Curly Coat

Much like the Appaloosa LP complex, what makes a Curly coat Curly, seems to be more complicated than a simple dominant or recessive gene.  There are many expressions of Curl type and degree of hypoallergenicity.  Some Curly owners also report a correlation between curly coat type with temperament.  For example, most Extreme coated Curly owners report that their horses are more people-oriented, easier to train, and make bolder mounts than other types of Curly coated horses.


"Curly" Curly Horse

The average Curly horse sports a medium-length curl to their winter coat, with a long-spiral or dreadlocked mane that hangs on both sides of their neck, the tail is curly, wavy or spiraled and hangs to about hock length or below.  The hair inside the ears is very curly, the eyelashes are curved upwards, and the fetlocks are long and curly.  Sometimes the head and face are curly and the whiskers are curly as well.



Prairie Espresso Dream aka Reese owned and photographed by Denise Conroy

Example of a Curly horse shed out to his slick summer coat, maintaining curly mane and tail.


Mellow, Curly stallion Bred and owned by Don Bosman, Bit-O-Wy Curlies, , Photo by Ellen Southwell


Close-up of Curly ear hairCoat8.jpgBilly Blaze, photographed and owned by Mindy Schroder


*Lakota Gem, owned and photographed by Michelle Ives

Curly eyelashes

Billy Blaze, photographed and owned by Mindy Schroder

Medium wave curls on neck


*Lakota Gem owned and photographed by Michelle Ives



"Extreme" Curly

The "Extreme" Curly, as Curly breeders have been callling this type, is a horse with very tightly curled body hair in winter that sheds out slick in summer.  However, the Extreme Curly usually sheds out its mane hairs in summer also, to either a very short "tuft" of mane, or completely shed out to nothing.  The Extreme Curly often has a very short tail well above the hocks, and sheds out the top of the tail in the summer as well.  This has earned them the term "brush tail" or "rat tail".  There are varying degrees to the amount of mane and tail hair that the Extreme Curlies shed.  Often times it follows in family lines, however other times the pattern does not.

In the past, it was thought that the Extreme Curly was defective, especially someone not familar with the breed.  These horses, unfortunately, were culled, either put down, often times dumped at auction where they had no hope of finding a home, or left to starve in a back lot, as breeders didn't want the public to know that they bred such an abomination. Curly Horse Rescue, the Resgistries, breeders and owners have worked tirelessly over the years to educate the public, auction houses, other rescues, breeders and owners about the Extremes. 

Extreme Curlies are now thought to  be very valuable to breeders, as it appears that they may be homozygous for producting curly coats.  Breeders have reported that when bred to a straight coated non-curly bred horse, Extremes throw curly coated foals 100% of the time. 

Extreme Curlies are perfectly healthy horses and should be thought of much like the Maximum Sabino Paint Horses, and Fewspot or Snowcap Appaloosa.  The only consideratino that should be made is some help in fly season due to their sparse tail, and insure your saddle and tack is well-fitting as the Extreme's thinner body coat can rub faster than a standard coated horse.

Extreme Curly horse owners report that the Extremes seem to be the easiest to train, and that they are even more people-oriented than the rest of the Curlies, if that is even possible!



*Sandman';s Magic, Extreme stallion, standing at stud, Owner/Breeder/Photographer Shelly White
437.JPG*Morningstar Jen, Extreme mare, owned by Amanda Ives, photographed by Michelle Ives

Body coat of an Extreme CurlyCoat18.jpg

*Morningstar Jen, Extreme mare, owned by Amanda Ives, photographed by Michelle Ives

Straight Curly

Much like Breeding Stock Paint Horses and Non-Colored Appaloosa horses, we have Straight Coated Curly horses.  It is now believed that there are less straight-coated Curlies than first thought, as many previously classified as "straight" are, in fact, hypoallergenic, and have some kind of kink or crimp to their coat, when studied under magnification.  These are affectionately called "Bunny fur".  They tend to have a coat that is softer than a non-curly bred straight coated horse, and they look like they are having a bad hair day, their coat can kidn of stick up in all directions with odd swirls and whorls in non-conventional places.  Usually their mane and tail, while straight, are kind of fuzzy to the touch and less slick than a "regular" straight haired breed.

The straights also have value amongst breeders, when bred to extremes it is felt that they will produce a Curly coated horse that keeps its mane and tail and will not produce an Extreme.



Mister Tygs owned by Janeen Radtke, Straight Coated Curly


Noelle, "Bunny fur" type Curly, rescued from broker lot December, 2012.
Owned by Curly Horse rescue, photographed and fostered by Annise Finch


Nobody wants to talk about them, but I would be remiss in not mentioning the Baldy curlies.  Baldies are very, very rare, there are only a handful of them known.  It seems there are two types of Baldies, which I will address briefly, but the issue can get complicated as we delve into the difference between dominant Curlies and recessive Curlies, which are two different animals.

Dominant Curly Baldies are thought to occur when two Extreme's are bred together, and the chance increases significantly if they are linebred or inbred.  Four Dominant Gene Baldies come to mind and have been studied somewhat by Curly breeders.  There was Blackie, Camilla, her son Teasel and CHR's Tori.  All are "unknown" pedigree horses, although Teasel's sire is know, but his dam, Camilla, was a rescue and unknown.  Blackie's parentage is known, however I do not personally have that information.  Tori, as a rescue, is also unknown.


Camilla is a chestnut mare of unkown bloodlines. She has patches of baldness on her face, neck, rump & flanks. She has very oily skin. She is more troubled in heat & bothered by bugs than Blackie, but not extremely so. She is a very sweet gentle mare.  I am told she had some issues with ulcers in her life. Teasel does not appear to have the same problems his dam has.  He also does not bald as profusely as she did, and only exhibits some balding on his neck and chest in the summer, but has a normal winter coat, although he doesn't grow much of a mane or tail.  Teasel is ridden very regularly, and is also a therapeutic riding horse.  He has a fantastic temperament, and is just the sweetest little horse I have ever met in my life.  He is extremely quiet and gentle and very people oriented.  Teasel's haircoat and hoof health is greatly dependent upon his nutrition, and his hoofcare.  His owner has noted that with a good barefoot trim and addressing some deep-seated, hidden thrush, he grows a much better haircoat. 

Tori came to CHR through auction in Pennsylvania where she ran through New Holland.  She had very upright hooves, was underweight and bald patches all over.  She now has good nutrition, a good barefoot trim, and has grown a full thick winter haircoat.  Spring will show what happens with her coat soon enough now that she has good food in her belly.  She did not have mange, mites or lice.

Victoriagoinghome.jpgTori September, 2012
MeechieDec2012-3.jpgTori December, 2012

Recessive Curly Baldies are an anomoly.  Without getting too in-depth on gene expression, there are recessive Curly coated horses, otherwise known as "crop outs", that show up in other breeds.  There was a grey Arab in Germany, some Percheron's in Canada, a number of Missouri Foxtrotters (not to be confused with the dominant gened Missouri Foxtrotters), a Peruvian Paso, a Quarterhorse, and I'm sure others that are unknown and were put down or otherwise disposed of.  These horses express a curl to their coat, however it is due to a completely different reason than the Dominant gened curly horses.  Texas A&M is and has been studying this phenomenon for awhile, but hasnt' come to any conclusions that I am aware of as yet.  The recessive gened Curly horses are often not healthy.  They typically have skin problems with ulcerations, splitting and sunburn, and they have a problem with mouth ulcers, sometimes quite severely to the point the horse loses copious amounts of weight because it is too painful to eat.