Name of breed: Curly horse
Country of origin: North America
Breed origin: The origins of the Curly horse are highly debated among the equestrian community, with much of the confusion revolving around what the breed is and what it should actually be called. Some prefer it to be called ‘Bashkir Curly’ (a breed we have profiled on our blog before, click here) while others lean towards ‘North American Curly’. But a study conducted in 1990 actually indicated that it is unlikely the Bashkir horse, which also has a curly coat, is an ancestor.
There are many theories discussing how the American Curly developed. The breed was first documented in Nevada in the early 20th century by rancher John Damele. While mustangs were a common sight, curly coated horses were unusual. The Dameles managed to catch one, trained it under saddle and sold it, thus starting their relationship with the breed. When an unusually harsh winter hit the area in 1932, the only horses to be found come Springtime were the curlies. The Dameles noticed this and decided they should include more of these horses in their herd. After another harsh winter in 1951/52, the family got serious about breeding these horses and went and found their foundation stallion, a two-year-old chestnut in one of the mustang herds. And that is essentially how the North American Curly Horse breed was created.
Distinguishing features: As noted from above, the Curly horse is known for its hardiness as well as its endurance. The unique gene that gives Curlies their curly hair can be expressed minimally (ears, fetlocks, man and tail), maximally (all over the body, dreadlocked mane, curly eyelashes) and extreme (vary tight, extreme curls, but when they shed out for summer they can become entirely bald). The Curly’s summer coat shows a slight wave in it, but it is not as extreme as the winter curls.
Curlies are known for their calm, intelligent and friendly personality. They are highly trainable and personable, and love being around people. They are also claimed to be the only hypoallergenic breed of horse. Research indicates a protein is missing from the hair of Curlie which may be what causes allergic reactions to horses in allergy sufferers.
Modern day Curly: Curlies have the movement, endurance and heart to excel in any competition. Some have actually been shown at the higher levels of dressage and show jumping, while others have been used for combined driving, western riding and as ranch and trail horses.
Image credit: Reddit