Breed Profile:  Bashkir Curly

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.
Curlys can be smooth coated, minimally expressed, extreme expressed, micro-curled, or have a recessive gene for curl. Ringlets can grow up to several inches long. Manes and forelocks can be ringlets or corkscrews, with tails being preferably kinky or wavy or with ringlets. In 2002, a project was concluded that the Curly is indeed hypoallergenic. They are also known to be very friendly, calm, and intelligent. They are brave and thinking horses, when frightened or challenged they tend to use reason instead of fleeing.

Contact information:

American Bashkir Curly Registry
PO Box 151029
Ely, NV 89315

International Curly Horse Organization
North American Curly Horse Registry
2690 Carpenter Road
Jamestown, OH 45335

Breed standard according to ABCR:

A medium size head with well-defined jaw and throatlatch. Wide set eyes with eyelashes that curl up. Ears that are short to medium in length with curls inside. The ears do not totally shed out in the summer. A medium length neck, deep at the base of the neck where it joins the base of the shoulder. Noticeably short back, deep through the girth. An appearance of a long under line and belly cut high in the flank. They have heavy boned legs and short cannon bone as compared to the forearm. Forequarters and hindquarters should be supple yet well muscled. They should have medium withers. The croup should be flat or with a shallow slope to the base of the tail. They should travel easily and smoothly.


BODY: (Fine, soft hair)
Ringlet (can be several inches long) 
Marcel Wave (deep soft wave in the body coat) 
Crushed Velvet (soft dense pile of curls in body coat) 
MANE: (Extra fine hair)
Kinky - preferable 
Should shed all or partial in the summer 
Split mane (hangs on both sides of neck) 
Should shed partial at the head of the tail in the summer. Some may shed tail completely 
Curly - preferable 
Should shed in summer but still retain some long hairs 
Almost perfectly round in shape 
Very hard and dense 
Proportioned to the size of the horse 
Average - 14 to 15 hands; there are some exceptions from 13.3 hands to 15.3 hands 
Average weight - 800 to 1000 lbs. Some Curlys may weigh up to 1200 lbs 
Even-tempered disposition 
Quick pulse and respiration recovery 
Very dense bone in the legs 
Curly coat can be hypoallergenic. The hairs are round instead of flat. They are barbed or feathered underneath a microscope; they can be spun and woven. Testing proved the hair to be closely related to mohair, instead of horsehair.
Can completely shed the mane and tail in the summer, only to grow back in the fall with the winter coat 
Noticeably short, strong back, indicating a five lumbar vertebrae 
Due to the years of out crossing, you will find Curlies with different conformation, size and weight. This influence will probably continue for the next five to ten generations of Curly-to-Curly breeding. However, these horses will be registered as long as they meet ABCR criteria.

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.