Dreadlocks are long matted ropes of hair; an animal with dreadlocks is said to have a "corded coat". Several breeds tend to form cords naturally in their coats, but it can also be artificially produced in most animals with an appropriate type of long hair by systematically twisting and rubbing the hair. When this is done the cords tend to be smaller and more regular than those that form naturally.
Some breeds of alpaca will sometimes show a natural coat of ringlets. For example the Suri alpaca. These animals can have a coat that falls completely to the ground.
In Peru an unshorn suri with such a luxurious long coat is called a "wasi", and one may be kept in the herd for good luck. In the United States such animals are kept as show specimens.
Some of the most large-scale impressive mats can be found on bull yaks.
A number of dogs are discussed below. The Komodor and Puli are closely identified with their "corded" coat made up of fine dreadlocks. This kind of coat is also sometimes cultivated with the Havanese, poodle and Pyrenean shepherd .
The small Havanese dog is sometimes shown with a corded coat which is permitted under the breed standard. The Havanese is native to Cuba, developed fromn Spanish stock. It is a small bichon like dog that displays many difference colors and patterns
These days most Havanese will be seen woth a combed out coat, but it still has a coarse texture which makes it tendency to cord up easy to understand. This breed also carries a recessive gene that produces puppies with a short, smooth coat--but this is considered a flaw and these dogs cannot been entered into shows.
Unfortunately the modern breed is plagued with a range of inherited abnormalities of the eyes, skeleton and organs.
The Komondor is a herding dog that can be used as a full time flock guardian. It is the larger than the Havanese and originates from Hungary. The Komodor is always white, which partly explains its nickname: the Mop dog.
Unlike the havanese the AKC breed standard for the Komodor does not just permit, but requires, a corded coat.
Poodle coats are not longer kept in cords but this method was once tradtional. In fact in 1897 Hugh Dalziel wrote that "that the fluffy and coarse and open woolly coated are impure, except, of course, where the open coat has been artificially obtained by brush and comb."
Poodles with a corded coat can still be cultivated as with this poodle. And while the look is not current in fashion it has its proponents, and instructions for cultivating a corded coat can be found online.
A French herding dog with a range of dark coat colors, the Pyrenean Shepherd or Sheepdog sometimes carries a corded coat. A wiry dog whose cat is not as full as some of the other corded breeds, the Pyrenean sherherd my have cords only only the more densed furred rump and legs.
The Puli is also known as the Hungarian Water Dog. It is a particularly energetic dog with a hunting and herding background. Arguably the most famous owner of a Puli dog is Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. He adopted a Puli puppy named Beast in 2011.
Of course any dog can develop a few dreadlocks if their coat is long enough.
Donkey (Baudet de Poitou )
The Poitou donkey is a very ancient, large breed originating in France perhaps from the influence of the Romans. The breed is known for its coat and exceedingly large stature. There were a valued working animal in agriculture and military supply chains. Their thick corded coat can reach to the ground.
With the development of mechanized transport and farm machinery the Poitou became largely obsolete as a working animal. By the 1970s there were only 44 of these donkeys left, but a preservation effort has now increased the population to several hundred.
Some breeds of goat have long hair that naturally forms ringlets. For example the Angora. And under natural condition these ringlets will matt into cords. Angora goats produce high quality mohair fiber.
The long manes and tails of horses can become dreaded if not groomed or with wild horses.
In mice there is a mutation called "matted". Mice with this genotype has hair that does not lie flat, but sticks up and clumps together at the end.
Unwanted Pet Dreads
Dreadlock-like mats can, of course, form on animals when they are not wanted. This can be avoided with regularly grooming. Some animals such as Persians with a dense fine coat may require daily combing.
Mild matting can be combed out of dry hair with patience and the help of a little cornstarch.
But if matting gets really out of hand, the easiest solution may be to clip the coat short and allow it to regrow. However you may want to employ a veterinarian or groomer to do this as they will have clippers that are much safer to use close to an animals skin than standard scissors. And be sure to provide your clipped pet with a good way to keep warm.
It can be embarrassing to seek help for a pet with fur mats, but if large mats are left they can begin to pull on the skin cauising damage, as well as harboring moisture, dirt and mold. Unlike cultivated cords and ringlets mats are often thick and pull on a large, uneven clump of hair rather than a small cluster at the root.
- Dalziel, H. (1897). British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, And Exhibition. "The Bazaar" Office, London [html]
- Alison N. Starr, Thomas R. Famula, Nathan J. Markward, Joanne V. Baldwin, Karon D. Fowler, Diane E. Klumb, Nancy L. Simpson and Keith E. Murphy (2007). Hereditary Evaluation of Multiple Developmental Abnormalities in the Havanese Dog Breed. J Hered 98, 510-517 [abstract]
- A. G. SEARLE and R. I. SPEARMAN (1957). 'Matted', a New Hair-mutant in the House-mouse: Genetics and Morphology [J. Embryol. exp. Morph. Vol. 5, Part 1, pp. 93-102 [pdf]
icountthetimes on January 17, 2012:
I dream of having luscious locks like this. I feel like I've lost out.
Kate on August 30, 2011:
I saw some dogs in Nashville this past weekend who had dreadlocks. But I think theirs were different.
Jason Menayan from San Francisco on January 13, 2011:
ghomefitness from Chicago,IL on January 12, 2011: