The American Bashkir Curly horse is believed to have originated among the wild horses of North America. There is evidence of this unique horse in the design of Sioux winter count blankets dating back several hundred years. The blankets further suggest the possibility that these curly coated horses were a favorite among tribal shamans. There has also been some evidence to support the theory that these horses were on the continent prior to the Spanish reintroduction of horses to the region. Fossils of what appear to be Curly horses dating prior to the time of the reintroduction, located at very high altitudes in the Great Basin area. It is believed that the early Curlies migrated to the uppermost regions to survive.
The Curly horses still run wild in various parts of the United States, most notably in Nevada. They typically live in Curly-only bands with a Curly stallion. It has been proposed that Curlies smell different to other horses than normal or straight-haired horse and that this is one of the primary reasons the Curlies run in their own herds. Curlies are still rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management in their Mustang Round-Ups. Adoptions of Curlies are available from the BLM on a limited basis.
The Damele family of Ely, Nevada, began the first known active capture and breeding program. The Dameles owned a cattle ranch at the turn of the 20th century and, like all ranchers, sought the hardiest, most sensible mounts, they could find. One terrible winter a blizzard killed nearly all of the cattle horses at the ranch. As the Dameles struggled through the bitter cold they noticed a few wild horses survived, all of which had curly coats. The Dameles rounded up a few of these horses and quickly trained them in ranch work. The Curly horses continued to surprise and impress the ranch owners and hands with their ability to learn quickly, their displays of incredible strength and endurance, and their friendly demeanor and quiet dispositions.
Over the years, word of these sturdy little horses leaked out and more people became interested in owning and breeding them. In 1970 a group of Curly horse lovers banded together to form The American Bashkir Curly Registry.
The American Bashkir Curly Registry, one of several curly coated associations, closed its registry several years ago to preserve the traits that made this breed so special. Here is a brief list of what to look for and expect from an ABC Registered Curly:
Curly coat – pattern may vary from loose ringlets to crushed velvet to Marcel waves. Curlies come in nearly every coat color and pattern.
Mane and tail – may have waves or ringlets; some extreme Curlies shed out all or part of their manes and tails in the warm months.
Fetlocks – slight feathering, usually wavy or curly.
Ears – tight curls inside.
Eyes – soft, sleepy look, oriental slant, and long, curly lashes.
Conformation – powerful, rounded shoulders with deep slope, V'd chest, short strong back, deep girth and well-sprung rib cage. Round rump without crease or dimple, noticeable slope hip to tail, full muscular quarters. Crested neck. Well-defined jaw, small muzzle, proportion of head to body may be small, small round nostrils, shallow mouth. No ergots. Chestnuts are small and soft. Noticably stout round-bone cannon, flat knees, large strong hocks. Hooves are typically round and very hard and dense. Average size ranges from 14'2 to 15'3 hands, although there are some Curly draft horses and ponies. Average weight is 1000-1300 lbs.
Curlies typically have a very smooth gait and are surprisingly athletic and fast. Some Curlies are gaited (i.e. Fox-trotters).
Physiologically, Curlies return to resting respiration and heart rate quickly after exertion. They tend to have high red blood counts, allowing them to excel in high altitudes. They are able to withstand extremely cold temperatures due to a dense undercoat and fat layer. Their hair coat, known for its hypoallergenic qualities, is round instead of flat, is barbed or feathered and may be spun and woven into garmets. Curlies mature slowly, usually reaching their full maturity around 6-7 years.
Curlies are known for their versatility. They are able to work as successful ranch horses, western pleasure mounts, parade horses, hunter/jumper mounts and dressage performers. A typical Curly is quick to learn and has a good work ethic. They are known for their "common sense" and tend to react to sudden changes in the environment by freezing in place rather than bolting. They thoroughly enjoy human companionship and are ideal mounts for adults and children.
To learn more about these wonderful horses please contact the American Bashkir Curly Registry at www.abcregistry.org.