Curly Coated Retriever
By Philip Mathis
Internet Pulishing
ISBN # 1-842860-15-4

Curlies In Europe


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
these theories.
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
Internet Pulishing
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.

The Curly in the United State

Although America saw its first Curly
Coated Retriever in 1907, the breed was not registered in the United States until 1924, Curly
fanciers then were most enthusiastic about the breed's potential as a hunting dog; indeed, the breed
prospered during the 1920s and 1930s, when they were popular as family pets as well as gundogs.  
Once again, World Warn II impacted the breed almost to the point of total extinction, with only 16
specimens registered between 1941 and 1949.  By 1950, when breeders of all breeds of dog were
trying to re-establish their lines, the Labrador and Flat Coated Retriever had made huge inroads into
the hunting populace, and many kennels began to produce faster and more stylish retrievers.  
Additionally, a rumour circulated in American dog circles that the Curly was hard-mouthed and that
the breed's curly coat was difficult to maintain.  Such false allegations led to a disastrous drop in
Curly interest and support, reducing breed numbers to only two dogs registered in 1964, With a total
lack of breeding stock, any remaining lines of Curly breeding stock were lost, and for a brief while
the future of the breed looked bleak.
The resurrection came in 1964, when Mr. Dale Dettweiler imported Eng Ch Siccawei Black Rod from
England.  This dog was affectionately called "Limey" by those who judged him in the show ring.  
Limey also worked in the field and had quite a loyal following of hunters who spent many successful
hours hunting behind the dog.  After this most successful import, Mr Dettwelier brought over more
Curlies from England and Australia, and with those dogs he established his Curly kennel, bearing
the prefix Windpatch. The Windpatch Curlies became the foundation for the breed in the United
States, and Mr. Dettweiler is considered by many to be the saviour of the modern American Curly.
As more dog fanciers became enamoured with the Curly Coated Retriever, more dogs were imported
and several well-respected lines developed over the following 10 years.  Breeders with the kennel
prefixes of Summerwind, Severaven, Karakul, Charwin, Wits End, Ptarmigan, El Mack, Mayhem and
Aarowag joined Mr. Dettwelier on his mission to revitalise the breed.
By the mid 1970's, the Curly was solidly established in the United States, which led to the formation
in 1979 of the Curly Coated Retriever Club of America.  This club was later accepted by the
American Kennel Club (AKC) as a licensed breed club,  Although the organisation flourished, the
breed is still somehwhat rare in the U.S.  By the mid- 1990s, it was ranked at number 123 out of 127
AKC-registered breeds and during the last decade of the 10th century, less than 200 Curlies were
registered annually.