The Curly Horse Breed

The exact origin of the Bashkir Curly Horse is one of the greatest mysteries of the horse world.

Horses with curly coats are most certainly an ancient breed. They have been depicted in art and statuary in early China as far back as 161 AD. There has been evidence of their presence in South America and Europe.

A photo of a curly coated Bashkir horse from Russia was printed in the 1938 March issue of the Nature magazine entitled "The Evolution of the Horses". The horse's picture was later drawn by John Hix and featured in a cartoon called "Strange as it Seems". The clipping had been saved in a scrapbook by the Damele (Duh-mel'ly) family (early day curly horse breeders in Nevada). This information was one of the factors that helped in determining the name of this unique breed, the American Bashkir Curly Horse.

It is still a mystery how the Curlies came to the US. But there is evidence that Curlies have been in North America since the early 1800's. Many Indian pictographs illustrating the "Winter Counts" have noted that in the winter of 1801-1802 the Sioux had stolen some curly horses from the Crow. This incident placed the tribes at the Standing Rock/Cheyenne River Reservation at the mouth of the Grand River.

 A significant location of the Curlies today has been traced to Indian Reservations in North and South Dakota. Many Curlies then and now have been acquired from the wild horses that roam the lands of the United States.

One theory why curly coated horses ended up roaming with the wild mustangs of the West, was that the Russian Bashkir Curly horses, that were originally shipped with the Russian colonist who tried to settle America’s Northwest territory during the 1700’s, had set their remaining horses free after abandoning their westward expansion. Unfortunately, through further research including consultations with Russian scientists, the Moscow Zoo and the Ministry of Agriculture, it was determined that there are no curly haired horses from the Bashkir region.

Another theory is that the ancestor of the Bashkir Curly Horse might have crossed the land bridge during the last Ice Age. But there is no fossil evidence to support the existence of horses in the America's from the last Ice Age until the reintroduction of horses to this hemisphere by the Spanish.