Meet the Breed: Coat of Curls
Unique in appearance, the highly intelligent and family-oriented Curly-Coated Retriever excels in countless sports.
Kim Campbell Thornton
Is that a Labradoodle?”
That’s the most common question heard by owners of this uncommon retrieving breed. The Curly-Coated Retriever (or Curly, for short) was developed in England in the 18th century and is one of the oldest retrieving breeds. Bred to be a gamekeeper’s dog and used to retrieve waterfowl and hunt upland game birds, such as pheasant, quail and grouse, the Curly was also popular with the nomadic Rom peoples, who found it to be an excellent poaching companion.
A rarity throughout history
The breed’s origins are unclear, but dogs that might belong in its ancestry include the water spaniel that was found in England in the 16th century, the St. John’s Newfoundland (also the ancestor of the Labrador Retriever), the Wetterhound (a European water retriever) and the Irish Water Spaniel. It’s also speculated that the Poodle contributed to its development at some point, but the curly coat could also have come from the Irish Water Spaniel or the Wetterhound.
Curlies made their way to the United States by the time of the Civil War, but they remained a rarity. In 1981, when Curly-Coated Retriever Club of America President Stephanie Doerr became active in the breed, there were only about 350 Curlies in the United States. The CCRCA was chartered in 1979 and offers a working certificate program to encourage the development of the wickedly smart Curly’s natural retrieving abilities.
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