- Bashkir -

One of the greatest mysteries in the horse realm is to where the Bashkir Curly horse came from; we still don't know its exact origin. A popular theory remains that they are descended from the Russian Bashkir...from where the breed gets its name. Upon close examination, though, this explanation does not seem plausible. Shan Thomas, the author of the book The Curly Horse In America -Myth and Mystery, wrote about how the experts reviewing the breed and evaluating it came to the unanimous agreement that there was absolutely no curly-haired horse from the Bashkir lands. They did, however, confirm that the Lokai, a pony found in the Tajikistan region, sometimes does display the characteristic curly coat. Therefore, this horse may possibly be the actual originator of the Bashkir Curly breed.

 

That, too, appears to be almost impossible. No mention of importation of horses
were made in ship's logs which brought Russian settlers to the west coast of North
America. In addition, horses were only used to a limited extent in Russian agriculture
during the late 1700's and early 1800's. Stock breeding was not very successful
and most settlements were only able to keep a few livestock. In 1817 there were
only sixteen horses in Russian America. Goods were transported to Okhotsk, the major
Russian port for ships bound for Alaska, via pack horses. At the time, a trip across
Siberia to this port was very hazardous and nearly half of the horses died each
year. The horses of this region were the Yakut, named after the local people. So
it seems that any horses that might have been brought from Russia to Alaska would
have been of the Yakut breeding not the Bashkir or Lokai breeds, both of which are
originated from much further south and west of the Yakut.
Another theory is that the ancestor of the Bashkir Curly might have crossed the
land bridge during the last Ice Age. But there is no fossil evidence to support
the existence of horses in the America's from the last Ice Age until the reintroduction
of horses to this hemisphere by the Spanish.

Several other hypotheses as to the origins of the Bashkir Curly exist but all have
failed to be proven creditable upon closer examination, or simply remain untested.
In separate research the CS Fund has done blood typing on 200 curly horses in the
Serology Lab at UC-Davis. Although one can not definitively identify a horse's breed
by its bloodtype characteristics there are characteristics common to an individual
breed. This testing was seen as a method to determine if the Bashkir Curly did in
fact display the blood characteristics of a distinct breed.

There were no findings which would identify the Bashkir Curly as a genetically distinct
breed. The typing showed that many other breeds have been used in their development,
particularly Quarter Horses and Morgans. The rare and unusual variants that did
emerge from this testing are found only in feral horses or those breeds based on
feral herds. No single common blood marker was found.

Formation of the American Bashkir Curly Breed
Fortunately, the development of the modern Bashkir Curly much more is clearly known.
The modern day history of American Bashkir Curly dates to 1898, when young Peter
Damele (Duh-mel'ly) and his father were riding the Peter Hanson mountain range in
the remote high country of Central Nevada, near Austin. Peter, who passed away in
1981 at age 90, could vividly recall the strange sight they saw of three horses
with tight curly ringlets over their entire bodies. It was intriguing to both father
and son as to where these horses had come from and just why they were there, questions
that as you can see are still not answered. However, from that day to this, there
have always been curly-coated horses on the Damele range, and Peter's son, Benny
Damele, continued to breed them for his ranch work. Many of the Bashkir Curly in
the U.S. can be traced to the Damele herd.
Establishing the American Bashkir Curly Registry in 1971, the founders set out to
save these animals from extinction in the U.S., as it was found that too many of
them, through ignorance, were being slaughtered. They then began the process of
establishing breeding traits. To accomplish this U.S owners were asked to list the
characteristics unique to the Bashkir Curly. These, when compiled, brought out several
interesting features of the breed. One especially odd feature of the breed is the
fact that they can completely shed out the mane hair (and sometimes even the tail
hair) each summer, to grow back during the winter. Even though the mane hair is
usually extremely fine and soft, it is quite kinky, and this ability to shed the
mane is perhaps nature's way of coping with the corkscrew curls, as it would become
quite impossible to manage if it became matted through years of growth. Too, their
body coat sheds out in the summer and they become wavy or fairly straight on their
body, with their distinctive winter coat returning in late fall. Several winter
coat patterns have been observed, from crushed velvet effect, to a perfect marble
wave, to extremely tight ringlets over the entire body.

The Bashkir Curly transmits the curly characteristic to its offspring about fifty
percent of the time, even when mated to horses without the curly coat. They also
seem to be a hardy breed and able to survive severe winter conditions. In the winter
of 1951-52, the Curly horses were the only ones to survive on the range of Nevada
without supplemental feeding.

Bashkir Curly's appear in all common horse colors including Appaloosa and Pinto.
Physically they are of medium size, somewhat resembling the early day Morgan in
conformation, and a number of traits have been found in this unique breed that links
them to primitive horses. Many individuals have been found without ergots. Some
have small, soft chestnuts. Their eyes have the wide set eyes characteristic of
Oriental breeds. This is said to give them a wider range of vision. They are described
as having tough, black hoofs are almost perfectly round in shape; an exceptionally
high concentration of red blood cells; stout round-bone cannon; straight legs that
also move straight; flat knees; strong hocks; short back which indicates five lumbar
vertebrae; round rump without crease or dimple; powerful rounded shoulders; V'd
chest and round barrel. The foals arrive with thick, crinkly coats, curls inside
their ears and curly eyelashes.

In recent years the Bashkir Curly has performed well in a wide range of equestrian
events including Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, Western Riding, Reining, Gymkhana
Events, Hunter, Jumper, Roping, English Equitation, Western Pleasure, Gaited Pleasure,
Competitive and Endurance Trail Riding, Dressage and Driving.
 

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