The Curly-Coated Retriever, also known as the Curly Retriever, the Curly or the CCR, is one of the oldest of all retrieving breeds. Developed in England as a waterfowl specialist and an upland hunter, the Curly Retriever is known to be a versatile, all-purpose dog. Wickedly smart and bred for perseverance, the Curly can be trained to do almost anything. He needs a job to do to prevent boredom, which can be accompanied by destructive habits. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1924, as a member of its Sporting Group.
The mature male Curly-Coated Retriever ideally stands 25 to 27 inches at the withers, while adult females should be from 23 to 25 inches in height. They weigh on average between 65 and 80 pounds. The Curly's coat is unique among all canine breeds, being a thick mass of tight, crisp curls that are water-resistant and of sufficient density to protect against all types of weather, water and cover. It should be groomed on a regular basis but is easy to care for. Curly's come in liver and black.
The exact history of the Curly-Coated Retriever is not known. Popular conjecture suggests that the Curly-Coated Retriever descends from the now-extinct Old English Water Spaniel and from the Retrieving Setter. Other contributors to the breed are thought to include the small St. John's Newfoundland, the Poodle, the Labrador Retriever, the Pointer and/or the Irish Water Spaniel. This popular gun dog was first exhibited in 1860 at Birmingham. In 1889, some Curly's were exported to New Zealand, where they have since been used for retrieving duck and quail. In Australia, Curly-Coated Retrievers are also highly prized for use on water fowl in the swamps and lagoons of the Murray River. They are excellent all-around hunting dogs, with an especially tender mouth and unparalleled water skills.
The first breed club was established in England in 1896. The breed was introduced to America as early as 1907, with the first American Kennel Club registration of a Curly-Coated Retriever being made in 1924. They are members of the AKC's Sporting Group. The Curly-Coated Retriever Club of America was formed in 1979 and is the breed parent club in this country. In the early part of the twentieth century, the Curly's popularity waned while the Flat-Coated Retriever's popularity rose. Today, the Curly-Coated Retriever retains its world-wide presence as a determined, durable hunter and a gentle family companion, although the breed is still uncommon.
The average life expectancy of the Curly-Coated Retriever is between 10 and 12 years. Breed health concerns may include gastric dilatation and volvulus (bloat), canine follicular dysplasia, entropion, ectropion, distichiasis, cataracts, epilepsy, generalized progressive retinal atrophy, glycogen storage disease and hip dysplasia.
Curly Coated Retrievers have a distinctive appearance that sets them apart from their counterparts, but their personality is distinctly that of a retriever breed. They are affectionate, active and loyal companions, happiest when outdoors and engages in fun, interesting activities with their favorite people. Curlies are polite to strangers and are excellent with children of all ages, patient with the small ones and ready to romp with the older kids. They are by no means a dog for people who want a lazy couch mate. They prefer to rise early, remain active throughout the day, and then, when it's bedime, the Curly Coated Retriever will happily curl up at the end of the bed to snore the night away.
Like other retriever breeds, the Curly Coated version needs lots of vigorous exercise every single day. They are an active person's dog – couch potatoes should steer clear of this breed. They love running, swimming, hiking, playing ball and catching frisbees. They can be competitive in agility courses, but they are not as obedient as their Golden Retriever counterparts, so they often do not excel in this arena, but they enjoy the activity and eat up the attention.
Curlies need as much mental stimulation as they do physical stimulation and should always be provided with plenty of interesting activities throughout the day, especially when left alone. Inactivity and boredom leads to destructiveness and hyperactivity that is hard to curb.
Curly Coated Retrievers are easily trainable when positive reinforcement and treats are employed. They do not respond well to discipline or a heavy-handed attitude. Curlies are not dominant by nature, but will take the opportunity to rule the roost, if boundaries are not set early on. When basic obedience is mastered, Curlies should be graduated to advanced obedience or the agility ring, in order to keep their intelligent minds busy.
Socialization is also important with this breed, as they can be sand offish to strangers and if left unchecked, Curlies can become quite timid or overly suspicious of new people and things.
If a Curly Coated Retriever is not exercised enough, he will become destructive, and this breed is capable of a lot of damage. They should not be left alone without first having been exercised and they should always be left with plenty of their own chew toys to keep them busy.
They are naturally prone to chewing and will stick anything in their mouths that will fit. Shoes, pillows, and children's toys should be kept away from Curlies, and they need to be taught at a young age not to bite hands and sleeves.
This breed experiences and extended puppyhood and an be rowdy and rambunctious all the way through age four.
This smartly upstanding, multi-purpose hunting retriever is recognized by most canine historians as one of the oldest of the retrieving breeds. Developed in England, the Curly was long a favorite of English gamekeepers. Prized for innate field ability, courage and indomitable perseverance, a correctly built and tempered Curly will work as long as there is work to be done, retrieving both fur and feather in the heaviest of cover and the iciest of waters. To work all day a Curly must be balanced and sound, strong and robust, and quick and agile. Outline, carriage and attitude all combine for a grace and elegance somewhat uncommon among the other retriever breeds, providing the unique, upstanding quality desired in the breed. In outline, the Curly is moderately angulated front and rear and, when comparing height to length, gives the impression of being higher on leg than the other retriever breeds. In carriage, the Curly is an erect, alert, self-confident dog. In motion, all parts blend into a smooth, powerful, harmonious symmetry. The coat, a hallmark of the breed, is of great importance for all curlies, whether companion, hunting or show dogs. The perfect coat is a dense mass of small, tight, distinct, crisp curls. The Curly is wickedly smart and highly trainable and, as such, is cherished as much for his role as loyal companion at home as he is in the field.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Ideal height at withers: dogs, 25 to 27 inches; bitches, 23 to 25 inches. A clearly superior Curly falling outside of this range should not be penalized because of size. The body proportions are slightly off square, meaning that the dog is slightly longer from prosternum to buttocks as he is from withers to ground. The Curly is both sturdy and elegant. The degree of substance is sufficient to ensure strength and endurance without sacrificing grace. Bone and substance are neither spindly nor massive and should be in proportion with weight and height and balanced throughout.
The head is a longer-than-wide wedge, readily distinguishable from that of all other retriever breeds, and of a size in balance with the body. Length of foreface is equal, or nearly equal, to length of backskull and, when viewed in profile, the planes are parallel. The stop is shallow and sloping. At the point of joining, the width of foreface may be slightly less than the width of the backskull but blending of the two should be smooth. The head has a nearly straight, continuous taper to the nose and is clean cut, not coarse, blocky or cheeky. Expression--Intelligent and alert. Eyes--Almond-shaped, rather large but not too prominent. Black or brown in black dogs and brown or amber in liver dogs. Harsh yellow eyes and loose haws are undesirable. Ears-- Rather small, set on a line slightly above the corner of the eye, and lying close to the head. Backskull--Flat or nearly flat. Foreface--Muzzle is wedge-shaped with no hint of snipiness. The taper ends mildly, neither acutely pointed nor bluntly squared-off but rather slightly rounding at the bottom. Mouth is level and never wry. Jaws are long and strong. A scissors bite is preferred. Teeth set straight and even. The lips are tight and clean, not pendulous. The nose is fully pigmented; black on black dogs, brown on liver dogs. Nostrils are large.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck--Strong and slightly arched, of medium length, free from throatiness and flowing freely into moderately laid-back shoulders. Backline--The back, that portion of the body from the rear point of the withers to the beginning of the loin, is strong and level. The loin, that part of the body extending from the end of the rib cage to the start of the pelvis, is short and muscular. The croup, that portion of the body from the start of the pelvis to the tail set-on, is only slightly sloping. Body-- Chest is decidedly deep and not too wide, oval in cross-section, with brisket reaching elbow. While the impression of the chest should be of depth not width, the chest is not pinched or narrow. The ribs are well-sprung, neither barrel-shaped nor slab-sided, and extend well back into a deep, powerful loin with a moderate tuck-up of flank. Tail--Carried straight or fairly straight, never docked, and reaching approximately to the hock. Never curled over the back and should not be kinked or crooked. Covered with curls and, if trimmed, tapering toward the point.
Shoulder blades are very long, well covered with muscle, and are moderately laid back at about a 55 degree angle. The width between shoulder blades is adequate to allow enough flexibility to easily retrieve game. Upper arm bones are about equal in length with shoulder blades and laid back at approximately the same angle as the blades, meaning the forelegs are set under the withers. The equal length of shoulder blade and upper arm bone and the balanced angulation between the two allows for good extension of the front legs. The forelegs are straight with strong, true pasterns. Feet are round and compact, with well-arched toes and thick pads. Front dewclaws are generally removed.
Strong and in balance with front angulation. Thighs are powerful with muscling carrying well down into the second thigh. Stifle is of moderate bend. The hocks are strong and true, turning neither in nor out, with hock joint well let down. Rear dewclaws are generally removed.
The coat is a distinguishing characteristic and quite different from that of any other breed. The body coat is a thick mass of small, tight, crisp curls, lying close to the skin, resilient, water resistant, and of sufficient density to provide protection against weather, water and punishing cover. Curls also extend up the entire neck to the occiput, down the thigh and back leg to at least the hock, and over the entire tail. Elsewhere, the coat is short, smooth and straight, including on the forehead, face, front of forelegs, and feet. A patch of uncurled hair behind the withers or bald patches anywhere on the body, including bald strips down the back of the legs or a triangular bald patch on the throat, should be severely penalized. A looser, more open curl is acceptable on the ears. Sparse, silky, fuzzy or very harsh, dry or brittle hair is a fault. Trimming--Feathering may be trimmed from the ears, belly, backs of forelegs, thighs, pasterns, hocks, and feet. On the tail, feathering should be removed. Short trimming of the coat on the ear is permitted but shearing of the body coat is undesirable.
Black or liver. Either color is correct. A prominent white patch is undesirable but a few white hairs are allowable in an otherwise good dog.
The dual function of the Curly as both waterfowl retriever and upland game hunter demands a dog who moves with strength and power yet is quick and agile. The ground-covering stride is a well-coordinated melding of grace and power, neither mincing nor lumbering. The seemingly effortless trot is efficient and balanced front to rear. When viewed from the side, the reach in front and rear is free-flowing, not stilted or hackneyed. When viewed from the front or rear, movement is true: the front legs turn neither in nor out and the rear legs do not cross. Well-developed, muscular thighs and strong hocks do their full share of work, contributing to rear thrust and drive. The extension in front is strong and smooth and in balance with rear action. Balance in structure translates to balance in movement and is of great importance to ensure soundness and endurance; extremes of angulation and gait are not desirable.
Self-confident, steadfast and proud, this active, intelligent dog is a charming and gentle family companion and a determined, durable hunter. The Curly is alert, biddable and responsive to family and friends, whether at home or in the field. Of independent nature and discerning intelligence, a Curly sometimes appears aloof or self-willed, and, as such, is often less demonstrative, particularly toward strangers, than the other retriever breeds. The Curly's independence and poise should not be confused with shyness or a lack of willingness to please. In the show ring, a correctly-tempered Curly will steadily stand his ground, submit easily to examination, and might or might not wag his tail when doing so. In the field, the Curly is eager, persistent and inherently courageous. At home, he is calm and affectionate. Shyness is a fault and any dog who shies away from show ring examination should be penalized. Minor allowances can be made for puppies who misbehave in the show ring due to overexuberance or lack of training or experience.
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Sources: American Kennel Club