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Nevada's Mystery Horse

(The Curly Horse), by Carol L Erickson. Erickson Art Studio. 54pp, softcover. RRP $US25.99. ISBN 1-4196-5963-4 / ISBN-13 978-1419659638.

September 19, 2007

reviewed by Robin Marshall

The Curly horse is indeed somewhat of a mystery. Why curly coated horses crop up in almost any breed and how is a puzzle that we may need to wait for science to provide the answer to.

Carol Erickson has journeyed into the ranges and found many of the ranchers who are breeding curly horses. Over the years they've recognised and appreciated the traits of the Curly horse: they're said to be extremely intelligent, quiet and trainable, sturdy, and incredibly hardy. Records dating back to the early 1800s are the earliest that mention Curly horses.

"Although there is a 'dominant' curly gene that makes it possible to get curly coated foals from curly coated parents, there is also a 'recessive' gene that occasionally causes curly coated foals to show up in straight coated breeds, from miniature to draught horse," Erickson writes.

"Strangely, the curly coated foals, whether from 'dominant' or 'recessive' genes, seem to carry most of the same basic traits; many of these traits do not fit the norm for other breeds." Curly coats have also been noted in the Przewalski horse.

The curly coat can be from four to six inches long in extremely cold climates, and, says Erickson, "with the extra layer of fat peculiar to their breed, they are able to withstand the weather and survive on scant rations." Their coat hair expands or contracts depending on the temperature. Another owner noted that they had "seen snow stay on their backs for three weeks at a time without melting, and when brushed off, the hair was completely dry and fluffy."

Another noteworthy trait is their noticeably small nostrils and double nasal passage, which help them cope with the cold by limiting their intact of frigid air. Erickson says they do breathe faster than other breeds, but this doesn't affect their endurance. High altitudes are no problem: "due to a high red blood cell count that can deliver more oxygen to the muscles in a rarified atmosphere," writes the author.

Another unusual trait is that they can lose their mane hair each summer, growing it back during the winter. This can happen with the tail too.

But maybe the most important traits of the Curly horses are their temperament and intelligence - second to none, according to owners, who also say the horses are very fast learners.

Their coat is also hypo allergenic, meaning that people who are allergic to horses can be around Curly horses with no ill effect. The book relates how a Curly owner sent hair samples to a university in Texas to have them tested. The university responded that the hair was not like horse hair, but was similar to Mohair, which comes from Angora goats.

The Curly horse is indeed an amazing animal.



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