The noriker, or pinzgauer, is a heavy draft horse from Austria and one of the few European breeds to maintain the appaloosa pattern after its decline in popularity several centuries ago. The breed is believed to be indigenous to the Alpine region, where strong but sure-footed horses were needed to transport goods in the steep mountain areas.
With its relatively short legs, the noriker is of medium height but well balanced and comes with a good trot. It is still often used in transportation, but it is also popular as a riding horse due to its versatility.
The original name for the breed is pinzgauer. A smaller version, called the Abtenauer, has dissolved into the breed, though the name sometimes still surfaces.
Norikers come in a few colours. Black is the most popular in the Alpine region, as it provides the strongest contrast with roan , tobiano and appaloosa. Brown, bay and chestnut flaxen are much rarer. Liver chestnut is also present. Grey only exists within the Silesian norikers, an imported population of norikers in the Czech Republic, which is considered to be separate of the main studbook.
White patterns are not popular in the breed. White markings may occur on the head but are very undesired if placed on the legs. Tobiano is rare, but it exists in a few horses. Roan (locally known as mohrenköpf) is more popular, though breeders often select black horses for their crosses. This ensures most roan horses have a black base coat, resulting in the strongest contrast possible.
At one point, the appaloosa pattern nearly disappeared from Europe. The most popular version, the nose-to-toes leopards, turned out to be very difficult to breed. It requires the heterozygous form for the leopard complex, and therefore cannot breed true. In addition, other necessary varieties like varnish roan and fewspots, were usually undesired. But surprisingly, the white pattern remained in the knabstrupper and noriker horses, both breeds with baroque influences in their lineages.
The nose-to-toes version is most often seen in norikers, but the limited version, fewspot, blanket and varnish roan are also present. Spots can range in size from very small to strikingly large. As with roan, most appaloosa norikers have a black base coat.