//Leopard Horse – Appaloosa and Knabstrupper breeds
Raza de Caballos Knabstupper

Leopard Horse – Appaloosa and Knabstrupper breeds

Horses usually have different colors or coat designs. Just as the coat of some is short and that of others is long, this is one of the characteristics that differentiates the different breeds of horses. One of the most striking coats gives its name to a type of horse, the leopard horse.

This is how certain breeds of horses have characteristic colors and designs, because they predominate in their “gene pool”. Variations of colors and designs in pure breeds are limited. By introducing mixtures, we can open the alternatives. But to maintain certain preferential characteristics, crossing with other breeds cannot be carried out.

This means that pure breeds always have advantages in some respects. In the same way pure breeds have weaknesses in some respects and are more susceptible to genetic diseases of recessive genes.

Without a doubt one of the characteristics that best represents a breed of horses is its color and design. For this reason, today we will analyze the design of the so-called “Leopard Horse”. We will take advantage of knowing a little more about the breeds that are characterized by this striking design.

Without more to add let’s start.


Leopard Horse

As we mentioned in the previous section, the colors and designs of horses’ coats are fundamentally determined by genetics.

Leopard coats can be triggered by a genetic complex that bears the same name as the coat in question. This type of fur can also have another origin, the leopard gene. As we can see, although its origin is undoubtedly genetic, it can have various reasons. That is why we can find it in the different breeds of horses, either by the gene or by the also mentioned leopard complex.

The coats of the leopard horse often have spots, but the nature and distribution of these are different from that of spotted fur. This is because in the part of the head they usually have a design pattern like that of freckles, as we will mention later in more detail. Additionally, and as, we will mention a little later, the pattern has “a certain symmetry”.

This type of leopard fur is also called tabby. Other characteristics, which we can mention is that they have freckled skin, especially visible on the muzzle, around the eyes and groin.

Appaloosa Horse
Appaloosa Horse


The coats are noticeably symmetrical, that is, the horse seen from the side shows similar spots on each part. These usually appear around the hips of the leopard horse.

It should be noted that the eyes are partially white and the hooves with dark and light vertical lists.

On the other hand, mantles can vary over time. It is curious that the position of the spots over the years can be displaced. Additionally, it can also change its size and even the number of spots in the pattern can increase or decrease. Despite this, it must be considered that white spots tend to increase with age.

In turn, the number of spots, their size and their situation on the body can be modified over the years, like Dalmatian dogs.


Classification of these beautiful horses

The coats were usually classified according to their external appearance into specific patterns: Leopard, Leopard little spotted, Flocked or snowed, varnished roan and frosted.

This diversity of patterns is due to the interaction of leopard pattern genetics with other genes. In this way, with the interaction of several genes they form the patterns that we know as: “leopard”, “little spot” or “snowflake”.

Leopard Horse – Coat Design
Leopard Horse – Coat Design

According to research

Advances in some studies have allowed a more appropriate classification. This one is based on the outside but more in line with genetics: heterozygous and homozygous.

In both cases, the coats can range from almost dark base fur (with no “added” white hairs) to an almost completely white coat.

Important differences

In heterozygous there are dark spots of the color of the base fur superimposed on the white areas. In homozygous there are no dark spots on the white areas.


Leopard horse breeds

There are many breeds of horses with the leopard pattern. However, the horse breeds that are popularly known for this pattern are the Appaloosa and the Knabstrupper. That is why the Appaloosa or the Knabstrupper is considered as the leopard horse par excellence, or the leopard horses.

This is because more than 20% of Appaloosa breed horses possess the leopard horse coat pattern. For its part, the Knabstrupper horse breed has the leopard design coat pattern in 50% of its horses.

This means that, if it were necessary to decide which breed of horses can be considered the leopard horse par excellence, the Knabstrupper would be the winner. In this breed of horse, the predominant coats are the Black Leopard and the Sorrel Leopard with 28% and 21% respectively.

Although the Appaloosa is generally referred to as the leopard horse, the Knabstrupper has much less publicity, but much more presence in this regard.

These breeds are very striking to the eye but focusing on the Knabstrupper this breed of horses has the peculiarity of producing ponies of less than 60cm. But it is also a remarkable breed to also produce Standardbred horses. This is not at all common and gives many alternatives to buyers to acquire riding horses for adults and children.


Genetic problems associated with the leopard horse.

Just as we mentioned the advantages of the leopard horse, now we will go on to mention an important weakness, its vision.

The leopard horse is characterized by having a deep white sclera. This is a purely aesthetic characteristic but they have importance because it is associated with some vision problems in these horses.

Leopard horses tend to suffer more frequently from uveitis. Uveitis is an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye that affects vision. It can be caused by eye trauma, but horses with leopard complex present it more frequently.

So much so that a condition known as Equine Recurrent Uveitis, which involves the recurrent appearance of Uveitis, is more prevalent in these horses. Specifically, statistics indicate that 25% of the total cases of Recurrent Equine Uveitis correspond to Appaloosa horses.

On the other hand, leopard horses are more likely to suffer difficulty seeing at night and in dark places. This “night blindness” does not advance, but appears from birth, hindering the entire life of the horse.

The beauty of leopard horses is attacked by their vision problems, resulting from the process of inbreeding to produce pure horse breeds.


To keep in mind

In 1982 Dr.D. Philip Sponenberg introduced the concept of leopard complex and represented it for Lp (for “leopard” in English). By 2004 a team of researchers placed the Lp gene on chromosome 1 (ACE1).