The Curly horse

A Curly is a specific breed of horse. Curlies come in all sizes, colors, and body types but all carry a gene for a unique curly coat of hair.

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 Curlies enjoy being around people. Curlies are typically not flighty, and tend to do more reasoning than most breeds. 

Bit of history

While the exact origin of the American Curly Horse is currently being researched, experts know that Curly horses were found in North America in the 1800s and used as mounts by Native Americans. They were discovered by white settlers in wild herds of mustangs at the turn of the 20th century. There is also evidence of Curly horses living in South America.

They range in all sizes and body types, and they may be gaited, but all Curlies carry a dominant gene for a unique curly coat of hair.

Coat, mane and tail

Curlies have split manes and are not braided or clipped when shown. Curlies are most commonly chestnut colored, but can be found in every color from standard bays, blacks, and greys, to appaloosa markings; from pinto patterns to dilute colors such as buckskin, roan, grulla, and cremello.

In the winter, a Curly horse’s coat takes on the most curled appearance, looking like waves, ringlets, or microcurls, depending on the horse. Manes and forelocks can take on the look of corkscrew, ringlet, or dreadlocked curls. The tails may also be curly or wavy.

Lovely SEDONIA, Stag Creek Farm, in her winter curls.

Ear hair, whiskers, eyelashes, and fetlocks are often curly as well. The Curly horse does shed in the summer; some horses lose their curly look with the arrival of their slick summer coat, while others remain curly year-round.

Because the trait can be carried heterozygously, some purebred Curlies exhibit no curl at all — called “smooth coat” curlies.

The care for the curly hair is simple with most people choosing to not comb the mane because the hair will lose its curliness. The manes are often trimmed to keep them from matting. The tails can be combed.

Some people choose to collect the hair that is shed from the mane and tails in the spring. The hair is then donated to the ICHO Fiber Guild. They use the hair for spinning. All of the proceeds go to ICHO Curly Research Efforts.


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 sufferers, but the study was never officially published. Members of the Curly community are working towards funding more research on the topic.


Wild Curly Mustang from the Salt Wells Creek herd in Wyoming. By Ottilia.



Related Reading

Wild Curly Horses found in Nevada an enigma, Tuesday’s Horse, 17 Mar. 2009

Featured Image: American Bashkir Curly Horse Registry,

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