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Horse Breeds
First Posted: July 13, 2009
Feb 21, 2014

Tiger Horse A Gaited Breed

3-D Flags
Country of Origin: United States

"Although, the ancient Tiger Horse is extinct and we have no way of knowing what the precise color or physical characteristics truly were, the breed founder, Victoria Varley, managed to unlock a formula for the successful recreation of a modern day version of the once famous Siberian horse, thus creating the breed seen today. Her breeding program embodies multiple generations, and many of the finest Tiger Horses created to date. From ancient art to modern examples of the breed, the similarities to antiquity are truly remarkable." Tiger Horse Breed Registry

Tiger horses are gaited, spotted trail horses with a coat color much like the Appaloosa. The tiger horse gait is sometimes called the Indian shuffle or Gaited Appaloosa. They are unique in the modern equestrian world and are making a comeback. Even without the tigers, they are becoming popular on the trail as well as on the show ring. The tiger horse is intelligent, loves to be with people, and is very versatile. They can be quiet and gentle or spirited.


The Spanish had no word for leopard, so they called all cats with leopard-like markings as well as tiger markings simply tigers. The tiger horse is the ancestor of the Appaloosa, the Knabstrupper, and the Noriker horse breeds. Iberian breeders bred horses from northern climates, the Orient, and North Africa. Thus they produced horses that were smooth gaited, with great pride. Their gait and color made them a favorite among the wealthy and the nobility.

King Ferdinand of Spain passed the "Gentleman's Law" that said that all fine gentlemen had to ride stallions. The fact that all "Fine Gentlemen" were not all "Fine Horsemen" began to make breeders to breed for horses of great presence, yet docile in nature and very smooth to ride. In 1593, Salomen de al Broue, Horsemaster to Henry IV of France wrote: "Comparing the better horses in order to appreciate their greater perfection, I must place the Spanish at the top and give it my vote for being the most noble, the best conformed, the bravest and the most worthy of being mounted by a Great King."

In the early 1500s, the Spanish established horses in the Americas. By the mid 1500's, many breeding centers had been established. The Native Americans learned to use them, and horses rapidly spread across the American Continent. All Native American horses were of Spanish ancestry. The Nez Perce acquired their first horses from the Shoshone. The Nez Perce were premier horse breeders who developed excellent herds.

The Nez Perce had nearly a century to perfect their vast herds. In his journal, Meriwether Lewis said: "Some of those horses are pied with large spots of white irregularly scattered and intermixed with the black, brown, bay or some other dark color, but much the larger portion are of a uniform color with stars, snips, and white feet, or in this respect marked much like out best blooded horses in Virginia, which they resemble as well in fleetness and bottom as in form and color."

The Nez Perce bred for horses that were sure-footed and smooth to handle over the rough terrain of the Nez Perce country. They also bred for horses that were fast, tough, and easy keepers. These horses were able to outrun, outmaneuver, and outlast horses in the US cavalry.

Tiger Horse Association

The Tiger Horse Association is an organization to find and preserve all remaining remnants of the tiger horse breed. The goal of the T.H.A. is to "preserve and standardize a reliably gaited, light horse of exotic color." It was incorporated as a non-profit, 501(c)3 compatible organization in March 2004. It has full voting rights for all members.

For More Information:

Tiger Horse Association
Tiger Horse Breed Registry

Horse Breeds