by Amber Powell
There is no mistaking a Curly! Their distinctive coats range from waves of crushed velvet to rows of ringlets that make them really stand out from the crowd. While it is not known how the Curly Horse came to be in North America, curly-coated horses have existed in a number of breeds and places around the world. It is surmised the Curly Horse came from feral horses, possibly Spanish horses brought over during the conquest.
Today two main registries exist for Curly Horses, and a Curly may be registered in both if eligible. The American Bashkir Curly Registry was founded in 1971, and records lineage and pedigree. The studbooks were closed in 1999 to contain the gene pool and move towards bloodline preservation and breed status requirements.
The International Curly Horse Organization was founded in 2000 and registers all curly coated horses, regardless of their breed or bloodline.
American Bashkir Curly Registry
International Curly Horse Organization
Breed standard according to ABCR:
Abridged breed standard according to ICHO:
The model North American Curly Horse is a durable, sturdy made, saddle type horse. It typically ranges from 14.2 to 15.1 hh but occurs in all sizes & types. It has a curly coat of hair, very noticeable in winter, less apparent when short in summer. Its coat is hypoallergenic. People allergic to other horses can own and ride Curly Horses with amazing success. Some people report Curlies smell differently than other horses.
The North American Curly Horse characteristically has a long stride & bold movement. The upper dock area of the Curly Horse's tail is usually somewhat shorter haired due to shedding or breakage.
A Curly Horse will nearly always have distinctly curly hair inside its ears, year around. Their eyes may have an elliptic slant to them. They often have shallow (fairly short) mouths.
Its temperament is peaceful, quiet & calm. When frightened it often stops to watch & think before resorting to panic. It learns easily and quickly. The Curly comes in all colors. It also comes in Lp gene (spotted or appaloosa) color patterns, and pinto color patterns.
The Curly Horse is well documented among wild horses of the North American west, since the 1700's. It has survival traits resulting from centuries of natural selection, including efficient size, strength, stamina, a short back, straight, strong boned legs, and thick walled, predominantly dark or striped hooves (that is, ermine spotting usually accompanies white socks). The Curly Horse usually requires shoeing only when ridden in rough country or long miles on hard surfaces.
Curly Horses are often wide between the eyes, and typically have wide set ears, somewhat blunt at the tip (not heavily notched). Their faces can be somewhat long and narrow, and are straight in profile, or may be ram headed (convex) . They may have primitive horse traits such as smaller chestnuts & smaller or missing ergots. Curlies with long thick manes are double maned (split down middle.) They are not required to be clipped when shown, to display their unique Curly Horse traits.
In general, the North American Curly Horse is easily managed, and economical to keep. It is tough, strong, and athletic. It comes in most sizes, types, and colors. All equine genetic coat colors, dilutes, eye colors, markings and pigments are allowed, and probably all exist in the Curly Horse – none are penalized. Dark or striated hooves (coronet ermine spotting with white socks) are desirable. It is a very thoughtful, peaceful animal, with the added bonus of being hypoallergenic. It is very intelligent, and trains very quickly. For these reasons, it is very suitable for a wide variety of disciplines, and when properly trained, it works well for owners of all experience levels.