Curley Horse History
Curley Horse History
History of the Curly Horse
Curlies were first discovered by white men in America in the wild herds of mustangs in Eastern Nevada, at the turn of the 20th Century. The Sioux and Crow Indians had Curly horses as early as 1800, though whether these two kinds of Curly horses were related we don't know. There is, as well written and pictorial evidence of curly haired horses found at various times in various places around the world- Charles Darwin writes of curly horses in South America, for instance. Again, whether these horses are at all related to the American dominant gene Curly horses is unknown at this time.
Hopefully future research will shed some light on these matters. The Damele's, a Nevada ranching family, were the first to gather and use the Curlies on their ranch, in the 1930s. They interbred the tough, intelligent range Curlies with their ranch horses, and with an Arabian stallion, Nevada Red, and later a Morgan stallion, Ruby Red King. They found the Curly coat often came through on the cross-bred foals, showing that the Curly gene was dominant in these range Curlies. They also frequently got the other Curly characteristics which they prized- strong bone and hooves; calm, intelligent, easily trainable temperament; friendly personality; tough constitutions and stamina; etc.
Curlies come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and almost all colors. The winter curls on different individuals can range from crushed velvet looking, to marcelle waves, to tight ringlets, to "french knot" microcurls. Manes and forelocks can be corkscrewed, ringletted, or dreadlocked. Tails may have some wave or curl. The hair in their ears is curly, the whiskers, eyelashes, and fetlocks are often curly or wavy. These curls are considered a hallmark of the breed, and most owners would never shave or scissor them off.
Uses and Abilities:
The original Curlies were used by white men for ranch work, and Native Americans for buffalo hunting. There is evidence the Native Curly owners considered their Curly "Buffalo Horses" to be sacred. Today, Curlies are used as sporthorses (Dressage, jumping, combined driving, etc.), Western and ranch horses, pleasure horses, trail horses, endurance horses, and exotic looking pasture ornaments!
There has been some gaited blood mixed into some Curlies, and about 10% of Curlies will do either a foxtrot or running walk or stepping pace (aka Curly shuffle). This is a natural low stepping smooth gait.
Curlies are generally considered unsuitable for racing, and for any mechanically induced gaits in such performance areas as high stepping Park horses, "Big Lick" gaited horses, or the ultra slow Western Pleasure horse.
Most people who are allergic to horses can tolerate Curlies with little or no a llergic reaction- a dream come true for many!
Hypo- means, by definition, below normal. We claim that Curly Horses are Hypoallergenic. We do not, and can not, claim that Curly Horses are Nonallergenic.
If you are considering purchasing a Curly Horse that you will not be allergic to, we recommend testing your reaction to any given horse you might be considering, and consult with your allergist for the best and safest way to do this. Hair samples can be sent as a preliminary test. For people who are dangerously allergic to horses, we highly recommend doing any testing in the presence of your allergist, with emergency drugs immediately available. Though they may very well not be needed!
For people who are allergic to horses, they also do have to determine that it is only the horses themselves that they are allergic to, and not hay, straw, pollen, dust, manure, etc.- in these latter cases, the breed of horse wouldn't matter.
Care of the Curly Coat:
Curlies do not need pampering, but they do need good basic care. Since they are a horse that developed in the wild, they tend to be easy keepers, with tough hooves and hardy constitutions. They tend to be winter hardy. This does not excuse lack of care, though. Good food in the right amounts, adequate shelter, regular veterinary care, worming, hoof trimming and shoeing as needed, dental care, etc., all should be provided just as they would be for any other horse.
Normal grooming is satisfactory for most Curly coats. Combing out the ringletted or corkscrew or dreadlocked manes can cause them to lose their curly look. Some people choose to trim the manes occasionally instead to keep them neat. Tails can be brushed and combed in the normal manner. Care must be taken during shedding season, not to pull out too much mane and tail, during grooming.
Some people bag and save the shedding out coat, to use themselves for spinning and weaving, or send to others who do this.
Some Curlies will shed out their manes and tails along with their winter coats each spring, and grow them back in the fall and winter. A few Curlies have very thin or scanty manes and tails year round - why is uncertain, and research is planned in this area.