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
(early day curly horse breeders in Nevada). This information
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. Many
theories have been advanced on the subject, but no factual
proof has yet been found. 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. They have been domesticated, bred and raised
by ranchers throughout the United States and Canada.
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
of the American Bashkir Curly Horse Breed
Fortunately, more is known about the development of the
modern Bashkir Curly Horse.
The modern day history of American Bashkir Curly dates to
1898, when young Peter Damele and his father were riding the
Peter Hanson Mountains in the remote high country of Central
Nevada, near Austin. Peter recalled seeing three horses
with tight curly ringlets over their entire bodies. It was
intriguing to both father and son as to where these horses
had come from and just why they were there, questions that
as you can see are still not answered. However, from that
day to this, there have always been curly-coated horses on
the Damele range. Many of the Bashkir Curly Horses in the
U.S. can be traced back to the Damele herd.
Establishing The American Bashkir Curly Horse Registry in
1971, the founders set out to save these animals from
extinction in the U.S., as it was found that too many of
them, through ignorance, were being slaughtered. They then
began the process of establishing breeding traits. To
accomplish this, owners were asked to list the
characteristics unique to the Bashkir Curly Horse. When
compiled these brought out several interesting features of
Bashkir Curly Horse's appear in all common horse colors
including Appaloosa and Pinto.
somewhat resemble the early day Morgan in conformation and a
number of traits have been found in this unique breed that
link them to the primitive horse. Curlies are of
medium size. Their soft, calm looking eyes have an unusual
Oriental slant to them, which gives them a sort of sleepy
look, but which also tends to give them a larger range of
vision to the rear. The sleepy look is very deceiving, as
they have a proud carriage, are very alert and not lazy and
most move at a running walk.
Their unusually tough black hoofs are almost perfectly round
in shape. Many Curlies with white legs will still have four
black hoofs. They also have stout roundbone cannons;
straight legs that also move straight; flat knees; strong
hocks; short back which indicates five lumbar vertebrae;
round rump without crease or dimple; powerful rounded
shoulders; V'd chest and round barrel, all of which
contribute to their strength and endurance.
The foals arrive with thick, crinkly coats almost resembling
astrakhan (‘as-tra-kan) wool, even inside their short broad
and also have beautiful curly eyelashes. They are born with
an unusually affectionate disposition and insist on being
When excited or at play, the foals move at a bold trot with
their tails absolutely straight in the air.
They have a double mane which splits down the middle leaving
curly ringlets hanging on both sides of the neck. Their body
coat sheds out in the summer and they become wavy or fairly
straight on their body, with their beautiful coat returning
in the late fall. Several winter coat patterns have been
observed, from a crushed velvet effect, to a perfect marcel
(mar-‘sel) wave, to extremely tight curls over the entire
body. It has been tested and proven that flat hair is curly,
yet when the hair of the Curlies was tested it was found to
be round. One other thing about their hair that should be
mentioned is that a number of owners who are allergic to
horses find that they are not allergic to their Curlies.
The Bashkir Curly Horse is a hardy breed and able to survive
severe winter conditions. In the winter of 1951-52, the
Curly horses were the only ones to survive on the open
ranges of Nevada without supplemental feeding.
most cherished quality is their calmness and extremely
gentle disposition. We do feel that this is one of their
finest features. Many have been taken off the open range,
even full grown animals, and in a day or two, they are
gentler than horses that have been handled for years.
Nothing seems to ruffle them. They do not tend to resort too
flight when frightened, which has been claimed the horse's
greatest means of survival. Curlies, with their naturally
curious nature, prefer to face the unknown rather than run
from it. If they feel something is a real danger to them,
they prefer to kick rather than run. Although they will
struggle frantically when first roped or haltered, they soon
respond to kindness and affection because of their inherent
gentle nature. They seem unable to cope with or tolerate
abuse. They will tend to freeze in a tight spot so seldom
get themselves hurt, even if caught in barbed wire. They
will delight in human companionship and love to be talked
Performance wise, Curlies are a no-nonsense horse and have
an uncanny ability to do all that is asked of them since
they are usually intelligent, learn quickly and a remarkable
memory (for either good or bad experiences) They have won
trophies in arena events such as: Western Riding, Reining,
Gymkhana Events, Hunter, Jumper, Roping, English Equitation,
Western Pleasure, Gaited Pleasure, Dressage and Driving.
They have won in Competitive and Endurance Trail Riding and
are excellent mounts in the mountains, ranch work and all
round pleasure horse.