The Curly horses are distinguishable from other horses by their curly mane, tail, coat, fetlocks, and inner ear hair. The Curly is a horse that comes in all sizes from mini pony to part draft and usually stands between 14 and 16 hands high. In addition to having good stamina, they have a very good temperament and are easily trainable with excellent style, stride, and movement. They are found with smooth coats, light curls, and ones with Marcel wave with an almost variegated look to the coat. They are good at many tasks including endurance rides, western pleasure, cow pony work, buffalo hunger with the Indians, driving, the dressage ring as well as a good family horse. They are usually a chestnut color but can be found in all colors commonly seen in horses. These horses are winter hardy, tough hooved, and have strong constitutions. This does not mean they need no care. They thrive on good basic care.
There are some mysteries that surround the Curly horse but the one that stands out is it's origin. Once believed to be ancestors of the Russian Bashkir of Bashkortostan, the name American Bashkir Curly Horse was established. Even after the theory was proven wrong, the name stayed until the International Curly Horse Organization was formed, they dropped the Bashkir, and it became the North American Curly Horse. Another theory is that a man named Tom Dixon brought curly horses from India but, again, this theory was also proven invalid because Curly horses were already in America.
The earliest documentation of the Curly horse was in 1801 when Curly horses were stolen from the Crow by the Sioux. Basically unknown as to their origin, Curly horses are found in wild herds across the western United States. The modern Curly horse is not a distinctive breed but rather a type of coat. It has been crossed with many other breeds, especially with Morgans and Quarter Horses. The variations that were found are present only in feral horses.
The most well known Curly breeder was an Italian immigrant, Glovanni Damele, who came to Nevada in the late 1800's. Damele wanted to breed a better horse, to improve them, and wasn't interesting in keeping the breed pure. There were also some who bred the Curly to the Missouri Foxtrotter, and now there are some foxtrotting Curlies. Many breeders today choose to breed Curly to Curly and there are those who are trying to preserve the original Curly line. Today there are about 2000 registered Curlies.
For many people who have allergies to horses the Curly is found to be hypoallergenic. It has been proven that people with extreme allergic reactions to most horses do not have the stinging eyes, hives, or asthma attacks when in the presence of a Curly. There is a protein that is missing in the hair of the Curlies and it is believed that the lack of this protein is why allergic reactions are not seen when sensitive people come into contact with a Curly. However, the study that proves this to be true was never published and the Curly Community is working to get this accomplished.
The Curly horse is a friendly and intelligent creature. They seem to enjoy being around people. Although it still remains a mystery as to their origin they continue to play a great part in sports today. Tough and hardy, their mysteries continue to make us wonder.