Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Siberian or Indigenous Horses in America: Curly "chino horse" in California

According to the International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds (by Bonnie L. Hendricks page 68), the Bashkir horses are not curly: "Mane and tail hair is thick and grows quite long in winter", no refrence to curls. They were bred from steppe horses of western Asia and ancient skeletons have been recovered from tombs spanning the area from the Volga River to Krasnodar (the area between the Black and Caspian seas north of Georgia).

So the "American Bashkir Curly" horse which has curly hair is surely unrelated to these Russian horses.

The The Official Horse Breeds Standards Guide: The Complete Guide to the Standards of All North American Equine Breed Associations, by Fran Lynghaug states that when the horse was registered in the US as a breed, "it was initially believed that the Russian Bashkir horse was curly coated; thus it probably was an ancestor of the American Curly... after the fact, it was discovered that it wasn't the Bashkir Russian horse that had a curly coat. It was actually the Lokai [from] Tajikistan"

We mentioned the Lokai Horses in one of our posts, a few days ago.

So, Baskirs are not curly, and have no relation to the American curly hair horses. Lokai, from Asia, are curly, so the question is: Did Lokai horses somehow reach America?

Siberian horses in America?

A paper by Ovchinnikov IV, et al. (2018) (Genetic diversity and origin of the feral horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. PLoS ONE 13(8): e0200795. analyzed the DNA (autosomal and mtDNA) of feral horses that live in the North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP), US. By comparing hair samples from 196 of those wild horses, they found some interesting things:

  • The horses carried L and B mtDNA haplotypes.
  • "Two complete mtDNA sequences of haplogroup L were closely related to the mtDNA of American Paint horse" which implies admixture with European horses brought to the New World by Spaniards and whose pinto color was favored by the Native Americans.
  • Their haplotype B did not have close matches in the genetic records: "The closest mtDNA sequence is carried by a Thoroughbred racing horse from China... Other closely related sequences to the horse were obtained from the unspecified Italian breed horse, the Yunnan horse from China, and the Yakutia horse ) from central Siberia, Russia".

The authors conjecture about the origin of these Asian genes: "raising a possibility of historical transportation of horses from Siberia and East Asia to North America."

I would also add the possibility of a population of ancient horses spanning both Asia and North America where the American horses never became extinct and therefore share genes with their Asian relatives, and mixed with later European horses brought across the Atlantic by the colonizers and conquerors of America (Spaniards, French and British).

The most interesting finding was that the Autosomal analysis placed these TRNP horses on a branch of their own, making them "distinctly different from 48 major horse breeds.", see this tree below:

B and L halpogroups split some 90 Kya, and the average age of B haplo is 30,000 years, and B haplogroup is very frequent in North America:

"haplogroup B seems to be most frequent in North America (23.1%), with lower frequencies in South America (12.68%) and the Middle East (10.94%) and Europe (9.38%). Although the frequency of this lineage is low (1.7%) in the Asian sample of 587 horses, this lineage was found in the Bronze Age horses from China and South Siberia"

The age (30 Kya) and the fact that their frequency is highest in the America seems to suggest an American origin. However it could also imply a bottleneck where B halplo horses brought from Europe becam more prevalent in the Americas.

The problem with horses is that they were domesticated some 5,000 years ago and since then, selective pressure caused by humans has altered the original genetics of horses. Wild horses have died out, but for millennia they admixed with domesticated horses. Current "wild horses" carry a strong content of domesticated breeds' genes.

This was confirmed by C. Gaunitz et al., (Science 10.1126/science.aao3297 (2018). Ancient genomes revisit the ancestry of domestic and Przewalski's horses), who recently found that "Przewalski's horses art the feral descendants of horses herded at Botai and not truly wild horses".

But lets return to the Asian horses in America.

If the curly horses reached America from Asia, the only route seems to be Russian horses taken to their Alaskan outposts during the 1700s and 1800s.

Did they export horses to Alaska?

We have photos of wild horses on an Aleutian Island, descendants of horses left by the Russians (Smithsonian magazine).

Bonnie Hendricks (Read full text believes that Russians would have brought the "hardy" Yakut horse and not the Lokai horse to Alaska. She also says that there were only 16 horses in what is now Alaska back in 1817. So the notion that these horses somehow escaped and trotted all the way to Nevada and lived there in the wild until they were discovered and became the American Curlies, is very improbable.

An American origin?

I have already mentioned that Charles Darwin wrote about the curly haired horses, quoting Azara on the Paraguayan curly "Pichaí" and referring to a Russian breed (Lokai?) and more interestingly, to correspondence with a "Dr. Canfield informs me that a breed with curly hair was formed by selection at Los Angeles in North America."

Below is this letter written by Dr. Colbert A. Canfield to Darwin on August 5, 1871 (read it in full here):

"The wild horses of Western N. America are mostly dun-colored of various shades from yellow to brown; roans of various shades,-gray-roan, iron-gray-roan, red-roan, strawberry-roan, &c.; and gray changing, as the horse grows older, to white. Most of the yellow, dun-colored & light-brown and some of the grays have the spinal, shoulder & leg-stripes of a darker color. The same is true of the mules bred among them. There was a race of "curly horses", or horses with the hair short & curled; that had been produced intentionally by selection for that purpose, on a ranch near Los Angeles.
In 1853 there were in that band or Caballada several hundred curly-haired horses.

Very interesting, it mentions a herd of "curly horses", a "caballada" (Spanish word for a herd or team of horses) which had been "intentionally" produced by selection.

The letter discloses tht Canfield was a rancher who had horses, interacted with wild mustangs (he lived in Monterey, California). So he had an in depth knowledge about these creatures.

The point is: were these horses -the original stock of the curly breed- native to America, wild horses captured and bred selectively or, on the other hand, European, and being found in California, Spanish horses?

In 1869 (The resources of California... by J. Hittell, 1869 page 222-4) there were 150,000 horses in California, one-third wild Spanish, one-third tame Spanish and the final third, American. So it was from the 50,000 wild horses that the curlies came from.

There is a reference to a "curly horse" in California American Agriculturist, Volume 8 printed in 1849:

So it had a "general appearance of the horse, with the shaggy hide of the buffalo, and a tail without hair", which according to a Mexican from Zacatecas is a very rare horse, "occasionally seen among the numerous herds of Mexico", where they were known as "Caballos chinos, or curly-haired horses".

As an Argentine Spanish speaker, the word "chino" to me, means "Chinese" (from China), however in Mexico the word "chino" means "Curly" (Vocabulario de mexicanismos Comprobado con ejemplos y comparado con los de otros paises hispanoamericanos by Joaquin Garcia Icazbalceta, 1899). Why Chinese? after all, Chinese have straight, lank hair, not curly hair! The official Spanish Language dictionary of the Real Academia Española does not record this Mexican variant.

The origin of this word is Pre-Hispanic, it comes from a Native American Tewa word "Tsini" (in Spanish pronounced "chini"), these people lived in New Mexico. Below you can read the text from "Ethnozoology of the Tewa Indians. pp 28 Junius Henderson, John Peabody Harrington:

So here is a Native American word used to refer to curly animals applied to a curly horse. Perhaps a clue to its American origin.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hits since Sept. 2009:
Copyright © 2009-2018 by Austin Victor Whittall.
Todos los derechos reservados por Austin Whittall para esta edición en idioma español y / o inglés. No se permite la reproducción parcial o total, el almacenamiento, el alquiler, la transmisión o la transformación de este libro, en cualquier forma o por cualquier medio, sea electrónico o mecánico, mediante fotocopias, digitalización u otros métodos, sin el permiso previo y escrito del autor, excepto por un periodista, quien puede tomar cortos pasajes para ser usados en un comentario sobre esta obra para ser publicado en una revista o periódico. Su infracción está penada por las leyes 11.723 y 25.446.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means - electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other - except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without prior written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.

Please read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy before accessing this blog.

Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy

Patagonian Monsters -