THE HISTORY OF CURLY HORSES
Curly horses in America were known to the Native Americans. The Crow & Sioux both had Curly horses. The documentation of this is found in their calendars called "Winter Counts" which are picture books of sketches showing events during certain years. In the winter of 1801-02 it shows a drawing of a Curly horse and is remembered as the winter the Sioux stole Curly horses from the Crow. The Curly has been said to be sacred horses to the Indians, called Buffalo Ponies & owned by Chiefs & Medicine Men. A Native American depicted Curly horses at the battle of Little Bighorn of 1876 in drawings he made. Curly horses were found at the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. They have also been found at the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota & at Rock Springs, Wyoming.
The Damele`s are the most well know for their breeding of Curly horses in Nevada. Giovanni (John) Damele, an Italian immigrant, settled near Eureka, Nevada with his family and started ranching. They spotted Curly horses in the mustang herds of Nevada as early as the late 1800`s. In the winter of 1932 almost all the livestock & horses died because of severe weather. When horses were rounded up in the spring, a few straight haired horses & some Curlies were alive. These Curlies were used to breed with other horses and many Curly foals were produced. In 1952 another severe winter storm developed and all the horses died except a Curly colt (Copper D) and four Curly mares. The first Curly stallion used by the Damele`s was Copper D. The Curlies were bred to the Arabian stallion Nevada Red & a Morgan stallion Ruby Red King. Other breeds used for breeding to Curlies were, Appaloosa, Saddlebred, Quarter horse & Draft. The Damele`s continued to breed Curly horses for many years. Most of the Curly horses of today trace back to the Damele Curlies. The Damele`s and other breeders bred Curlies to a variety of other breeds because their numbers were very limited. In the 1960`s they were bred to the Missouri Foxtrotter and today there are some foxtrotting Curlies. There are approximately 3000 living registered Curly horses. Today there is also much less outcrossing and many breeders prefer to breed Curly to Curly. There is also a group of breeders working to preserve the original type of Curly.
The winter coat of the Curly horse has curls in the form of tight ringlets to a marcel type wave. The hair is generally soft and is hypoallergenic. Most people allergic to horses are not allergic to the Curly. The curly hair has been tested and has been found to resemble mohair. The hair can be spun into yarn. The mane & tail is also curly, wavy or in dredlocks. In the summer the curly coat sheds out to a smoother or slightly wavy hair coat. Some Curlies also shed their mane and tail hair, while others shed a partial amount and some retain the mane & tail.
The Curly horse is quite hardy and has the ability to withstand colder temperatures than many other breeds. They posess strong round hooves. The bone thickness is also greater in the Curly than other breeds of horses. Their cannon bone is round rather than flat. They do not seem to be plagued by diseases that affect other equine breeds. ~~ The eyes of the Curly are spaced wide apart so they have good rear vision. The eyes have a sleepy look to them and are hooded. The nostrils are cresent shaped, not flaring. They have a small teacup mouth.
One of the best traits of the Curly is their personality. They love people. They are intelligent, quick to learn, willing partners. They have a quiet temperment and do not spook & run, but rather face their fear to get a good look at it. They are curious little clowns at times.
The athletic ability of the Curly has taken him to the dressage ring, endurance rides, cow pony work, driving, Western pleasure, ideal family horse & hunter of Buffalo by the Indians. Curlies seem to excel at many tasks. They have plenty of energy & endurance. They have great movement & style.
TYPES OF CURLY HORSES
There is a "dominant" & "recessive" gene responsible for giving horses curly hair. The dominant gene is the most prevelant in the registered Curly horses. A double dominant gened Curly will produce curls when bred to another Curly or a straight coated horse. There are also recessive curly haired horses that are the product of a straight haired sire & dam. The Percheron, Missouri Foxtrotter & Paso Fino are a few breeds that have produced "rcessive" curly offspring.
Native American Curlies
A small number of Curlies were obtained from Native American Eli Bad Warrior. These Curlies were kept by the Native Americans and passed down to their family members. The Native Curlies have a regal presence about them & a keen sense of what is going on around them. They are built heavy and solid with good bone. They tend to be a bit shy around strangers.
The Curlies found by the Damele family were bred for many years on their ranch. This line of Curlies has been a great influence on many Curlies of today as most can trace their pedigrees back to the Damele breeding stock.
Only about 10% of Curlies today are gaited. A few do a natural running walk. Some Curlies were bred to the Missouri Foxtrotter in the 1960`s, and hence some Curlies now do the foxtrot gait. Some Curlies have also been bred to Tennessee Walkers and do a running walk. Both the foxtrot and running walk are smooth riding gaits with no bounce.
CARING FOR CURLY HORSES
Curlies are generaly easy keepers that enjoy the great outdoors. Like all horses though, they need shelter available in inclimate weather. A barn or three sided shelter works great as a wind break. They should be fed quality grass or mixed hay with fresh water always available. Grain can also be fed but they do not need large amounts. Like all horses they need regular worming, vaccinations and hoof care. Curlies deserve the best of care and thrive under good conditions. Good basic horse care applies to all breeds, even Curlies.
Curlies love to be groomed. Even in their winter curls, it is easy to keep their coats looking good by brushing & of course the Curly will thoroughly enjoy it. In the spring when they start to shed, a brush, shedding blade or comb works great to remove the shedding curls. You can keep the sheded hair and spin it into yarn or find a spinner in your area that maybe interested in exotic fiber.