American Bashkir Curly

By PetMD Editorial. Reviewed by Courtnee Morton, DVM on Dec. 8, 2022
American Bashkir Curl

Reviewed for accuracy December 8, 2022.

The American Bashkir Curly is a horse breed that purportedly originated in central Nevada, though some argue to the contrary. A common U.S. horse breed, it is mainly used for riding purposes today.

Physical Characteristics

Ironically, not all American Bashkir Curly horses have curly hair. In the summer, they shed the silky and kinky hair on the mane, eventually growing the ringlets back during the winter. Common coat colors for the breed include gray, black, bay, Appaloosa, and Pinto.

A typical American Bashkir Curly stands at 14.3 to 15 hands high (57-60 inches, 145-152 centimeters) with a stout, muscular, and noble frame. It has a muscular back and hocks; powerful, rounded shoulders; a round, crease-free rump; and a wide, deep chest. Its legs, meanwhile, are straight with flat knees and tough, almost-perfectly rounded black hooves. An American Bashkir Curly's eyes are also wide-set, providing it with a wider range of vision.

Personality and Temperament 

The American Bashkir Curly has an amiable nature and is highly trainable. It is alert and moves at a brisk pace, ideal for horse jumping, roping, and other types of equine events. It is also sturdy and weathers harsh climate conditions well, even known to survive winters without supplemental feed, though not recommended.

History and Background

There’s little question that the breed known today as the American Bashkir Curly came from central Nevada. According to experts, Peter Damele and his father found three horses covered with tightly-curled hair in 1898. These "Curlies" were then brought from the Peter Hanson mountain range to the Damele home and used for breeding. In fact, many of the American Bashkir Curly horses in the U.S. today can be traced back to the Damele herd, though the breed was not formally registered and established until 1971.

It is, however, unclear how the original Curlies came to be in the United States. Several theories have been proposed, but no clear-cut evidence to support these theories has been uncovered as of yet. There’s a theory, for instance, that says the Curlies came with the Mongols to Nevada through the Bering Strait. They could also have been imported when the Russians occupied Alaska and horses were traded with farmers and miners who lived farther inland.

Although many questions have been left unanswered, one thing is clear—it is unlikely the Curlies could have traveled to Nevada on their own.

Another issue is whether the American Bashkir Curly is truly Bashkir, Lokia, or a different breed altogether. So named because of its supposed Russian Bashkir descendant, the American Bashkir Curly is unlike the Russian Bashkir, which is rarely curly-haired. The Russian Lokai, on the other hand, is known for its curly coat.

Regardless of its descendant, the American Bashkir Curly remains a favorite among U.S. horse breeds, especially riders.

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