The American Bashkir Curly

The history, myths and reality behind the rare breed of the Bashkir Curly.

| November/December 1983

  • Bashkir Curly
    Raised for centuries on the southern slopes of the Ural Mountains in Russia, the Bashkir Curly — named for their remarkably wavy winter coats — served as beasts of burden, means of transportation, and sources of both meat and milk for that region's people.
    Photo by Jean Unglaub and Paul Hodges

  • Bashkir Curly
Meet an unusual animal that just might prove to be the ideal family horse.

Raised for centuries on the southern slopes of the Ural Mountains in Russia, the Bashkir Curly — named for their remarkably wavy winter coats — served as beasts of burden, means A of transportation, and sources of both meat and milk for that region's people. And — like their stouthearted ancestors — the modern-day American members of the breed are hardy enough to withstand high altitudes and extreme weather conditions, as well as being agile enough to maneuver across rugged terrain.

The Curly is also one of the gentlest (and most intelligent!) breeds of horse imaginable. Since they possess an unusual affinity for humans, the animals can be easily broken and trained. In addition, when confronted with a new or threatening situation, they rarely shy or bolt in the way that most of their equine relatives do. Instead, they generally stand their ground and face the problem.

Says Who?

Since you probably won't find mention of the Bashkir Curly in the encyclopedia, dictionary, or even in your favorite horse book, you might (understandably!) be wondering if this breed really exists. Indeed, few people do know about this horse... because there aren't that many of them and they've only recently been officially declared a breed. But, believe me, the folks who do know Curlies all seem to love them.

Take 76-year-old Bill Valentine in Wales, North Dakota, for instance. Bill brags that his elderly Curly mare, Dolly, is so gentle that his 2 1/2-year-old grandson won two classes with her at a local horse show last summer.

Urbana, Ohio resident Rhonda McQuinn obtained a Curly stallion through an adopt a wild-horse program last year. Expecting to spend months breaking and training her new acquisition, she was amazed to find that it took only a couple of days to have her rough and-ready mount saddle-broken and behaving as well as a seasoned pleasure pony! "Why, he's just a big baby!" Rhonda reports.

Sunny Martin of Ely, Nevada — who is the breed registry secretary — says, "Curlies really do take to people. I've never seen anything like it!" And she should know, because she's been on hand to watch many of these horses be brought in from the range . . . fight that "one good fight" at the end of a rope . . . and settle down almost immediately into friendly, tractable animals.

One of Sunny's favorite Curly stories (and she's gathered so many of them she's decided to write a book about the breed) is about a Connecticut mount named Fazie. Fazie — true to his heritage — did not like to be pampered, and he had a pretty clever way of letting his owners know it. In cold weather, his overly attentive masters swaddled him in a horse blanket. But just as soon as his owners were out of sight, Fazie undid the two surcingles under his belly with his teeth, and then (unable to manipulate the buckle under his chest to release the blanket) he reached over his back . . . caught the rug in his teeth .. . pulled the whole thing over his head . . . and deposited it neatly in the corner of his stall. Spying on him one day, Fazie's owners got the
message and quit coddling him!

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