|Curly Coated Retriever
By Philip Mathis
ISBN # 1-842860-15-4
Curlies In Europe
ORIGIN AND ESTABLISHMENT OF THE BREED IN ENGLAND
Unlike the histories of the other retriever breeds, few specifics are known about the history and
development of the Curly in its native England. However, pre-1800 writing do offer valid evidence of
the breed's existence centuries earlier; references dating back to the fifteenth century describe
"sagacious" curly-coated spaniels and water dogs who possessed outstanding hunting and retrieving
ability. Author Phillip Ashburton wrote about Curly Coated Retrievers used for hunting around 1490
in Lincolnshire and Norfolk, the land of Robin Hood and his merry band. Centuries later, a reference
in the Sportsmen's Cabinet in 1803 suggested that the Curly is a descendant of the 'Old Water Dog'
with the following: 'These dogs are exceedingly angular in appearance and most probably derived
their origin from the Greenland dog blended with some particular race of their own. The hair of these
dogs must be adhering to the body in natural elastic curls, not loose or long and shaggy.'
Subsequest documentation from the mid-1800's offer several other accounts of the Curly's place in
evolution as a gundog in England. Writer John Scott wrote in 1820 in the Sportsman's Repository,
'The original Water Dog of the opposite continent, being long since adopted in this country and in
some maritime districts, is still preserved in a state of purity, but the breed is more generally
intermixed with the Water Spaniel and Newfoundland Dog.'
Most breed historians assume that the St. John's Newfoundland, the Tweed Water Spaniel, the Irish
Water Spaniel and the Poodle may have contributed to the development of the Curly Coated
Retriever in England. Because all of these breeds were evolving at about the same time, it is
also possible that the reverse is true, and the Curly is the dominant link behind the
development of those other
Some authorities believe that the Curly Coated Retriever was crossed with the original Poodle of
Germany, with the goal of improving the coat and elegance of the Curly and the staying power and
sagacity of the Poodle. Others claim that the mere fact that the Curly Coated Retriever is the
only breed named for its curly coat is an indication that this was the first of all the
curly-coated breeds. Unfortunately, since the hunters and breeders of the mid-1800's did not
document their breeding practices or maintain breeding ledgers, there is no written record of
breedings or of the people who were involved in the development of today's Curly to prove any of
The early Curly Coated Retriever was frequently referred to as a 'meat dog,
a generic term referring to a dog that would find and retrieve the birds regardless of hunting
conditions or the gentility of his hunting master. Such was his nose and tenacity that the Curly was
often used to find and retrieve birds left in a field already covered by 'other breeds' during a driven
shoot. Such a dog was an invaluable aid to the common man who hunted birds in order to provide
meat for his family's dinner table.
In 1837, Thomas Bell wrote of the Curly in the British quardrupeds: "The peculiar qualities and
propensities of this dog, its exquisite sense of smell, its sagacity, strength and aquatic habits, have
rendered it a most useful and important servant to a particular class of persons of the North of
England and Scotland who live principally by shooting waterfowl, in the retrieve which these exhibits
the highest degree of docility and hardihood.' These remarks seem to validate the 'meat dog' Curly
and the class of people most inclined to own and utalize the dog for bird work in water and afield.
Despite his murky history, there is definite proof that the Curly Coated Retriever was the first breed to
be classified by the Kennel Club as a retriever and was the first retriever to be exhibited in England
as a show dog, the latter occuring in 1860.
|By Philip Mathis
ISBN # 1-842860-15-4
The Curly in Australia and New Zealand
For over a century, Australians have prized the Curly Coated Retriever as a brave, intelligent and
agile hunting dog. The sturdy Curly is often used to retrieve waterfowl as large as swans. Curlies
have also been know to hunt Australian kangaroo, a feat that requires great courage as well as speed
and natural hunting ability.
Most of the Curlies in Australia and New Zealand today date back to the breeding of native Curlies to
English Imports. The very important dogs, NZ and GFTCh Dual Ch Waitoki Tamatakapua, who is
behind many modern Australian and New Zealand bloodlines, was the product of a New Zealand field
trial champion and English import bitch. Another significant pairing was that of English import Nelson
Prince and his Australian-born daughter, Nelson Beauty. This breeding produced the important
Australian Curly, Black Prince. Australian breeder Olaf Michaelson of Victoria and his imported Tablik
Curlies were the foundation of many of the country's homebred Curly Coated Retrievers.
During the 1950's and 1960's Australian breeders imported Darelyn Aristocrat from England, along
with Sarona Simon, Banworth Simon, Banworth Athene and Pegasus, dogs who are behind over
three-quarters of the modern Curly bloodlines. The accomplished New Zealand import, Ch Waitoki
Tuhora, QC is also behind many of Australia's Curlies.
As world of the Curly Coated Retriever spread across the Atlantic to North America, Australia began
to export dogs to the United States and Canada, as well as to Germany, New Guinea and New
Zealand, creating legions of new breed fanciers on other continents.
In New Zealand, the Curly Coated Retriever reigns, as the breed is the most popular hunting dog in
that country. The Curly's intelligence, superb hunting ability and natural affinity for water earn the
breed high marks with hunting enthusiasts and field trial aficionados.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the New Zealand Curly is its smaller size, with some breed
specimens much smaller than the proper English Curly. This smaller version is a very popular duck
dog, found mostly along the Murray River, where it is not surprisingly called the Murray River Curly.
The River Curlies are, for the most part, unregistered with The Kennel Club, and many River Curly
fans feel it should be considered a separate breed.