OMG.  I don’t even have allergies and I’m suffering today…  Sneezy, watery eyes… ugh.

Spring is in the air in CA, for sure.  Or perhaps more precisely, dander is in the air – around my barn at least and probably all over.

My horses are shedding like Pig Pen – clouds of hairy dust all around them.

This annual molting ritual can be a total sinus nightmare for those who are allergic to our trusted steeds.

But, did you know that the Bashkir Curlies are hypoallergenic?!  (They also spell it “Curlys”… depends on some rule I cannot figure out.  But in all my research, it is spelled either way.)

Awesome hair coat!

Awesome hair coat!  (Thank you, Tall Trees Curlies!)


See, now there are no more excuses… even though your loved one might say he is allergic to horses, he cannot be allergic to a Curly.  Get yourself a Curly!  ;)

No one is quite sure why Curlys don’t have the allergens of other horses, but according to Mr. Google, here is one answer:

Curlies are claimed to be the only hypoallergenic horse breed; most people allergic to horses can handle Curly Horses without suffering any allergic reaction. Research indicates a protein is missing from the hair of Curlies which may be what causes allergic reactions to horses in allergy suffers, but the study was never officially published. Members of the Curly Community are working towards funding more research on this.


He looks so warm in his cozy, hypoallergenic winter coat!

2009 Campout (Isabelle's pics) 015

Love the forelock and mane!


I don’t have any Bashir Curlys.  However, they sound like my kind of horse:

(This I grabbed from Mr. Wikipedia)

The Curlies are known for their calm, intelligent and friendly personality. They show an easily trainable temperament. They are also known for having a tough constitution and great stamina. Most people have found that the curlies enjoy being around people. The curlies are typically not flighty. They tend to do more reasoning than most breeds. They are very reliable and have a great work ethic.

The Curly has a characteristic long stride and bold movement. They have tough hooves, strong bones and exceptional endurance. Most Curlies stand between 14 and 16 hands.

(And from Tall Trees Curlies, this paragraph that sums it up nicely…)

They are rugged and sturdy, have a great disposition which makes them excel in almost all disciplines. Curlies are excellent in trail, cross country, endurance classes and lately have been doing well in acrobatic disciplines. They are usually between 14 – 16 hands which makes them small enough for a child and strong enough for a man. We breed only in accordance with Curly Standards to keep our horses true. We have 2 carefully chosen stallions “ WCC Butch Cassidy, a bay, and Tall Trees Rogue, a red dun. Our herd of mares is varied and we are constantly growing.

Another Tall Tree Curlies photo.  Thank you!

Lovely.  Another Tall Tree Curlies photo. Thank you!  What a great face!



American Curlies.  Or, North American Curly Horses  or American Bashkir Curly Horses or American Curly Horses or Curly Horses… I love that they are just as conflicted in their relatively new registry as the rest of us!  But, that isn’t why I’m interested in them.  I’m interested in them because of their unique HAIRcoat.  Did you know they were hypoallergenic?

First off, let’s discuss how the American Curly Horse came to be.  Sounds easy but it isn’t.  No one is exactly sure how the breed began… and they admit it.  I love that!  One theory was since there had been recorded curly horses in Africa and Spain, they could have come from there.  But there was no proof.  In fact, there is no firm root system or Moses Tablets to confirm or deny any genesis of the American Curly.  Originally, it was thought that these horses were descendants of the Russian Bashkir horse.  That couldn’t be confirmed but the name stuck.  After much discussion among Curly historians, all that is known is that curly coats were reported in wild mustang herds in Nevada in the late 1800’s and Native Americans also caught and trained them.  So, let’s just start there, shall we?

(Olde Tyme Photos:  First is a photo of US Army on a curly in 1906, Second is famous curly stud, Dixie D, next is Benny Damele, last is famous foundations stud, Copper D.)

On the range in Nevada, an Italian rancher (obviously another reason I was drawn to this story since I’m basically an Italian rancherini) named Giovanni Damele set up business in Eureka, Nevada.  Eureka Nevada is described as the loneliest town on the loneliest road in America (I sure hope the land was cheap…).  Funny, that road, Hwy 50 is not far from where I live.  Anyway, “John” noticed the curly coated horses out with the mustang herds in this rocky, desolate and forgotten part of Nevada.

After a particularly nasty winter, John was again very astute to notice that most of the wild herd had died except the curly coated individuals.  Hmmmmm.  This happened the next winter as well — which seems obvious since supposedly there weren’t any sleek coats left from the previous winter.   Being an astute rancher, ol’ John decided to round him up some of them curlia coateda horsesa.  (I can speak Italang since my father was from Sicily off the boat.)  And, gather some of them he did!

You can probably guess what happened from here.  The lore is that John’s horses were the strongest and most sure footed in the valley.  People came from far and wide to buy the offspring.  So, generally, the Damele ranch and especially John and his son Benny are known as the founders of the breed.  From the original few, John out crossed them with a few studs he admired.  One was a Morgan (I love this, of course) named, Ruby Red King.  He also used an Arab stud named, Nevada Red and another stud of unknown breeding named, Copper D.  (All of these studs have color reference names.  I wonder if they were all sorrels?)

So, that is how the American breed came to be.  In fact, the Damele family still has a ranch in Nevada and still raises these horses.  I have the address if you are interested in visiting. 

Just ask me and I will send it to you.  Isn’t it cool that we are still close enough in time that we can actually speak to the family who is widely known as the creator of the breed?!  I would love to speak to Justin Morgan.  Anyway, that is the story.  For you readers who have peaked curiousity about this breed, here are two links.  The first is to a  very informative Curly website.  And sadly but thankfully, here is a link to the Curly rescue group.  Sigh.  As with all breeds of horses these days, the rare Curly horse is also being sent off to slaughter.  (This link has a charming story about a baby Curly just saved from slaughter who needs a forever home.  Is it yours?  Take a look.)

OK, now back to the curly part.  It is known that these horses have a curly coat in the winter. It sheds in the summer.  However, the mane and tail are the clinchers.  Most of the Curlies shed their mane and tail either every spring or every couple of years.  I think ol’ Mother Nature was trying to figure out a way to get rid of those itchy dreds so she just decided to let it all fall out.  Heck, it will grow back.  This is why in some photos, Curlies show either no mane or hardly any mane and often times a short tail.  I also read many articles on tress management.  It is suggested that you trim the mane and tail, if it doesn’t fall out, to keep it from knotting.

Curlies are also supposed to be smaller (14 – 15.1) with wide set ears. They are described as a durable, sturdy, horse with a short back, straight bone, and thick, healthy hooves. In stories written about John Damele’s Curlies, they were often called “very strong”, willing, loving towards people and not cowardly. Curly Horses may have other primitive horse traits like smaller chestnuts or missing ergots (Aren’t ergots and chestnuts the same thing?  I’m feeling igner’t right now).

Here is where it gets interesting…  It seems that Curlies, who are basically a mixed breed, had to form a few registries.  Why?  Well, and this is the plain yet mind boggling part, the purists wanted to keep from outcrossing them.  ??  I totally understand why they wanted this, but, it is perplexing because that is how they came to be in the first place…  But, in 1990, the American Bashkir Curly Registry closed its books to outcrossing.  So, the ICHO (International Curly Horse Organization) began.  They outcross.  Then came the CSI (Curly Sporthorse International) that develop, you guessed it, the Sporting Curly.  Oh, and we cannot leave out the BLM Curly, which are the remnants of the original Curlies from the range (I’m happy to report that there is a group trying to help the Mustangs by valuing the Curlies left on the range.  They are working with the BLM to save them.  Here is a link.)

Gathering photos for this missive was rather interesting.  I could find very few beautiful curly coated photos.  It seems that although this breed is known for its coat, since the coat appears in winter, all bets are off… Or, the owners just wait for that coat to go away so grooming is easier?  I don’t know.  But, I’ll tell you, I couldn’t find one Winter/Summer comparison shot for any of the internet featured Curly horses.  That’s what I wanted.  I wanted to see the Before/After pics like the drama of a major Makeover show!  Couldn’t find one.  Not one!  So, I think the curly part must wear a bit hard on owners.  I’m not sure.  But, there are a lot more pics of the horses shed out than not shed out.

Now that I am a new found Curly expert having delved into this for an entire day… I would have to agree with the purists of the ABCR.  When I look at the breed standard, such that there is a breed standard, it seems that John Damele wanted a strong ranch horse.  That’s it.  Strong.  Ranch.  Horse.  OKOK, don’t get all squinty eyed. I can see why all the other folks want to take this sweet, strong ranch horse and cross it with other stuff to hopefully get the strong, curly and sweet part into whatever else they have in their particular woodpile.  I’m just sayin’…

So in conclusion, for me, Curly blood is kinda like salt or garlic or butter.  It is the stuff that goes into most tasty recipes.  You have the Curly Fresian cross, the Curly Paint cross, the Curly TB cross, the Curly Pony cross… it is endless.  Are they diluting the breed or merely making it better?  Dunno and don’t really want to argue that.  After all, hybrid vigor is a glorious thing.  I know that I always describe the look of my purebred Australian Kelpie, Dexter, as 5 different dogs put together.  You see, a purebred Australian Kelpie is indeed a mix of all the dogs they have there in Australia plus a dash of Dingo thrown in for good measure.  Yup, he’s a purebred Kelpie made up of everything under the sun.  Still, in my opinion, Dex is sound, brilliant and just about the most vigorous dog I’ve ever met.
I think the purebred Curly is like my Dexter.   I think they are probably a very healthy hybrid that has become a purebred.  I like it.  I like it just like I love my purebred, Dex, and my purebred donkey Norma with the remarkable curly hair.  So if you were to give me a choice of what kind of Curly would work for me…

Well, I’d go with Damele’s original idea of a strong, little, willing, moppy-headed wild thing.  Like owner, like horse —  or so the story goes…

APRIL BUCKET FUND!  ALL the displaced horses from the horrific WA mudslide - especially Summer Raffo's 20 horses.  Click  here to learn more!

APRIL BUCKET FUND! ALL the displaced horses from the horrific WA mudslide – especially Summer Raffo’s 20 horses. Click here to learn more!

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2 comments have been posted...

  1. Mindy

    actually i HAVE hugged my curly horse today ;) Billy Blaze is an excellent example of an extreme type of curly, never growing much mane and tail and shedding them completely in the summer. i have had allergies my whole life to dust, pollen, dust, horses, cats, dogs… i have also had horses my whole life. however i discovered when i was in my early thirties that my allergies had become worse. if i even got within 10 feet of a horse i was sneezing, my eyes were running, i would break out in hives. i was completely devastated as horses are my LIFE.

    i went home and started doing some research and came across the curly horse! i found a breeder near me and contacted her to get some more information and with the hopes that i could go to her farm and meet the horses. it came up that i was going to be saving my money to make a purchase, so wasn’t in the market right then, when she had a wonderful solution…

    “i have a young bay colt that i would give you for one dollar if you’re interested. i’ve been told he is ugly and has a hammer head, a straight shoulder and a ewe neck, but he’s yours if you’re interested.”

    what!? i was floored. i asked for some photos of this ugly duckling and she promptly sent me some… he was a yearling so had the yearling “uglies” for certain, but i saw a sound structure under all that. with my past knowledge of conformation versus muscling, classical dressage and being a certified equine massage therapist (a job i could no longer do because of my allergies) i knew he was a gem!

    so i brought him home.

    and so began our journey together. you can read about that over at

    here is a post that addresses him before and after!

    i think it’s very interesting to see how much he has changed over the last three years. it also goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a horse by his outside ;)

  2. dawndi Post author

    From Marlene:
    If there is anyone wishing to come to our farm and see our “American Bashkir Curly Horses” please feel free to come. Our home and gate is open to anyone to come and stay/ and who are interested in visiting our curlies. They just need to contact us for more information about how to book a room. or or just pick up the phone ,and call us. At 1-705-776-1356. We are in from the barns at noon most days. If you ever wish to have a Canadian holiday Dawn/ please come up to stay…we have lots of room to spare. You can “Ride the Wave”…and feel the curls for yourself.

    We at present have twenty eight lovable curlies you can hug.

    I can send you many before, and after pictures of our curlys.I only sent you winter curls /but if you wish to see our horses looking as a sleek haired /normal one does…. We often keep our curlies for years, so we get lots of both winter, and summer pictures.

    They shed out completely every Spring/ and look awful ratty ,when in this phase. We help it along in the latter stages of Springtime when they start to get itchy, and rub on things…by combing them “gently” with wire brushes, and it comes off in big bunches…then they are shiny , and bright again like a normal horse /except their manes and tails often retain their curls.

    Not all curlys shed their manes ,and tails in the Springtime though…Most of them do not….I usually end up snipping a few of the dreglocks off though/easier to groom , that trying to comb them out.

    The curlys you mentioned…that shed completely both their tails, and manes /along with their full coats …are called “Rattails “by us oldtime curly breeders… or as the ICHO .or CSI members like to call them, by a new term “Extremes”.

    [Bruce and I ] believe they inherited this gene of shedding out completely to a rattail and no mane…from their ancestors /way back in their bloodlines many generations/ who probably were Appaloosa., as they also have this trait.

    Native Indians who robbed and pillaged wagon trains generations ago…also took the old style curlies ,and threw them all together in one big herd…thus they outcrossed them ,with many other breeds., and like you said, ended up with a mixed breed ,…that was strong /healthy ,and smart. The weak did not survive the cold winters…

    The strongest survived the bitter cold winters, that other horses could not…and were rounded up and gathered onto a ranch in Nevada….by the Damele’ s and have evolved with excellent breeding / to what we have today. And no the stallions they all outcrossed to were not all red and brown ones in colors…many different colors are born to our foals /still because of these long ago bloodlines from the Damele’s first curly herd. We cannot predict what we will get in any particular colors…like a X,mas present waiting to be opened…a wonderful surprise. But then again /customers should not just pick to buy a horse for their color only.

    Our curlies we have here at Tall Trees …for our breeding stock….were all bought from the West…and all have originated from the old “Foundation” Damele bloodlines .“Our original breeding stallion, and 4 original broodmares that we started our breeding program with many years ago/ came straight out of these survivors of the wilds, of your western USA states. So are close to their roots so to speak ,and still retain and pass on to their foals/ all of the wiles they have needed to survive .

    They are all Hardy and Strong and Gentle . They are extra smart ,and very mischevious ,and love to play tricks on us. They keep Bruce on his toes , and love to hang out with him all day. They actually help him with his chores…but enjoy living here ,and running free on big pastures as a normal wild horse used to . They come each morning and night by themselves/ running up to the barns to be fed ,and checked over…as cows do . Or we take the trucks back to where they are grazing/ to visit with them in the daytimes. They love visitors.

    We find our curlies are a lot of fun to have around as they are wily ,and with all of their smarts still intact , and they still know how to pick out wild foods to eat/ to survive. They need all these instincts to live in the wilds. They pass on these instincts to their foals too…

    With the better feeds good hay and lush pastures…and the care we give to them/ they have become awesome animals /who seem to want to be around humans. They love people. Especially ones with treats in their pockets.

    They seem to have a special infinity for children too. Mellow and kind towards the ones who come to visit. Curious and looking for things to wriggle and take apart. Playful and gentle horses. Easy keepers.

    They also have a natural instinct for herding.. and often Bruce and I will look out our window ,.and see our curlys herding a bunch of wild deer off their land…or even a bear or moose too. They do not take it very well, if the wild animals eat at their hay. They also are great guard animals/and will protect their young ,….and even their human [if they are bonded to them] from even cougars/wolves/coyotes, etc.

    We figure sometimes outcrossing can be detrimental to them too…as they only have a fifty ,fifty chance of inheriting the “good” traits of their parents/resulting from this outcrossing…often they inherit the “bad” genes too from other breeds. But of course nobody wants to talk about this issue much. So we never get into this argument with them. They do not wish to hear it anyways.

    So Bruce and I,.. here at “Tall Trees Curlies” have never outcrossed our horses…we are a closed herd , /with four excellent stallions …all of a different quality bloodlines ,to service our many broodmares.

    We like to think that after breeding ,for twenty odd years/ we are now getting some of the very best foals /of this Rare Breed. We strive to breed “Quality not Quantity” Curlies that are gentle, and loving, and quiet… is what we are wanting for our customers.

    This is the season when they molt, and shed their winter coats. We expect the yearly visit from the Humane society/animal control people . I have the coffee on for them.

    People driving by , seem to think these curlies have the mange, and are abused because of how they look so ratty ,and scruffy.

    So I dig out the wire brushes ,and small child’s plastic lawn rakes , and gently groom them out in the paddocks… I take the hair …wash and spin it ,..and knit articles like mittens , toques and scarves . Horse dollies with the curly fibre put on the manes and tails [which is like angora , or similar to hair from a llama or alpaca in texture. They are my speciality . I love to make unusual toys of bygone era.

    And often take one of my horse dolls, and mittens, etc… to the tradeshows to display to visitors /to show people what can be made out of the hair fibre. …One lady who makes awesome fibre art pictures /has recently asked for the hair to process for her fibre paintings. I am also going to try this someday too.

    Anyhow I wish to thank you again for the wonderful pictures you posted about “Tall Trees Curlies”, and the nice article about the curlies this morning.

    Big hugs .and a happy day to you/Tess and Norma…

    Bruce & Marlene Tilson /Bonfield, Ontario. Canada.

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