Profile)

Horses of high quality and skilled horsemanship have been long-standing symbols of the Nez Perce Tribe.

Lewis and Clark made a remark about it on their journey through Nez Perce country in 1805 and 1806.

The journal of Lewis and Clark in February 15, 1806:

Their horses appear to be of an excellent race: they are lofty, elegantly formed, active and durable: in short many of them look like fine English horses and would make a figure in any country. 

The Ma’amin Horse

The Nez Perce, also known as the Nimiipu, were historically the only indigenous North American tribe that is known to have intentionally bred horses to meet certain performance requirements, such as those for racing, endurance, and stamina.

The Ma’amin was the original name given to this kind of horse by the Nez Perce or Nimiipu people.

The Nez Perce horse was a kind of horse that had been deliberately bred and was highly sought after by explorers, traders, and other tribes in the area.

At the time its population was estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

Many of these horses, prized as buffalo hunters and racehorses, were slim, clean-limbed, and long-necked, drawing comparisons to the “English courser”.

Some of them had thicker bones, were rounder, and had more muscle – characteristics that made them well-suited for their jobs as family pack and work horses.

The End of an Era

In 1877 the U.S. government forced the Wallowa tribe of Nez Perce to leave their country permanently and settle on a reservation.

While most of the band obeyed, some Nez Perce members chose to flee.

Between July and November of 1877 about 750 Nez Perce people, including men, women, and children, together with almost two thousand ponies, were able to outrun and outmaneuver a comparable number of U.S. Cavalry between July and November of 1877.

These remarkable horses outperformed the strong cavalry mounts of the day in every way imaginable: through heat and cold weather, riding unshod across some of the hardest terrain, living on nothing but available forage, and turning on several times to fight.

For nearly five months, these horses carried their people a total distance of over 1,500 miles (2,400 km), an average of 10 miles per day (16 km), often over uncharted and perilous territory, and without the luxury of routes, bridges, or the opportunity to stop, replenish, or recuperate from injuries.

Most of the Nez Perce surrendered when they were ultimately intercepted close to the Canadian border.

Their surviving horses, many of which were famished and worn out, were killed, and the rest were dispersed.

Despite (or maybe because of) the widespread acclaim that these horses received after their endurance performance, no action was taken to preserve the breed.

The Birth of the Appaloosa Breed

Outcrossed with ranch and draft horses over the years, they were practically forgotten until 1938, when Claude Thompson rescued what he estimated to be the last few hundred horses from extinction, and that marked the beginning of the Appaloosa Horse Registry.

However, by the 1990s, a new kind of Appaloosa emerged as a result of the registration of horses with substantial Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, and Arab blood and the emphasis on color, heavy muscling, and refinement in the show ring.

However, despite its beauty and adaptability, this horse had lost much of what made the original horse so renowned and prized: its resilience, thrift, toughness, and bravery.

Revival of the Nez Perce Horse

In the early 1990s, members of the Nez Perce tribe initiated a breeding program with the intention of bringing back the Nez Perce horse in an attempt to recapture both their own legacy as a renowned horse culture and the attributes that had made the original Nez Perce horse so famous.

The most logical choice for the outcross was the Mustang.

However, genetic and historical study started to point to the fact that the original Ma’amin’s foundation stock was not of Mustang origin.

Most Mustang horses may be traced back to Spanish or Portuguese origin, and instead, the Ma’amin horses probably descended from the stock left behind by Russian fur merchants who arrived earlier in the Pacific Northwest.

These were Eurasian horses, and their lineage could be traced back to the Akhal-Teke breed.

The Akhal-Teke has a history that is strikingly similar to that of the Nez Perce horse.

The Akhal-Teke has been used as a tribal horse, racing horse, military horse, and family horse during the thousands of years that it has been carefully developed on the dryland steppes of Turkmenistan.

The Nez Perce tribe, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and a nonprofit organization The First Nations Development Institute all founded the start of the Nez Perce horse breeding program.

In an effort to revive their horses the Nez Perce tribe purchased two mares and four of these stallions in 1995, establishing the Nez Perce Horse Registry to keep track of the legal offspring of Akhal-Teke and Appaloosa crossbreeding.

Since then, the program, which is based in Lapwai, Idaho, has been supporting the Nez Perce people in reviving their traditional horse breeding culture.

If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating breed, keep reading!

Alternative Names



Amiable, loyal, intelligent, easily to train

Physical Characteristics

The stallions and mares have similar proportions, and they are both athletic and slim.

In general, it is often described as having the appearance of a “lean runner”.

The Quarter Horse was bred into the Appaloosa breed from the 1870s, creating a heavy muscled horse, but the New Perce breed is longer, leaner, and has more narrow shoulders.

The head is narrow, and eyes are medium-sized.

The neck is long.

The shoulders are narrow and powerful.

The chest is deep, and the withers are pronounced.

The back is long, and the hindquarters are narrow.

The mane is scarce, and the tail has average amount of hair.

It is a tall horse built for endurance.


Palomino or buckskin, with mottled skin and a blanket and/or spotting like an Appaloosa

Height (size)

15.0 – 16.0 hands high






Up to 1,000 lbs (450 kg)

Blood Type


Common Uses

Endurance, jumping, general riding


Generally healthy

Popular Traits

Some are gaited and can perform a fast and smooth running walk



Country of Origin

United States of America (Idaho)


Old-line Appaloosa (the Wallowa herd) and Akhal-Teke