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The Bashkir Curly Horse


2015/04/03


By Cheryl Becker

Bashkir Curlys are a rare breed of horse.  I’ve been told that there are only 4,000 registered horses of this breed.  The coat of the Curly Horse is the most distinguishing feature that sets it apart from other breeds of horses. In winter, the hair coat has long curls, although most of the long, curly hair often is shed in the summer. Mane and tail hair also is curly. Curly Horses are intelligent, calm natured, and, fairly easily trained. Curly Horses are calm rather than panic when faced with unexpected situations. The horses usually have wide-set eyes and strong cannon bones. Curly Horses have particularly tough hooves, almost perfectly round in shape, which makes them good in rocky country.

There are two registries:  The American Baskir Curly and the Curly Sporthorse International, founded in 2003 as a registry dedicated to the training, recognition, improvement and promotion of the Curly Sport Horse. A Curly Sporthorse is bred and trained (if mature enough) to participate in sport horse events that include competitive or recreational dressage, jumping, combined training, or driving. [Find more information at: http://www.curlysporthorse.com/]The American Bashkir Curly Horse Registry (ABCR) was founded in 1971 and is the oldest Registry of Curly Horses, with the goal of preserving and promoting this rare horse breed. [Find more information at: http://www.abcregistry.org/]
According to the ABCR, the exact origin of the Baskir Curly Horse is rather mysterious. Horses with curly coats are an ancient breed, depicted in art and statuary in China as early as 161 AD. There is also evidence of their presence in South America and Europe.

The history of the Curly Horse is debated to this day. It was once believed that these curly coated horses were ancestors of the Russian Bashkir of Bashkortostan. Research done by Shan Thomas for the CS Fund, resulting in the report Myth and Mystery: The Curly Horse in America, indicates that the Russian breed most often found with the curly coat is the Lokai breed, found in the Taijikistan region.  

Various theories have been proposed to explain the presence of the Curly horse in North America. Some have suggested that they came across the Bering Strait land bridge during the last ice age, but no fossil evidence has been found to support that. Others suggest that curly coated horses were imported when the Russians occupied parts of the West Coast of North America. But Thomas' research shows there was no mention in the ship logs of the importation of horses into North America by Russian settlers.

The modern day American Bashkir Curly dates to 1898, when Peter Damele and his father were riding the Peter Hanson Mountains in the remote high country of Central Nevada.  Peter recalled seeing three horses with tight curly ringlets over their entire bodies. Father and son were intrigued as to where these horses had come from and just why they were there. From that day, there have always been curly-coated horses on the Damele range. The Dameles were the most instrumental family in bringing about the modern breed. The history of the Dameles and their curly horses was written by Mike Laughlin in the April 2004 issue of Western Horseman Magazine. Many modern day Curlies can be traced to the original Damele stock.

I didn't set out to buy a Bashkir Curly.  When shopping for a horse, my needs were for a safe, bombproof gelding, around 15.0 to 15.2 hands, with three good gaits suitable for lower level dressage. My trainer and I looked at about 20 videos of horses.  Out of all those, Mikato fit the bill to a T.

Mikato is 15.1 hand gelding, 10 years old, sorrel with a flaxen mane.  His curly coat is so thick he doesn't need a blanket in the winter unless he's clipped. He has been trained in dressage, and continues being trained by Jamie Lawrence and ridden at the Mid-South Dressage Academy.  I take lessons on him 2-3 times a week.

When he first got off the trailer I was a bit (to say the least) surprised that he was soooo curly, as his curls did not show up on the video as vividly as they do in person.  And that mane!  I really wasn't expecting a horse with a 'fro. But the best relationships happen when you least expect them.  He is a real joy, a favorite around the barn, and there is a line six-people deep wanting him!

See more Curly horses at Curly Horse Country: http://curlyhorsecountry.com/

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