The American Bashkir Curly horses were raised for centuries on the Southern slopes of the Ural Mountains in Russia, where these companionable, intelligent horses have supplied work, meat, milk, a fermented alcohol beverage, clothing from their unusual hair, and finally rugs from the tough, curly-coated hides for the Bashkir people in a cold, bitter climate.
No one is real certain as to just how, when, or why Curlies arrived on the North American continent. Reliable sightings of curly horses in South America can be traced to 1802. In 1898, eight-year-old Peter Damele made the first recorded sighting of Curlies in this country. One day, when he and his father were riding in the high country of central Nevada, peter caught sight of three strange-looking horses with tight fur ringlets all over their bodies.
Approximately 50 year later, they brought some Curlies in from the ranges and tamed them. That year, as a result of a killer winter, most of the family's ranch horses either froze or starved to death. So the cowpokes were forced to domesticate the only equines left--the Curlies.
The Dameles soon discovered how remarkable the curlies really are. They are naturally athletic, keenly intelligent, require neither shoes nor fancy food, and their thick winter coats are shed in early spring and rarely get parasites. They enlarged their herd and sold some to one and the other. Therefore, many of the Curlies you see today are direct descendants of that Nevada herd.
As the Curlies grew in population, and as they are very different in looks from other breeds, many people took this as a defect in the genetics of the horse and began to slaughter them. In 1971, the American Bashkir Curly Registry was established in part to put an end to this useless killing. Curlies at last became a recognized and respected breed! There are only about 700 registered Bashkir Curly horses in the United States today.
The Curly horse not only has the hair that is curly but has other traits that distinguish him from other breeds. They do great in all types of weather. Their thick curly hair and extra layer of fat under the skin keeps them warm in the coldest climates. That layer of fat also insulates them from the hot sun. The mares are heavy milkers, giving from 4-6 gallons of milk in a 24-hour period. They have very short backs, good shoulders which enable them to carry great weight, and they have legs with small hard black hooves, even though they may have white legs. In most cases, the Curly horse's curls are dominant when crossed with any other breed. You don't have to worry if you are allergic to horses as the Curlies are hypoallergenic.
Their coat is more like silky fur than hair. It lies close to the body in tight curls in winter and in lovely waves in summer. Their mane and tail hair is silky and wavy but scarce.
There are two types of Bashkir horses--one is a mountain type, the other is a prairie type. The mountain type is not as tall and has a short body. In southern and eastern parts of Bashkir, these horses reach a height of approximately 13.0hh. They have a wide and well-developed chest and their neck has a small head with a straight profile and small, inexpressive eyes. They have a straight back, although it is not rare to see a humped back in some.
In southern parts of Bashkir, the horses are bred with saddle-type horses, and in the northern parts they are bred with work or pack horses. The select Bashkir horses are used for interbreeding to produce the sturdy type that is needed in the mountain or logging camps.
So, whether you live in a climate that is very, very hot or very, very cold, whether you are looking for a horse to work or to show, regardless of what you are looking for in a horse, the American Bashkir Curlies may just prove to be the family horse for you.
If you would like more information on the Curlies, write to: The American Bashkir Curly Registry, Dept. TMEN, Box 453, Ely, Nevada 89301. Please enclose $1.00 and a self-addressed stamped envelope.
The Horse Connection would like to thank Richard Chase of Lewisburg, KY, Jay Hensley of Wilmore, KY, and James Howard of Owensboro, KY for supplying us the information and photos on this very interesting breed of horse.