curly horse

Just when you thought you'd heard it all, there's another twist on curls.

The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, In., recently featured a photo of Lars Helgeson's American Bashkir Curly stallion, Mahogany's Dakota Sunrise, showing off his curly hair.

Yes, there are curly horses. It's neigh joke! There's even an International Curly Horse Organization — the equine equivalent of NaturallyCurly.com.

By current scientific breed recognition guidelines, the North American Curly Horse is not a true breed, but rather a coat type. However, the goal of many Curly Horse breeders is to develop real breeds of horses that are curly coated. Many Curly breeders are also just as dedicated to the preservation of the old bloodlines of North American Curly Horses that still exist. ICHO goals are supportive of all these types of breeding programs.

Curlies were first discovered by white men in America in the wild herds of mustangs in Eastern Nevada, at the turn of the 20th century. The Sioux and Crow Indians had Curly horses as early as 1800, though whether these two kinds of Curly horses were related we don't know. There is also written and pictorial evidence of curly haired horses found at various times in various places around the world — Charles Darwin writes of curly horses in South America, for instance.

The ICHO is undertaking serious research on the Curly gene, to try to discover more about it and its various expressions. There will be pedigree tracking, surveys on traits, etc, to begin learning as much as possible about these mysterious, curly coated, hypoallergenic horses.

Like their human counterparts, Curlies come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and all colors. The winter curls on different individuals can range from crushed-velvet-looking, to Marcelle waves, to tight ringlets, to "French knot" microcurls. Manes and forelocks can be corkscrewed, ringletted, or dreadlocked. Tails may have some wave or curl. The hair in their ears is curly, the whiskers, eyelashes and fetlocks is often curly or wavy. These curls are considered a hallmark of the breed, and most owners would never trim or clip them off.

In summer, Curlies typically shed out to a slick coat, sometimes still appearing slightly wavy. Some Curlies keep strongly curled hair all year round, though not as thick or long, in the summer.

Curlies do not need pampering, but they do need good basic care. Normal grooming is satisfactory for most Curly coats. Combing out the ringletted or corkscrew or dreadlocked manes can cause them to lose their curly look. Some people choose to trim the manes occasionally instead keep them neat. Tails can be brushed and combed in the normal manner. Care must be taken during shedding season, not to pull out too much mane and tail, during grooming.

Unlike their human counterparts, curly horses have a quieter temperament than other horses.

"Some owners compare Curly Horses to mules or asses, in their higher intelligence, and the fact that they think rather than just panic," according to the ICHO.

I'm not sure being compared to an ass is a good thing, but I'm a curly human.