Tiger Horse: Breed Profile

Tiger Horse

The tiger horse is a breed of American horse that has only been officially recognized with its own registry in the United States since 2011. However, genetically, the tiger horse is said to date back to ancient China.

Tiger horses are known for their elaborate, spotted coat patterns, much like the Appaloosa, and for their ambling gait. These horses are moderately popular in the US and are specifically sought for their coloration and special gait.

Breed Overview

WEIGHT: 700 to 1500 pounds

HEIGHT: 13 to 16 hands (52 to 64 inches)

BEST FOR: Pets, trail riding, beginner riders

BODY TYPE: Convex facial profile; curved ears and a lean head; large eyes; arched, high-set neck; sloping shoulders and sturdy legs

LIFE EXPECTANCY: approximately 20 years

Tiger Horse History and Origins

Researchers theorize that the tiger horse may date back to ancient China around 618 AD. Many years later, these horses were imported into Europe and rose in popularity during the time Europeans were colonizing America. This resulted in Tiger Horses becoming known in America as well.

In 1938, in an effort to preserve the horses’ authentic coloration, connoisseurs of the breed established an official registry. This led to the beginning of breeding programs aimed at producing more Tiger Horses.

Unfortunately, the genetic lines were mixed with other horse breeds, such as the Thoroughbred, Arabian, and Quarter Horse. This mixing resulted in a dilution of the Tiger Horse’s genetics and allowed the dominant genes of the other breeds to erase the coveted characteristics that this breed is known for, such as an ambling gait and brilliant coat coloration. Luckily, there were a few horses from the original bloodlines of the Tigers remaining in parts of Canada and North America, especially in the Pacific Northwest regions. These horses were used to reestablish the Tiger Horse breed.

In 1994, The Tiger Horse Association, or THA, was established in America. In 2011, the “Soulon Tiger Horse Registry” was founded to encourage the continued growth of this spotted breed.

Tiger Horse Size

On average, the typical Tiger Horse will weigh 700 to 1500 pounds in weight and stand 13 to 16 hands, (or 52 to 64 inches), tall. Some horses may be taller or heavier than this as well.

Breeding and Uses

The tiger horse breed was developed for their unique leopard-like coats and their special gait, called an "amble" or "shuffle." Today, they are often used as companion pets and casual riding mounts.

With a steady and friendly temperament, tiger horses make ideal mounts for beginners and also often compete in the sport of dressage.

Colors and Markings

The most remarkable and important aspect of coloration on a tiger horse is their spots. The base coat color is acceptable to be many colors, including white, black, and bay. The spots of the tiger horse are typically large and bold and resemble the markings of the Appaloosa horse. Variations do exist, and the THA also accepts tiger horses that exhibit blanket, roan, and snowflake patterns, with or without spots.

Unique Characteristics of the Tiger Horse

The Tiger Horse’s most unique characteristic is its spots. These horses look very similar in coat appearance to the Appaloosa horse. The skin under the hairs is the same color and they come in many varied patterns.

In stark contrast to an Appaloosa, Tiger Horses have a unique gait. This characteristic must be present. The gait is called an “amble” or “shuffle” and is a smooth four-beat gait that is not jarring for the rider.

Diet and Nutrition

Tiger horses as a breed do not have any specific dietary requirements or restrictions. Generally healthy animals, these horses are typically fed a standard diet of hay and grain. You should speak to your veterinarian directly about the specific dietary needs of your tiger horse.

Common Health and Behavior Problems

Tiger horses are generally regarded as healthy horses with no known common genetic health or behavior problems associated with the breed. Every horse should receive a thorough annual examination in addition to the necessary vaccinations and deworming, from their veterinarian. If you have concerns for your horse’s health, discuss the issue with your veterinarian who can give you appropriate advice.


Like any horse breed, tiger horses require regular grooming for both aesthetic and health reasons. Give your tiger horse a bath as required and use a shampoo that will be gentle on their skin. Coats should be brushed regularly and hooves cleaned out on a regular basis.

The mane and tail of the tiger horse may vary, with some individual horses having long and thick manes and tails while others have sparse and short ones, but should always be completely natural. Care of the mane and tail, such as washing, conditioning, and brushing needs to be tailored to your specific horse.

A tiger horse will need its hooves trimmed and evaluated by a farrier regularly. Its front hooves should be rounded and back hooves slightly smaller.

  • Easy to train

  • Unique hair coat patterns

  • Gentle temperament

  • Special comfortable to ride gait

  • Uncommon

  • Limited uses

Is the Tiger Horse Right for You?

Whether a tiger horse is the perfect fit for you and your family depends greatly on what you are looking for in a horse. These horses are usually sweet and calm and make good pets. They are easy to train and generally healthy. Tiger horses excel at casual riding. However, if you are looking for a horse to perform certain tasks, such as high-level jumping, cross country, cattle work, or other work, this may not be an appropriate breed for you.

How to Adopt or Buy Tiger Horses

Tiger horses are rare and may be very difficult to find and purchase in some areas of the country. It is a good idea to contact the breed association and ask for the contact information of reputable and trusted breeders

Once you have found a tiger horse that you are interested in, be sure to verify its breeding. A trusted veterinarian should complete a thorough pre-purchase examination before you buy the horse.

More Horse Breeds

If the Tiger Horse piqued your interest, you may be interested in similar horse breeds, like these:

Otherwise, you can check out all of our other horse breed profiles.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. International Museum of The Horse. "Tiger Horse." http://imh.org/exhibits/past/breeds-of-the-world/north-america/tiger-horse/

  2. Tiger Horse Association Inc., 1604 Fescue CircleHuddleston, VA 24104 540-297-276 fax:540-297-7134  (website not currently working)