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report: October 2004
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Crow Country Curly Horses
Black Hawk's Drawings &
more Native American
San San Curly Horse History

Crow Country Curly Horses, Montana

Crow Country Curly Horses descend from the oldest documented bloodline (breed) of North American Curly Horses.
It seemed fitting that I document as much of their past history as I could compile on one webpage. Enjoy...
Donna Grace Vickery, Montana

the images contained herein are absolutely not allowed to be copied or used w/o permission from publisher

The following text (in black) & ledger drawings are found in the book:

Spirit Beings and Sun Dancers
Black Hawk's Vision of the Lakota World


by Janet Catherine Berlo

© 2000 by George Braziller, publisher
Second Printing, May 2001
in association with
The New York State Historical Association

click here for life size copy of whole plate

PLATE 18, right side
click on picture for life size copy of entire plate

    "On the right hand side of the page stands a curly-haired horse, who has feathers attached to its mane. The riderless horse awaits the return of his two-legged owner, who has been transformed into the powerful Elk Dreamer or sacred elk."

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plate 36, left side
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    Black Hawk did a sequence of drawings showing pairs of warriors - each plate shows one Crow warrior in regalia, and one Lakota warrior in regalia. His reason for doing so is not understood since anything apart from battles between them are quite uncommon in Lakota art due to "...the fact that the Crow and the Lakota were traditional enemies... [Much more common is the recording of ongoing warfare with the Crow.] The meaning of these images is hard to decipher. Could they have been part of his dream or vision? In his vision, did a finely dressed Crow enemy bring Black Hawk a masked horse for his horse ceremony? Did this relate in some fashion to his vision of Thunder Beings (in whose honor horse dances are held)?113 Or do these drawings chronicle an event or ceremony that Black Hawk witnessed ...during one of the infrequent pacts of peace between the Crow and the Lakota, or is the artist fascinated with the customs of the enemy for other reasons? Although we don't know the precise origin of Black Hawk's specialized knowledge of these foreign customs, or exactly what is being conveyed in this remarkable sequence of drawings, he certainly provides a vivid picture of nineteenth-century Crow Ceremonialism.
      "In two of these drawings, the mounted Crow are paired with Lakota pipe-bearers (plates 37, 38) who resemble headmen. Of these Lakota-Crow pairs, plate 37 is particularly intriguing, for the mounted Crow in ceremonial dress seems to lead an unusual horse to the Lakota pipe bearer. The horse wears a buffalo mask, suggesting a relationship to Thunder Beings.

click here to see life size copy of whole plate
PLATE 37, right side
click on picture for life size copy of entire plate

bay roan curly mare
©2000 CrowCountryCurlyHorses
*Dos Estrellas, a bay roan Curly Horse mare.
Her bloodlines trace to WY and NV wild curlies, and MFT.

      "The coats of both this horse, and the one in plate 36, left, are different from the smooth-coated horses Black Hawk usually draws. Repeating hatch marks in black or red ink suggest that a wiry- or curly-haired horse is being represented. Several winter counts record that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Sioux either captured curly-haired horses from their Crow enemies or caught wild ones on the prairie.111 A warrior named Young Eagle recalled, "these horses were raised by the Indians as far back as anyone can remember. Most of them were dark in color with hair 'singed.' Hence their name, which is Sung-gu-gu-la, literally 'horses with burnt hair.' "
      "Is Black Hawk recording an instance of a Sung-gu-gu-la being presented to a Lakota by a Crow? In traditional Lakota life, pictures like this would be shown when men recounted the events of the past. Each picture, with its richly evocative details, would give weight and credence to men's recollections."

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PLATE 43, cropped
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      "Black Hawk depicts many fine Lakota horses. He has taken exceptional care in drawing the portrait of one particular horse (plates 43, 47). This may be a horse with long, curly hair; or the artist may be trying to depict the intermixed dark and light hairs of a roan (the chestnut red coat with white hairs in it).

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PLATE 47, cropped
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This horse may have been considered particularly handsome, with four white stockings evenly matched, a rare occurrence.124 The horse has a white blaze on her face; she also appears in a simple portrait study, where her tail hangs loose, and her mane is decorated with feathers to honor her prowess in war (plate 18)."

bay curly mare with 4 white socks
©1998 Sorrel
*CCC Seekers Foxtail, a *Bad Warrior bloodline Curly Horse mare.
The *Bad Warrior bloodline traces directly back to Sitting Bull's horses.


"111. See Howard, The British Museum Winter Count, p. 22; for a discussion of the varied recountings of this event within different winter counts see pp. 21-22. Depending on the winter count, the year for this event ranges from 1801-4."

"113. The Crow had a Horse Dance that Lowie characterized as a "minor ceremony." Unlike the complex pageantry of the Lakota Horse Dance, which commemorated a vision of Thunder Beings, the Crow Horse Dance seemed to be principally a rite for restoring exhausted horses to full vigor, or for providing more horses to the tribe. See Lowie, Minor Ceremonies of the Crow Indians, pp. 329-34."

"124. Personal communication from equestrienne India Frank, December 1999. Horse breeder India Frank suggests that the white stockings indicate a genetic basis for the identification of this as a roan horse, which is characterized by a coat of intermixed red and white hair. In two other drawings Black Hawk shows similar horses. In plate 36 (left), a Crow warrior seems to be riding the same horse. Did he capture it in a horse-stealing raid? In plate 37, a Crow warrior leads a roan horse horse wearing a buffalo mask. Here, its coat is indicated by strokes of pink ink."

Lakota Winter Counts Online Exhibit, this website displays & explains more about how the Lakota marked the passage of time by drawing pictures of memorable events on calendars known as winter counts.

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bay curly mare
©2002 Sorrel
*CCC Warriors Perfectn, another *Bad Warrior bloodline Curly Horse mare.
The *Bad Warrior bloodline traces directly back to Sitting Bull's horses.

My private musings:  [India Frank would actually be referring to the sabino pinto gene, not the true roan gene. "Roan" sabino horses are also characterized by sharp jagged edged socks, white lower lips & chin, and frequently spots on belly or lower rib area. The sabino pinto gene occurs much more frequently in red based horses, than it does in black (& bay) based horses].

Perhaps the Winter Counts are not just marking a year that Curlies were stolen from the Crow by the Sioux, or caught on the plains... Perhaps Black Hawk's unexplained drawings of pairs of Lakota and Crow warriors, with the the Crow warrior apparently gifting the Lakota warrior with a Curly Horse, was actually the same memorable & significant event that the Winter Counts depict. Maybe Black Hawk did drawings of this remarkable event, to commemorate it in detail?


curly horse in winter count

closeup, curly horse in winter count

Plains Indian Winter Counts
Blue Thunder Variants (High Dog, Swift Dog, No Two Horns, etc.) picture the winter of 1801-02
with a Curly Horse being exchanged between, or (taken) from, Crow to Sioux
Winter Count in Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Curly Horses in the Battle of the Little Bighorn

red horse drawing of curly taken on Little Big Horn battlefield

The scan above is from the Time Life book series - it is the picture that is cited in Myth & Mystery; and it is actually drawn by Red Horse, not Red Cloud as mistakenly stated in Myth & Mystery. It is a drawing of a Lakota warrior riding off from the Little Big Horn battle with the Army's captured horses. The Curly is ridden by the Sioux. The horse in front of him is a captured Army horse. You can see the Sioux Curly has the Indian style war bridle made of rawhide. And again here is what looks like a blaze-faced curly with 4 white stockings...


General George Cook, an Army Officer, stated that the Sioux
were the greatest light Cavalry the world has ever known.


Date: Saturday, July 23, 2005 8:17 AM
Email To:
From: Rod Vaughn, of Diamond Willow Ministries


This is an email that my friend Sheldon forwarded to me a few days ago. Sheldon is a member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe (that reservation is just across the Missouri River from where we live on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation). Sheldon is also a direct descendant of Meriwether (sp?) Lewis of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Lewis fathered a son from a Lower Brule Sioux woman here on his way upriver in 1804. (Just a little L&C history for those of you interested.)

He is very interested, as are many here, about the Curly horses. It is exciting to see the interest among those on the reservations here growing. We are very saddened by the loss of the foal last weekend but remain encouraged by the support we get from all of you and by the interest we are getting from those here that knew these Curlies for centuries. There are better days ahead.

Diamond Willow Ministries, Crow Creek Sioux Reservation, Fort Thompson, SD
Office: (605) 245-2685
e-mail -



Note the two references that talk about curly haired horses. I thought it was intresting. These are from winter counts.


Note: forwarded message attached:

Wintercount Creator: Battiste Good
Year: 931 - 1000
English Year:
Lakota Year:
Notes: From the time the man represented in [a previous image] was seventy years of age, i.e., from the year 931, time is counted by cycles of seventy years until 1700.This figure illustrates the manner of killing buffalo before and after the appearance of The-Woman.When the Dakotas had found the buffalo, they moved to the herd and corralled it by spreading their camps around it.The Man-Who-Dreamed-of-a-Wolf, seen at the upper part of the circle, with bow and arrow in hand, then shot the chief bull of the herd with his medicine or sacred arrow; at this, the women all cried out with joy, "He has killed the chief bull!" On hearing them shout the man with bow and arrow on the opposite side, the Thunder-Bird (wakinyan, accurately translated "the flying one") shot a buffalo cow, and the women again shouted with joy.Then all the men began to shout, and they killed as many as they wished.The buffalo heads and the blood-stained tracks show what large numbers were killed. They cut off the head of the chief bull, and laid the pipe beside it until their work was done. They prayed to The-Woman to bless and help them as they were following her teachings.Having no iron or knives, they used sharp stones, and mussel shells, to skin and cut up the buffalo.They rubbed blood in the hides to soften and tan them.They had no horses, and had to pack everything on their own backs.The cyclic characters that embrace the period from 1001 to 1140 illustrate nothing of interest not before presented. Slight distinction appears in the circles so that they can be identified, but without enough significance to merit reproduction (Mallery 1893:291-92).

Wintercount Creator: Battiste Good
Year: 1141 - 1210
English Year:
Lakota Year:
Notes: Among a herd of buffalo, surrounded at one time during this period, were some horses.The people all cried out, "there are big dogs with them," having never seen horses before, hence the name for horse, sunka (dog) tanka (big), or sunka (dog) wakan (wonderful or mysterious). After killing all the buffalo they said "let us try and catch the big dogs;" so they cut a thong out of a hide with a sharp stone and with it caught eight, breaking the leg of one of them. All these years they used sharpened deer horn for awls, bone for needles, and made their lodges without the help of iron tools. {All other Dakota traditions yet reported in regard to the first capture of horses, place this important event at a much later period and long after horses were brought to America by the Spaniards. See this count for the year 1802-03, and also Lone Dog's Winter Count for the same year.} (Mallery 1893:292)

Wintercount Creator: Battiste Good
Year: 1631 - 1700
English Year:
Lakota Year:
Notes: This represents the first killing of buffalo on horseback. It was done in the year 1700, inside the circle of lodges pitched around the herd, by a man who was tied on a horse with thongs and who received the name of Hunts-inside-the-lodges.They had but one horse then, and they kept him a long time. Again the bundle of count-sticks is in the recorder's hands. This is the end of the obviously mythic part of the record, in which Battiste has made some historic errors. From this time forth each year is distinguished by a name, the explanation of which is in the realm of fact. It must be again noted that when colors are referred to in the description of the text figures, the language (translated) used by Battiste is retained for the purpose of showing the coloration of the original and his interpretation of the colors, which are to be imagined, as they can not be reproduced by the process used (Mallery 1893:293).

Wintercount Creator: Battiste Good
Year: 1762 - 1763
English Year: People were burnt winter.
Lakota Year:
Notes: They were living somewhere east of their present country when a prairie fire destroyed their entire village. Many of their children and a man and his wife, who were on foot some distance away from the village, were burned to death, as also were many of their horses. All the people that could get to a long lake, which was near by, saved themselves by jumping into it. Many of these were badly burned about the thighs and legs, and this circumstance gave rise to the name Sican-zhu, burnt thigh (or simply burnt as translated Brule by the French), by which they have since been known, and also to the gesture sign, as follows: "Rub the upper and outer part of the right thigh in a small circle with the open right hand, fingers pointing downward" (Mallery 1893:304-305). This is the only winter count to give such an explanation for how the Sicangu/Brule acquired their tribal name.

curly horse 1804

Wintercount Creator: Battiste Good
Year: 1803 - 1804
English Year: Brought home Pawnee horses with their hair rough and curly winter.
Lakota Year:
Notes: The curly hair is indicated by the curved marks. Lone Dog's Winter Count for the same year records the same incident, but states that the curly horses were stolen from the Crows (Mallery 1893:314).
Many counts mark this year as when they acquired curly haired horses; see Rosebud, Flame, Lone Dog, Major Bush, and Swan, as well as Long Soldier (1801-02) and No Ears (1804-05). White Cow Killer calls this year "Plenty of woolly horses winter" (Corbusier 1886:134).

1801-1804 winter count

Wintercount Creator: Lone Dog
Year: 1803 - 1804
English Year: They stole some "curly horses" from the Crows.
Lakota Year:
Notes: Some of these horses are still on the plains, the hair growing in closely curling tufts.The device is a horse with black marks for the tufts. The Crows are known to have been early in the possession of horses (Mallery 1893:273).
White Cow Killer calls it "Plenty-of-woolly-horses winter" (Corbusier 1886:134). Many counts mark this as the year when they acquired curly haired horses; see Rosebud, Good, Flame, Major Bush, and Swan. See also Long Soldier (1801-02) and No Ears (1804-05).

Blue Thunder winter count; Shan Thomas, Myth & Mystery

Blue Thunder winter count; Shan Thomas, Myth & Mystery

High Dog winter count; Shan Thomas, Myth & Mystery

High Dog winter count; Shan Thomas, Myth & Mystery

Wintercount Creator: American Horse
Year: 1805 - 1806
English Year: The Dakotas had a council with the whites on the Missouri River, below the Cheyenne Agency.
Lakota Year:

Notes: They had many flags, which the Good-White-Man gave them with their guns, and they erected them on poles to show their friendly feelings. The curved line is to represent the council lodge, which they made by opening several tipis and uniting them at their sides to form a semicircle. The marks are for the people. American Horse's father was born this year (Corbusier 1886:134).
As noted by Corbusier, this may have been a meeting with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. White Cow Killer notes the year 1790-91 as "All-the-Indians-see-the-flag winter," while Cloud Shield calls 1807-08 the year when "many people camped together and had many flags flying" (Corbusier 1886:132-33, 135).

this soldier marker is superimposed on this photo - the marker is actually on the gravel area (shoulder of the road) above the horses (where I was standing as I took this photo)
Crow Country Curly Horses, Sharpshooter Ridge, Custer Battlefield
      The Crow Country Curly Horse main breeding herd roams a leased pasture
on the famous Little Big Horn Battlefield in 2004.

In 2001 I had the good fortune of meeting Rod & Valerie Vaughn when they came to visit me on the Crow Reservation. They had received a Berndt mare as a donation to the Diamond Willow Minstry on the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota. They became interested in finding out more about the buffalo horses, and were looking at stallions in the region. They were very interested in preserving these old Native American Curly Horses, but they had very little funding. They were offered several more Curly Horses, but they were not Warrior or Berndt bloodline curlies. Therefore, they had to decide whether to worry about breeding just Curly Horses, or whether to preserve this line in its purest remnant state... We discussed a lot of perspectives during a very enjoyable conversation.


old postcard: Sioux Indians - Standing Rock Reservation, Mandan ND


2013 - updates & added notes

colt owned by Gordon Plain BullCrow Country Curly Horses (my old breeding operation), according to the last wishes of Ernest Hammrich, steadily returned Warrior-bred Curly Horses back to the Crow people in Montana during the 1990's and 2000's. Since then I have lost track of who has them any more, but I hope a few of them still exist down there.

As for my breeding operation, Crow Country Curly Horses, with the economy and the horse market situation over the last 2 decades, I have steadily decreased my numbers from over 100 head down to one last mare. In dispersing my horses I have provided others who were interested, with some good foundation stock. My hope is that they understand the history that comes with these horses, and that they will continue to breed them true to type, and not mongrelize them with the other more common predominant bloodlines & types of Curly Horses out there. It was Ernie's belief, and mine, that it is more important to breed this rare horse true to type, quality & bloodline, rather than worry about how many curly horses exist in its pedigree. The curls (Curly Horse traits) must be preserved, of course, but to put the practice of curly-to-curly breeding above this horse's history, is to eradicate it. There are purists of all persuasions, and I am admittedly one for preserving the quality and dispostion, of this outstanding, quickly disappearing horse.

(Gordon Plain Bull colt Summer 2002 ©

2017 Update: Please email us at if you know about any Berndt or "pure" Bad Warrior horses (or Aishihik line) left alive out there. Email me for more information about possible Bad Warrior Horse Preservation Projects to save this rare line of horses before they are gone.


Additional Reading

The Aboriginal North American Horse (pdf) Traditional Dakota/Lakota people firmly believe that the aboriginal North American horse did not become extinct after the last Ice Age, and that it was part of their pre-contact culture. Dakota/Lakota Elders as well as many other Indian nations contend that according to their oral history, the North American horse survived the Ice Age, and that they had developed a horse culture long before the arrival of Europeans, and, furthermore, that these same distinct ponys (sic) continued to thrive on the prairies until the latter part of the XIXth (19th) century, when the U.S. government ordered them rounded up and destroyed to prevent Indians from leaving the newly-created reservations. Although there is extensive evidence of this massive slaughter, no definitive evidence has yet been found to substantiate the Elders' other claim, but there are a number of arguments in favour of the Indian position.
INDIGENOUS HORSES by Daniel M. Johnson
"And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat…” (1 Nephi 18:25)
With these few words, Nephi ignites a long-running modern controversy. The mere mention of horses in Ancient America has made the Book of Mormon a target for critics over the years. After all, everyone knows that horses were introduced to the Americas by the Spanish, right?
Horse Bones that Date 50 Years Prior to the Spanish
By Meridian Magazine · September 3, 2013
(The question of horses in America is always an intriguing one for Latter-day Saints, because the Book of Mormon specifically mentions horses) In July 2013, archaeologists in Carlsbad, New Mexico, unearthed a nearly intact skeleton of a horse that apparently lived and died 50 some years before the Spanish conquered California. This followed the discovery of skeletal remains of another horse and a burro, in June.

Dr. Raymond Hurst · September 3, 2013: "The Western Center Museum in Hemet, CA has horse fossils discovered during the excavation of the Diamond Valley reservoir. They date to long before the Spanish arrived."
Columbus discovered America in 1492 and proved that the world was round, right?
Indian Horses before Columbus by Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D.
Several powerful movements combined to crush and stifle claims that ancestors of the Plains Indians had horses and “horse culture” for thousands of years. Whereas the “Founding Fathers” of America had promoted isolation, neutrality, and non-interference in foreign affairs, the New Senate that ran American politics in the 1800's believed that the opposite strategy was preferable, for power and profit. The US Senate worked to reeducate the American public with a new hero -- Columbus. He embodied the qualities and vision of an empire-builder. Indians and their “Reservations” had to go. The Columbian Exposition (1892-93) had an enormous impact. More than 26 million people viewed the exhibits. Spinoff public media and educational programs impacted practically everyone else in the Country (or about 150 million people). These programs were endorsed by two Presidents -- Harrison and Cleveland. Almost everyone adopted this revised “history.” In 1992, the US Government sponsored the Columbus “Quincentennial Celebration.” New festivities featured a yearlong exhibit at the National Museum, the Smithsonian Institution. Called “The Seeds of Change,” the National Exhibit praised Columbus for uniting two previously isolated hemispheres and for bringing horses, maize, potatoes, and sugarcane across the Atlantic Ocean. A vast majority of university professors and public teachers participated in spreading this propaganda for the simple reason that: 1) they believed it was true; and 2) their jobs were closely tied to supporting the traditional educational and governmental agendas.
But now, read the rest of the story...
Horse remains found near Dawson City are 26,000 years old. WHITEHORSE, Yukon Territory - Carbon-dating on the remains of a horse found fall 1992 near the Alaskan-Canadian border show it died 26,000 years ago, experts say, making it one of the best-preserved Ice Age animals ever discovered in North America. The dark chestnut hide is complete with blond mane and tail. [I think of this as a primitive chestnut color, which many of the Berndt horses were.] Also recovered were a right foreleg with the flesh remaining, a couple of bones and stomach contents. Miners found the horse near Dawson City, 340 miles north of Whitehorse. photo of the Yukon horse
Horse Remains are 26,000 Years Old and More on the Yukon Horse
Ancient Yukon horse yields oldest genome ever (By Emily Chung, CBC News, 06.26.13) A 700,000-year-old horse bone found in the permafrost of a Yukon gold mine has yielded a complete genetic profile, breaking scientific records and revealing many new insights about the evolution of horses. Duane Froese, an earth sciences professor at the University of Alberta, found the metapodial bone from the horse's leg, equivalent to bones found in the palm of a human hand, in 2003, in the Thistle Creek gold mine, about 100 kilometres south of Dawson City. Most of the horse fossils found by Duane Froese and his team have been from the Late Pleistocene, when Arctic horses were pony-sized. "It's not uncommon to find bones in the region from pony-sized horses from within the last 100,000 years," Froese said in a phone interview Wednesday. "But this particular metapodial bone was distinctive because it was so much larger. This was really domestic horse sized," said Froese.
700,000-Year-Old Horse Genome Shatters Record for Sequencing of Ancient DNA (, by Joe Hanson, 06.26.13) By piecing together the genetic information locked inside a frozen, fossilized bone, scientists have deciphered the complete genome of an extinct prehistoric horse that roamed the Yukon more than 700,000 years ago. The work rewrites the evolutionary history of the horse and smashes the previous record for the oldest complete genome ever sequenced. Horses were once considered a textbook example for the smooth transition of one species into another, a perfect illustration of Darwin’s theories. Ancient equine species — dog-sized animals with five toes – gradually evolved into towering, hooved thoroughbreds. Or so the story goes. But with every fossil that is unearthed, a more tangled picture emerges.
700,000-Year-Old Horse Found in Yukon Permafrost Yields Oldest DNA Ever Decoded • Posted on November 19, 2013 • Western Digs • Updated March 3, 2017—by Blake de Pastino.
Recalibrating Equus Evolution using the genome sequence of an early Middle Pleistocene horse. 2013 Jul 4; 499(7456):74-8. doi: 10.1038/nature12323. Epub 2013 Jun 26. Our analyses suggest that the Equus lineage giving rise to all contemporary horses, zebras and donkeys originated 4.0-4.5 million years before present (Myr BP), twice the conventionally accepted time to the most recent common ancestor of the genus Equus. We also find that horse population size fluctuated multiple times over the past 2 Myr, particularly during periods of severe climatic changes.
email Donna G Vickery


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