10 Curly Animals That Aren't Poodles or Sheep (2024)

Curly hair or fur is extremely rare among wild animals. Generally, only domesticated animals have curls, and those that do have been selectively bred by humans to promote a curly coat, including the poodle and the sheep, perhaps the two most iconic curly animals. However, curls aren't limited to just these two pets. There are several other domesticated animals that also sport luscious curls.


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Alpacas have curly, fluffy fleeces that resemble the wool of sheep, but alpaca wool is even warmer than that of sheep. The curls, or crimps, present in alpaca fibers make them very suitable for knitting, and the fleece of alpacas is thus a highly desirable material for use in warm, knitted clothes. First domesticated thousands of years ago in the Andes Mountains on the west coast of South America, alpacas were selectively bred by ancient Peruvians to have thicker and fluffier fleeces, which were then knitted into clothing. Today, alpaca wool continues to be used as a material in a variety of items, most commonly in sweaters but also in gloves, scarves, and rugs. Recently, alpaca wool has become even more popular, partially because raising alpacas is more environmentally friendly than many of the processes required to produce other clothing materials.


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Angora Goats

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Angora goats also heavily resemble sheep, but these goats have even longer, curlier fleeces than sheep do. The Angora goat was first selectively bred in Ancient Turkey over 3,500 years ago for its curly wool, which is known as mohair. A single Angora goat can produce anywhere from 11 to 17 pounds of mohair in a year. Mohair is a luxury fiber that is exceptionally soft with a high sheen, and it is far more expensive than sheep's wool. It is used in a variety of items such as carpets, suits, and sweaters and is often blended with other fabrics, such as the wool of sheep or alpacas.

Rex Cats

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There are many varieties of rex cat, but the four main breeds are the Cornish Rex, Devon Rex, LaPerm, and Selkirk Rex. The term "rex" refers to a mammalian genetic mutation that results in curly fur. This mutation is exceptionally rare, but humans have used selective breeding to preserve this adorable genetic anomaly not only in cats but in many different species as well. While the word "rex" does not appear in their name, this mutation is also responsible for the curly coats of poodles. However, not all rex mutations are the same. Each of the four different breeds of rex cat gets their curly hair from a rex mutation of a different gene, and thus the hair of each breed has a unique structure. For example, the Cornish Rex completely lacks guard hairs, whereas the Devon Rex merely has shortened guard hairs and the Selkirk Rex has guard hairs of a normal length.


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Mangalica Pigs

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With their curly, wool-like coats, Mangalica pigs were once the most abundant pig breed in all of Hungary. The breed, which was developed sometime in the early 1800s by crossbreeding Hungarian pig breeds with wild boars and Serbian pigs, peaked in popularity in the 1940s before steadily declining in population. However, in recent years, raising Mangalicas has become something of an artisanal hobby for small-scale farmers, and populations have been increasing not only in Hungary but throughout Europe and North America as well. There are three varieties of Mangalica, each of which is a different color: blonde, red, and swallow-bellied (in which the belly is blonde and the upper part of the body is black). The breed's curly coat is definitely unique among swine. The only other pig breed known to have boasted curls was the Lincolnshire curly-coated pig from England, which has been extinct since 1970.


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Frillback Pigeons

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The frillback pigeon is a pigeon breed that was developed through years of selective rock dove breeding, giving it its distinctive curly feathers. These pigeons were crossbred purely for aesthetic purposes, whereas many other curly animals were bred so that their curly fur could be knitted into clothing. While these pigeons are still able to fly, their curls hinder their flying ability and they prefer to walk. The breed is extremely popular at fancy pigeon competitions, where rock dove lovers come together to admire the extravagant frills of these charismatic avians along with all kinds of bizarre fancy pigeon breeds.


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Texel Guinea Pigs

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The Texel guinea pig is another mammal that gets its curly hair from a rex mutation. First developed in England in the 1980s through crossbreeding, Texel guinea pigs are very similar to long-haired silkie guinea pigs but also possess tight curls that almost cover their entire bodies. Sometimes, their whiskers aren't even immune to the curled look. However, Texels aren't the only cavies that boast a curly mane — Merino guinea pigs, Lunkarya guinea pigs, and several other quirky breeds also have curled fur.


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Sebastopol Geese

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The Sebastopol is a breed of domestic goose that is notable for the long, white, curly feathers that festoon its body. The breed was developed in Central Europe in the mid-19th century and was first displayed in England in 1860. These geese were originally bred for their curly feathers, which were used to stuff pillows and quilts. However, while these curls provided added softness to bedding, they hindered the breed's ability to move around efficiently. While many domestic geese are still capable of a limited form of flight, the Sebastopol's curly feathers make it nearly impossible for it to even get off the ground.


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Curly-Coated Retrievers

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The poodle may be the most famous curly dog, but it is not the only dog breed with curls. Curly-coated retrievers also sport curls over their entire bodies. One of the first two recognized retriever breeds, curly-coated retrievers were first bred in England in the mid-19th century to retrieve birds, especially waterfowl, during hunts. Their curls protect them from damage, especially from burrs, and also repel water, making this breed especially apt for hunting waterfowl. Their curly fur comes in only two colors: black or a dark shade of brown known as liver.


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Curly Horses

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Yet another example of the rex mutation in action is the curly horse. While the science behind how these horses maintain their curls is mostly understood, the origin of these horses and the true history of their development remains a mystery. The classification of curly horses is also a highly debated topic, as the expression of the gene responsible for the horse's distinctive curls varies between individual curly horses. Thus, the curls manifest in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and some curly horses display no curls at all. The International Curly Horse Organization classifies the distinctive appearance of these beautiful equines as a "coat type" as opposed to an official breed, but other organizations consider curly horses to be a breed. Their coats are believed to be hypoallergenic, meaning people who are allergic to horses can ride curly horses without any allergic reaction. In addition to the lovely aesthetics of their coats, these horses are celebrated for their gentle, friendly dispositions and exceptionally trainable temperaments.


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Mountain Gorillas

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The mountain gorilla is one of the only animals that is not domesticated but still sports curly hair. However, the hair of these gorillas is usually straight. Only when the fur of a mountain gorilla gets wet does it become curly. This is especially true for infant mountain gorillas, which have some of the curliest hair of any mammal when they become wet.

Why This Matters to Treehugger

Understanding the needs and behaviors of our fellow creatures is key to biodiversity and habitat conservation. We hope that the more we learn about amazing species like these, the more motivated we’ll all be to help protect our shared home.

10 Curly Animals That Aren't Poodles or Sheep (2024)


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