Native American Horse Breeds
The Bashkir Curly
The Bashkir Curly horse originated in America and there are now three registries representing the breed’s interests. The Bashkir Curly horse’s other names are American Bashkir or North American Curly. Such horses carry a gene for curly hair. There is a ‘dominant’ and a ‘recessive’ gene responsible for this phenomenon. A double dominant gened horse will produce curly offspring when bred. Recessive curly horses may be the product of a straight haired sire and dam.
The ‘curl’ is more obvious in the winter coat and varies from tight ringlets to a marcel type wave. The hair is soft and similar to mohair. It can be spun to form yarn. Some shed to a smoother summer coat while manes and tails may be fully or partly shed or not shed at all.
Horses of this type occur in all sizes, colours and types. The curl in the coat is more evident in the winter. These horses have a protein missing from the coat. Most people who are allergic to horses are able to handle curly horses without feeling any effect. Research is continuing to try to discover if lack of the protein is the reason normally allergic people are able to handle these horses without being affected.
Curly horses are classified as one of three types.
- Those classified as ‘minimal’ have wavy hair inside the ears and on the fetlocks. They also have a kinked mane and tail.
- ‘Maximal’ animals have all over curls. The mane is a mass of dreadlocks, and the eyelashes and guard hairs are also curled.
- ‘Extreme’ horses have very tight curling. When they shed their winter coat they can become almost completely bald. The summer coat, if they have one, will show slight waving.
Some purebred Curlies show no curl at all and are known as ‘smooth coat’ curlies.
There is still much debate about the origins of these horses. Most Curlies stand between 14 and 16 hands but two of the registries allow anything from miniatures to draught horses.
Asian artwork shows curly horses as early as 161 AD. Charles Darwin came across some in South America. The Crow and Sioux Indians looked upon these horses as sacred mounts for chiefs and medicine men. In 1876, a native American depicted such horses at the battle of Little Bighorn. They have also been found in several Reservations.
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One of the early documented accounts was in Eureka, Nevada by John Damele who had seen an odd one running with mustangs on his ranch. In 1932, following a very harsh winter, curlies were the only horses to have survived. Twenty years later, another harsh winter convinced the Dameles to breed some curlies for the own herd. As well as their foundation stallion, they added Morgan and Arab blood. As the stock gradually spread, curlies were bred to many different breeds. Around 10% of curlies are gaited and may show a natural running walk or foxtrot. These are the progeny of curlies mated to Missouri Foxtrotters and Tennessee Walkers.
Most curlies are tough and have good resistance to disease. The hooves are strong and round and they have good dense bone. The cannon bones may be round rather than flat. The eyes are wide apart and may be hooded.
Today Curlies are used in almost all equestrian disciplines, especially by those who are affected by ‘normal’ horse hair.