The Lokai horse breed is famous in the former Soviet Union for having a curly coat. However, this news did not to the United States in the 1800s, when curly-coated Mustangs were discovered running wild. Due to lack of communication between the countries, it was assumed the Bashkir was the curly-coated Russian horse breed, and so the American Bashkir Curly was christened.
How curly is a Lokai’s coat? It liked to the tightly curled wool of a Karakul lamb, although they are not an exact match. Not all horses in the breed have the infamous curly coat. It would just pop up every now and then. The progenitor of the modern curly coated Lokai is thought to be from Fafnor, a nine year old golden sorrel stallion found living semi-wild in the Parchar region of what is now called Tadzhikistan (Tajikistan). He was captured in 1955 and used in breeding programs until his death in 1970.
The Lokai was originally bred in the 1500s by the local Uzbek Lokai tribe. “International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds” (University of Oklahoma Press, 1995) postulates that the breeds used to create the Loaki were Iomud, Akhal-Teke, Karabair, Arabians and various Central Asian steppe horses like the Mongolian. Recently, some Thoroughbred has been added.
Curly coats can be found in members of several Central Asian breeds and crossbreds. It seems to have been an adaptation to the harsh conditions of the area. That is probably the source of the curly coat in the Lokai. Common colors in the breed are a golden chestnut and a metallic golden or bronze bay, which are colors seen in the Akhal-Teke. Other colors include grey and black.
Lokais were bred for function and not form, so there isn’t a set conformation in the breed. They were bred to be strong, yet possess a cat-like agility in order to excel at the local sport of kokpar, a polo-type game where an animal carcass is the “ball” and whips are allowed to be used on a member of the opposing team.
Lokais vary in height but usually grow no larger than 14.3 hands high, unless they were raised as foals and yearlings inside of a stable and given hay and grain, then they could grow to 15 hands high. However, most horses in the area are raised outside in herds. They are slow to mature but tend to be long-lived. If a horse can survive outdoors on wild foliage for three years, he or she is bound to be tough, especially in the legs and hooves.
Lokais are also noted for being high-spirited and wary of strangers. These are considered horses that will obey only one person.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks. Univeristy of Oklahoma Press; 1995.
“The Ultimate Horse Book.” Elwyn Hartley-Edwards. Dorling Kindersley; 1991.
Equine Kingdom. “Lokai.” http://www.equinekingdom.com/breeds/light_horses/lokai.htm