Last Updated on February 23, 2022 by Allison Price
German researchers have challenged the notion that American Bashkir Curly Horses are less susceptible than other breeds of triggering allergic reactions in humans.Bashkir Curly Horses are reputed to be less allergenic that other types of horses. Science has yet to prove this.
Many of the symptoms experienced by people with an allergy to horses are similar to seasonal allergy sufferers. Although the clinical manifestation of horse allergy is different, most people experience the symptoms of hay fever. These include sneezing and itchy eyes, runny noses, itchy or stuffy noses, and itchy burning and watery eyes. Eva Zahradnik MSc of the Institute of the Ruhr University Bochum. Horse allergy can also manifest as asthma in more severe cases. This includes wheezing and coughing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breathing, and chest tightness. Although more common than respiratory symptoms, reactions to the skin (hives), are possible.
Curly horses have been known for being less allergenic than other types. Zahradnik says that this hypothesis is largely based on the experiences of people allergic to horses. “Several websites, newspaper articles, and TV segments report stories about horse-allergic people who can handle Curly Horses with no allergic reactions.” Zahradnik devised a new study in order to verify the hypothesis.
Zahradnik’s team collected hair samples from 32 different horse breeds. Personal nasal filters were also used to collect dust inhaled from people who groom Quarter Horses and Curly Horses. The samples were then analysed using an immunoassay to detect Equ c 1, the major equine allergen. Equ c 4 is the commercial immunoassay.
Zahradnik explains that Equ c 1, which can be found in horse dander and saliva, is part of the lipocalin protein family and is primarily thought to be a carrier for odorants or pheromones. Equ c 4 is a major constituent of horse sweat. It acts as a detergent and causes foam formation on horses’ coats, particularly where there is rubbing. These proteins can be identified as allergens. They are substances that bind with antibodies (immunoglobulin E, IgE) and cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to them.
Contrary to popular belief, Curly Horses’ hair and dander contained the same allergens as horses of other breeds. The researchers found that Curly Horses were more allergic to allergens than other horses. Zahradnik says that the so-called hypoallergenic Curly horses we tested in this study had significantly higher hair allergen levels than most other breeds. These results are paradoxical but not surprising, based on our initial assumption. Similar results were published previously for other dog breeds. Hair of hypoallergenic dogs such as the Labradoodle and Poodle had significantly higher levels of Can f 1 than hair from non-hypoallergenic dogs such as the Labrador Retriever. Scientific evidence is not supporting the idea of hypoallergenic animals.
Researchers found that there was more to allergen levels than differences in breeds. Zahradnik says that these findings suggest that animals may be classified as high or low allergen producers within a single breed. This could explain why some people are allergic to certain animals.
Also, stallions were found to have higher levels of allergens that mares and geldings. This suggests a connection with hormones. According to scientific literature, major allergens are more common in males than in females, as well as in non-castrated animals than in castrated ones [in other species]. Castration of male cats led to a significant decrease in cat allergen Fel d 1. Injections of testosterone also resulted in an increase of Fel d1. This has not been investigated in horses.
Zahradnik believes that mild horse allergies might still be an option, despite her findings.