The Curly has been said to be the sacred horse of the Indians, called
Buffalo Ponies, owned by Chiefs and Medicine Men. Red Cloud depicted
Curly horses at the battle of Little Bighorn of 1876 in drawings he
made. Curly horses were found at the Standing Rock Reservation in South
Dakota. They have also been found at the Fort Berthold Reservation in
North Dakota and at Rock Springs, Wyoming.
The Damele's are the most well know for their breeding of Curly horses
in Nevada. Giovanni (John) Damele, an Italian immigrant, settled near
Eureka, Nevada with his family and started ranching. They spotted Curly
horses in the mustang herds of Nevada as early as the late
These Curlies were used to breed with other horses with many Curly
foals being produced. The first Curly stallion used by the
Damele's was Copper D. The Curlies were bred to the Arabian stallion,
Nevada Red and a Morgan stallion, Ruby Red King.
Other breeds used for breeding to Curlies were, Appaloosa, Saddlebred,
Quarter horse and Draft. The Damele's continued to breed Curly horses
for many years. Most of the Curly horses of today trace back to the
Damele Curlies. The Damele's and other breeders bred Curlies to a
variety of other breeds because their numbers were very limited. In the
1960's they were bred to the Missouri Foxtrotter and today there are
some foxtrotting Curlies. There are approximately 2000 living
registered Curly horses.
The winter coat of the Curly horse has curls which varies in form from
tight ringlets to a wavy type. The hair is soft and is hypoallergenic.
Most people allergic to horses are not allergic to the
Curlies. The curly hair has been tested and has been found to
resemble mohair. The hair can be spun into yarn.
The mane and tail of the Curly is also curly, wavy or in dreadlocks. In
the summer the curly coat sheds out to a smoother or slightly wavy hair
coat. Some Curlies also shed their mane and tail hair, while others
shed a partial amount and some retain the full mane and tail.
The Curly horse is quiet hardy and has the ability to withstand colder
temperatures better than many other breeds. They possess strong round
hooves. Their cannon bone is round rather than flat. They do
not seem to be plagued by diseases that affect other equine
Most Curlies seem to have a floating walk and trot which make them
smooth to ride. However, a minority (10-15%) of all Curlies have an
extra gait in addition to walk, trot and gallop. These gaited Curlies
can roughly be separated into three groups.
The first group is the foxtrotting Curly which is the most common of
gaited Curlies. They result from crossing Curly horses with Missouri
Fox Trotters. Almost all foxtrotting Curlies descend from the
stallion, Walker's Prince T.
A second group is Curlies performing a four beat lateral gait,
usually a running walk or stepping pace. The gait has probably come
from the Spanish horse influence or in some cases crossing with
Tennessee Walkers and other gaited breeds.
A third group is recessive Curlies cropping up in gaited
breeds. A recessive Curly is a curly horse which has two straight
haired parents. The recessive curly gene is probably not related to the
more common dominant curly gene. Recessive Curlies crops up most
frequently among Missouri Fox Trotters, but it has also been known to
happen in the Tennessee Walking Horse and Paso Fino breeds as well as
other gaited breeds.