The Lore of the Whorl

Kidron, a baby born the day after his mothers capture from the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge this year, has two whorls on her forehead.

Kidron, a baby born the day after her mothers capture from the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge this year, has two high whorls on her forehead and can shed any halter placed on her in very creative ways.

With all the “heavy” reading right now on wild horse issues we thought something “light” and fun was in order….

Every horse has at least one “swirl” of hair on it’s forehead. For centuries it has been said that you can determine a horses personality on the placement and number of these “whorls.”

Pretty buckskin 3 year old at PVC

Pretty buckskin 3 year old at PVC

Hair whorls and personality have created a rather long history of conjecture and even research. Temple Grandin and Linda Tellington-Jones were published in an article a couple of years back in Horse and Rider:

From the article: “Tellington-Jones’ resulting breakdown of swirl patterns and their relationship to personality traits is detailed and specific. In general, however, she found that a single swirl in the center of the forehead indicated an uncomplicated nature; a single swirl centered below the level of the eyes indicated an intelligent, possibly mischievous nature; a single, long swirl between or extending below the eyes indicated an especially friendly, agreeable nature; and two or more swirls generally indicated a more complicated personality in some way. (For more detail on her analyses, see Getting In TTouch: Understand and Influence Your Horse’s Personality, Trafalgar 1995;”

Wild horses at Palomino Valley Center looking for homes offer every imaginable combination of color and facial markings.

Wild horses at Palomino Valley Center looking for homes offer every imaginable combination of color and facial markings. (We are just partial to the bays)

A lot of the lore can be traced to the horses of Arabia. “Another marking is the ‘Prophet’s Thumbmark’ which is a small indentation in the horse’s neck, although it can also appear on other areas of the body. The legend goes that the Prophet Mohammed tested his horses by depriving them of water for several days. He then released them near a waterhole but before they reached it, he sounded his trumpet to summon them. Only five mares responded and returned to him, and these were kept for breeding. He pressed his thumb into their necks, leaving an indentation which they passed on to their offspring. It’s said any horses bearing the mark are blessed, and the person whose thumb exactly fits the hole is the horse’s true owner.” posted on this page is more:

The book Horses of the Sahara, by General E. Daumas (first published in 1850) is filled with pages of lore of the Arabian horse.  Coloring was important in choosing horses to own and breed. The following notations can be found in the book:

Pretty three year old filly at PVC

Pretty three year old filly at PVC

White: a good white horse was like a silk flag without bare patches, and with a black ring about his eye. The white horse was the mount of princes, but was unable to stand heat. 

Black: like a night without moon or stars. Black horses brought good luck, but feared rocky ground.

Wonderful bay filly at PVC

Wonderful bay filly at PVC

Bay: this was the hardiest and the most sober of horses.

Chestnut: the swiftest, best horses were chestnuts, they were the winners of races. This was the color of horse the Prophet loved, and when a chestnut horse flew under the sun, he was the wind incarnate.

Grey, dappled dark grey like the shade of the wild pigeon – like the stones of the river. A grey horse is best esteemed when its head is lighter than the rest of its body.

Grey roan, iron grey: an evil color, called ‘a sea of blood’; his master would be taken prisoner and never fight again.

Wolf-color, or green – a dun horse. Preferably dark, with a black mane and tail.

Pied: “fly from him like the plague, he is the brother of the cow!”

Isabelle, yellow dun with flaxen mane and tail. Called ‘the color of the Jew’. Arab riders shunned such creatures, for they brought misfortune like stench trailing in their wake.

Gorgeous cremello filly at PVC

Gorgeous cremello filly at PVC

A white star on the head was fortunate. A stripe was also good, provided it reached down over the lips; then his master would never lack for milk.

If you believe in this lore... I'm your horse! Come and pick me up!

Do you believe in this?

Stockings: four were evil. Two hind and one fore, good. One hind and one fore, on opposite sides: excellent. Both hinds, good. Both forefeet, very bad. A bald-faced horse with four white feet, however, carried his shroud along with him.

Worst of all markings, though, was a horse with a white stripe that did not reach his lip, along with a white off-fore. Whoever saw him, prayed to God to be spared from the evil that accompanied such a horse. He was like an hour’s poison, that slew in sixty minutes.

Once an Arab had a fine mare which he had bred for the very first time, and many gathered round to watch the birth. All were already vying to buy her offspring. The foal’s head came out firth, and had a star in the middle of its forehead. Its master rejoiced; his horse would surpass the dawn. Out came the near-fore, and the cheering owner asked a hundred duros for his foal. Next came the off-fore, with a white sock; down went the price to fifty duros. Then came the near-hind; it was white-stockinged, and the Arab, delirious with joy, vowed he would not sell his foal for anything in the world. But then out came the fourth foot, pure white! And the owner ordered the foal to be thrown on the nearest dungheap, for that was the sum of its worth.

I was born a bay with white socks. What color will I be?

I was born a bay with white socks. What color will I be?

Today, after two days of rain and slushy snow, the “fuzz” on our Sheldon baby Kidron revealed two whorls on her forehead. Born a bay with white socks her color is changing. We have no idea what color she will be.

Do you believe in hair swirls and color as an indicator or personality? We believe that color is something to look at and enjoy. Behavior is more noted to the experiences we humans put our horses through. But what do you think?

To read about our work for wild horses go to:


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