I’ve never paid much attention to whorls.
You know… swirls, whorls.. those circular tufts of hair on your horse (or on yourself, for that matter… many of us have them on our hairlines…).
Here is a pic of Missy Miss Eden’s interesting double facial whorl… From what I read, I think she is intelligent and could be a challenge, but once trained/bonded, she could excel in her endeavors. But, not sure if I am reading her whorls correctly.
Anyone else have an opinion of Missy Miss Eden’s whorls? Please email me! Or Comment!
EQUINE WHORLS? WHY?
There is an entire science devoted to equine whorls and what they mean.
They’ve even pinpointed a gene that creates whorls which also is linked to which horse lead is natural for your horse (right or left handed, essentially).
I know that Rojo has whorls all over his face. He has matching double whorls on both sides of his jaw and cheeks and face… all over. From what I’ve read, this indicates a horse that is highly intelligent but might be difficult to train.
Uh huh. Check. Rojo was a lover, as long as things were happening how he wanted things to happen. When he arrived, after his prisoner training, Rojo had dead eyes. ‘Conforming’ was not on Rojo’s agenda. That boy was very happy if he was free of any unwanted requests. For sure, Don’t tie him. And for sure don’t ride him unless he got to steer. If he wasn’t in charge, he wasn’t interested.
So, were the whorl studies correct?
A SYNOPSIS OF WHORL STUDIES
There are many whorl studies out there. If you google “equine whorl”, they will all come up. Here is a brief synopsis of the equine whorl story:
From Horse Nation. Click here to read original article.
For starters, what the heck is a whorl, or a swirl? Simply put, it’s a patch of hair growing in the opposite direction of the hair that surrounds the area. These whorls are most commonly found on the head, the face in particular. The whorls found on other body parts are typically referred to as trichoglyphs or “cowlicks.” The theories surrounding whorls and how they dictate personality characteristics in horses have been talked about and studied for thousands of years. There are countless theories out there, which is why I am not about to stamp my name next to one particular claim. Instead, I want to provide some ideas about the various whorls and see whether or not these theories line up with our own horses personalities!
After some research, I have found that most of the studies tend to favor these explanations regarding the positioning of the whorl on a horses face:
1) A whorl positioned right above the eyes represents the most common whorl and tends to result in an even-tempered and uncomplicated creature.
2) Whorls below the eyes usually results in a horse with a higher IQ. In other words, this below-the-eye whorl horse might be a trickster who likes to plan his or her escape out of their stall in the morning. They are inquisitive and can be sneaky.
3) Whorls on the left of the face could suggest a complicated but trustworthy horse.
4) Whorls on the right can indicate an obstinate personality.
5) Horses with one long whorl tend to be people-friendly.
6) Double whorl horses can have multiple personalities. They tend to be more complicated and difficult to read at first glance.
7) Three or more whorls are extremely rare and suggest unpredictability… so watch out!
There might be more swirlology to study, but for now, that’s all I have. So… where’s your horse’s whorl and does the description match your horses personality?
From The Horse Channel.
Most people have heard of a cowlick – that stubborn tuft of hair that just won’t behave itself no matter how much gel or hairspray you throw at it. Although the name originates from the fact that if you have one, it looks like you’ve been licked on the head by a cow, horses (and cows!) can have hair issues, too. And even if your horse doesn’t care whether he’s having a bad hair day or not, there is some serious science connecting a horse’s hair whorl and his brain development.
Hair whorls in horses, also called rosettes or trichoglyphs, are usually small swirls of hair on the face, but they can also be found along the flank, neck, or stomach. Hair whorls are considered a permanent form of identification for horses since a whorl at birth does not change in location or direction during a horse’s lifetime. As such, whorls are often noted on official paperwork like a Coggins test. Each horse’s hair whorl pattern is different and is a valuable way to identify a horse that doesn’t have any white markings.
For centuries, equestrians have noticed horses with certain types of whorls tend to behave in certain ways. For example, horses with double whorls on the face tend to be high-strung or overly reactive to novel stimuli. Recent research has determined this isn’t just folklore. This is basic brain development. Skin and brain tissue come from the same layer of cells, called the ectoderm, during embryonic development. As embryonic cells migrate to form a fetus, skin and brain cells are closely intertwined, particularly at the scalp. This interconnectedness explains why certain hair formations seem to be related to personality.
A study from the University of Limerick in Ireland in 2008 demonstrated that horses with clockwise hair whorls were significantly more likely to move toward the right, or begin a gait with the right-sided hooves—in essence, these horses were right handed. And the horses with counterclockwise whorls? They were more likely to move left.
Dr. Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University and author of the best-selling book Animals in Translation, first noticed a connection between the location of a bull’s hair whorl and whether the animal was excitable when handled by humans. Studies showed that location—meaning above, between, or below the eyes—as well as shape of the whorl could be, to some extent, a predictor of excitable behavior in cattle. Other studies have showed the same in horses: those with whorls on the forehead above the eyes tend to be more excitable and less manageable than those with lower whorls.
A study in 1994 found that horses with double facial whorls, while more reactive, also tended to be athletes at higher levels; racehorses and accomplished show jumpers had double the rate of double whorls compared to other populations of horses.
Although hair whorls can’t completely predict a horse’s temperament or future performance, they may not be a bad thing to take into consideration during your next horse purchase. Dr. Grandin made an interesting observation during her hair whorl studies: those animals with highly unusual whorls, meaning in odd places, odd shapes, or numerous in number, tended to have severe behavioral issues, suggesting perhaps an issue with embryonic brain development.
More practically speaking, you might want to take the time to see what direction your horse’s whorl goes. Whether he’s a lefty or a righty, you’ll know what to ask for to get him to put his best foot forward.
ANNA O’BRIEN, DVM, is a large-animal ambulatory veterinarian in central Maryland. Her practice tackles anything equine in nature, from Miniature Horses to zebras at the local zoo, with a few cows, goats, sheep, pigs, llamas and alpacas thrown in for good measure.
A whorl, (also called a swirl, crown, cowlick or trichoglyph), is where the hair grows in the opposite direction from the hair surrounding it. Most horses have one somewhere on their face, although the position and shape varies. The whorl can be high, between the eyes, or low on the horse’s face and be big, small, round, long, messy…some horses can even have two or more.
Types of whorls include:
• Simple, where the hairs converge from different
directions into a single focal point.
• Tufted, where the hair seems to converge and piles up into a tuft.
• Linear, where hair growing in opposite directions meet along a line.
• Crested…same as for linear, but the hair merges to form a crest.
• Feathered, where the hair meets along a line but falls at an angle to form a feathered pattern.
• Sinuous, where two opposing lines of hair growth meet along an irregular curving line.
About 78% of horses have one of the above facial whorls, while 16% have double whorls and only 6% having three or more.
You have a hair whorl on top your head (check it out) and about 2-5% of people have TWO whorls and it’s thought the direction of your hair whorl…clockwise or counter-clockwise…indicates if you are left or right-handed.
Whorls can be found on other areas of the horse’s body such as the neck, chest, belly and in front of the stifles. Part of the breed standard for Exmoor ponies lists facial whorls as being desirable as they help divert water away from the eyes.
Bedouin horseman placed great significance on a horse’s hair whorls and used them to determine the value of a horse. One Arabian horse was said to have had 40 whorls on its body! (The average is six). They also believed whorls between the ears means the horse was swift while any on the side of the neck were called the ‘finger of the Prophet’.
Another marking is the ‘Prophet’s Thumbmark’ which is a small indentation in the horse’s neck, although it can also appear on other areas of the body. The legend goes that the Prophet Mohammed tested his horses by depriving them of water for several days. He then released them near a waterhole but before they reached it, he sounded his trumpet to summon them. Only five mares responded and returned to him, and these were kept for breeding. He pressed his thumb into their necks, leaving an indentation which they passed on to their offspring. It’s said any horses bearing the mark are blessed, and the person whose thumb exactly fits the hole is the horse’s true owner.
Many Arabian horses have the mark, as do Thoroughbreds, which descended from Arabian bloodlines.
Other Bedouin beliefs included:
• A whorl on the chest meant prosperity.
• A whorl on the girth was a sign of good fortune and an increase in flocks.
• Whorls on the flank were known as ‘spur whorls’ and if curved up, safety in battle or if inclined downwards, prosperity. The Byerley Turk, an Arabian who is one of the founding sires for the Thoroughbred breed, was said to have been born with the Whorl of the Spurs and was never injured in the many battles he was ridden in.
• The whorl of the Sultan was found on the windpipe and meant love and prosperity.
They also believed in evil whorls:
• A whorl above the eye meant the master will die from a head injury.
• The whorl of the coffin was one positioned close to the withers, sloping downwards towards the shoulder and meant the rider will die in the saddle.
• A whorl on the horse’s cheek meant debt and ruin.
• A whorl on one side of the tail means misery and famine.
In the Indian Marwari breed, few will consider buying a horse with a whorl positioned below the horse’s eyes as it’s considered a bad omen, however a long whorl down the neck is known as a ‘Devman’ and believed to be lucky.
Whorls are individual to every horse (like our fingerprints) and many breed registries use them as identification as they can never be brushed or clipped out. Trainer Linda Tellington-Jones believes whorls can indicate a horse’s temperament;
• A whorl positioned above the eyes is the most common and indicates a horse with an uncomplicated nature.
• Horses with whorls below the eyes usually have above average intelligence and like to make a nuisance of themselves by opening gates etc.
• Whorls positioned on the left of the face indicate a complicated but trustworthy horse, while horses with whorls on the right can be uncooperative.
• Horses with one long whorl line (also called a ‘feather mark’ and is the equivalent of a human hair part) are people-friendly and Linda says that a horse with this type or whorl who isn’t friendly should be investigated as it’s likely they are in pain or being abused.
• Horses with two adjoining whorls can be emotional and difficult to handle and do not make good mounts for inexperienced riders.
• Three whorls on the forehead is extremely rare and can indicate an unpredictable horse or, if a stallion, dangerous to handle.
So what kind of whorl does your horse have on his head? If it’s an unusual one or if he has two or more, take a photo and send it to Horsewyse, we’d love to see it!
© Horsewyse Magazine–Vicki Sach.