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The most amazing trait of Curly horses is that they are the ONLY breed known to be hypoallergenic.  People who would otherwise never be able to own a horse due to allergies, now CAN fulfill their dream of having a horse!  This uniquely sets Curly horses apart from all other straight coated breeds.  Scientific research has proven that Curly horses have a different protein in their DNA than regular horses.  This is what makes the hair, mane, tail, and even dandruff all hypoallergenic on a Curly horse!  In the summer, often the distinctive curly body coat is shed off to a short, fine, summer coat that is hard to distinguish from a straight haired horse.  Key places to look for curls are in the ears, the mane, and the fetlocks.  With curly hair visible in these locations, then the different hair protein DNA is assured and the horse will be hypoallergenic.  Curly horses come in a variety of colors and sizes and types.  They can be crossed with other breeds, and if curls are present, the horse will be hypoallergenic.  

Dr. Wolfgang Mitlehner from Germany has studied allergic riders and Curly horses since 2009.  "So far he has studied 50 allergic riders with positive results.  Interestingly, it seems that not only are the riders able to ride the Curly horses without problems, but overtime, they may lose their allergy to other horses as well."  [Direct quote from Equine Science Update]




Where did the Curly horse come from?  That is a question debated to this present day.  It was once believed they were descendants of the Russian Bashkir horse but research, (think for horses), has shown otherwise.  How did Curly horses get to North America?  No one knows for sure.  Historical photos and writings place Curly horses owned and stolen by Sioux & Crow Indians as early as 1801.  Circus master, P.T. Barnum, writes of obtaining & exhibiting a Curly horse in his 1848 autobiography.  There is at least one photo of a U.S. soldier, dated 1906, mounted on a Curly. 


In the early 1950's deliberate breeding of Curly horses occured in Nevada and Missouri/Tennessee. 


Legend has it that Curly Jim arrived in Missouri from Tennessee with an unknown pedigree.  Since he resembled a Missouri Foxtrotter along with having the foxtrot gait, he was classified as a MFT (Missouri Foxtrotter).  Another Curly horse, Walker's Merry Lad, also had unknown lineage, but was classified as a Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH).  Gaited Curly horses today generally have both these foundation Curly stallions in their lineage and have a specific curly coat DNA, SP6.

The Damele Ranch in Nevada started breeding Curly horses out of economic neccessity.  A common western practice was to turn ranch horses out for the winter where they co-mingled with untamed mustangs.  Some of the mustangs were curly coated.  After the brutal winter of 1952, all the Damele ranch horses and straight haired mustangs were lost.  Only the Curly mustangs survived and these became new Damele ranch horses.  After that winter, the Damele boys caught a young Curly mustang stallion and named him Copper D.  He became their initial Curly breeding program sire.  Many Curly horses today can be traced to the original Damele stock and show a predominence of QH & Morgan genetics along with a separate curly coat DNA, KRT25.


Regardless of the mystery surrounding Curly horses, they are truly a PROUD AMERICAN BREED!

{CurlyHorseCountry & ICHO provided much of this content.}

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