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What is known is that horses in general had reached the Pacific Northwest by 1700 and the Nez Perce Indian tribe who lived in what today is eastern Washington and Oregon, were known as notable horse breeders by the early 1800s.[4] The Nez Perce obtained their original horses from the Shoshone people, and from there took advantage of the fact that they lived in excellent horse-breeding country, relatively safe from the raids of other tribes, and developed strict breeding selection practices for their horses. They were one of the few tribes to actively use the practice of gelding inferior male horses, and actively traded away poorer stock to remove unsuitable animals from the gene pool.[2]

These early Nez Perce horses were considered to be of high quality. Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition wrote in his February 15, 1806 journal entry: "Their horses appear to be of an excellent race; they are lofty, eligantly [sic] formed, active and durable: in short many of them look like fine English horses and would make a figure in any country." Lewis did note spotting patterns, saying, "…some of these horses are pided [sic] with large spots of white irregularly scattered and intermixed with black, brown, bey [sic] or some other dark color.