The Nez Perce Horse is archetypal of the original horse which was first documented by North American explorers Lewis and Clark. Though it has undergone many changes since the Nez Perce first used them in the 1800’s, they remain a part of the romantic vision of early America. The Nez Perce had the largest horse herd on the continent at one point in history.
The Nez Perce Horse was first tamed by the Nez Perce tribe. The Nez Perce were avid breeders of horses. They realized that horses that could cover vast areas of daunting terrain combined with adverse and unpredictable weather. The Nez Perce have always been noted for their successes in selective horse breeding. It was their horses which many explorers and traders in 1800’s North America most desired. In those years, the Nez Perce horse was known as the Ma’amin; its durability, endurance and power were widely recognized and valued.
The Nez Perce Horse went into decline after years of Indian wars with settlers. The horses were exterminated altogether in 1877 in a large battle between the Nez Perce tribe and the United States government.
In 1995 the Nez Perce sought to reclaim their roots as successful horse breeders. This endeavor was culturally relevant and filled the need to create employment and increase tribal revenue. They decided to first start with the revival of the Nez Perce Horse. This renewed effort began in Lapwai, Idaho, today’s tribal home of the Nez Perce, with breeding the Akhal Teke and the traditional Appaloosa bloodlines. These horses became the founding members of the Nez Perce Horse Registry.
The Akhal Teke is a rare horse that is from Turkmenistan in Central Asia. It was first discovered about 2,000 years ago. The Akhal Teke is known for its endurance, stamina, and physique. It has a graceful gait and had been selectively bred for its survival instincts when food and water were scarce. A hooded appearance over the eyes gives this horse an exotic look. Said to be the oldest type of horse in the world, there are thought to be no more than 3600. Their personality is gentle and sensitive. They generally attach to one person and are generally quite shy around people.
The Appaloosa was introduced into the Pacific Northwest specifically by the Nez Perce tribe in the 18th century. This spotted horse also had great endurance and good temperament. The Appaloosa is intelligent and known for courage.
This pairing resulted in the Nez Perce Horse. It closely resembles the original Nez Perce Horse with spotted markings and a muscular physique. The revival of this horse is relatively new so, to date, the Nez Perce Horse Registry has less than 1,000 registered horses. They are intelligent and eager to please.
The Nez Perce Horse Registry contends that any registered horse will not have more then 7/8 Akhal Teke or 7/8 Appaloosa bloodlines. This requirement contributes to a horse which displays many attributes of both the Appaloosa and Akhal Teke bloodlines.
The Nez Perce Horse, as per the Nez Perce Horse Registry, has a slender upright head to demonstrate alertness, courage, and vitality. The neck is well structured , lengthy ,and strong. The withers are distinct and noticeable. The shoulders are large and sloped. The back is powerful and proportionate to the rest of the body. The barrel is considerable and the croup is long and muscular. The joints are large to support its powerful bones and legs. The cannon bones should be at least seven inches and the girth of the horse 70 inches at minimum.
The Nez Perce Horse is at least 14 hands with an average of 15.1 hands. They are available in a variety of colors to include: bay, black, brown, buckskin, white, dun, chestnut, grullo, gray, roan and palomino. These colors are in combination with a “blanket” or spots from the Appaloosa bloodline usually situated on the rump of the horse. The Nez Perce breed has a shiny coat which resembles polished metal (a characteristic from the Akhal Teke), white sclera, mottled skin and striped hooves. Further, it displays dun like qualities in the coat (dark manes, tails, ears, legs with lighter colored body hair).
The Nez Perce Horse has a delicate nature and pleases with alacrity. They acclimate well to their owner and make excellent show, riding, and ranch horses. The Nez Perce Horse excels at a variety of equestrian activities which include: endurance riding, competitive trail riding, dressage, jumping, pleasure, cutting, reining and driving.