Ask someone to describe a horse, and they will most likely bring up the animal’s smooth, silky coat and sleek flowing mane.
They probably won’t mention that, when cold weather sets in, the horse could grow bouncy curls that cover his entire body — including the insides of his ears.
That is, until they’ve met a North American curly horse.
This ancient horse is born with a coat that resembles a Labradoodle’s lush locks. Like the pup, these horses’ coats can vary drastically — and they’re hypoallergenic, too.
“The coat is curly only in winter,” Betsy Lirakis, who runs a therapeutic riding program that exclusively uses curly horses, told us, “shedding out beautiful and sleek for summer. Some have long thick soft curls, others of the breed grow tight, woolly curls.”
“There are some with a velvety Marcel Wave, and some are born with plain smooth coats that resemble any other breed of horse,” Lirakis added. “But the ‘smooth’ coated curlies are still nonallergenic.”
How these horses got their unique look is still a mystery.
In China, horses with curls have been depicted in art as far back as 161 A.D. A photo of a curly-coated Bashkir horse from Russia circulated in the 1800s, and evidence of these distinctive horses has been found in parts of Europe as well. However, whether these were the ancestors of the American curly horse remains unclear.
There is evidence that these horses roamed wild in the Northern Plains over 200 years ago, and were held in high regard by the Crow and Sioux nations.
But it’s not all about looks for these horses — they boast winning personalities as well.
These intelligent horses are quick learners, noted Lirakis, and can work well for people of all experience levels.
“In general, the North American curly horse is easily managed and economical to keep. It is tough, strong and athletic,” Lirakis said. “The curly is a very thoughtful, peaceful animal.”
A calm animal with an unbeatable excitement for life? These horses have got to be part-Labradoodle.