site logo

The Curly-coated Retriever

The curly-coated Retriever is commonly believed to be of earlier

origin than his flat-coated relative, and he is of less pure descent.

He probably owes ancestral tribute to the Poodle. Such a cross may

conceivably have been resorted to by the early Retriever breeders,

and there was little to lose from a merely sporting point of view

from this alien introduction, for the Poodle is well known to be by

nature, if not by s
stematic training, an excellent water dog, capable

of being taught anything that the canine mind can comprehend. During

the early years of the nineteenth century the Poodle was fairly

plentiful in England, and we had no other curly-coated dog of similar

size and type apart from the Irish Water Spaniel, who may himself

lay claim to Poodle relationship; while as to the Retriever, either

curly or flat coated, he can in no sense be assigned to any country

outside of Great Britain. The presumption is strong that the

gentleman from France was largely instrumental in the manufacture

of the variety, but whatever the origin of the curly-coated Retriever

he is a beautiful dog, and one is gratified to note that the old

prejudice against him, and the old indictment as to his hard mouth,

are fast giving place to praise of his intelligence and admiration

of his working abilities.

Speaking generally, it seems to be accepted that he is slightly

inferior in nose to his flat-coated cousin, and not quite so easy

to break, but there are many keepers and handlers who have discovered

in individual specimens extraordinary merit in the field combined

with great endurance. It is not certain that any great improvement

has been effected in the variety during recent years, but there are

particular dogs to-day who are decidedly better than any that existed

a dozen years or more ago, when such celebrities as True, Old Sam,

King Koffee, Ben Wonder, Doden Ben, Lad and Una, were prominent, and

there is no doubt that the curly coats attained show form in advance

of the flat-coated variety.

The coat of the curly Retriever plays a very important part in his

value and personality. There are many kinds of coat, but the only

true and proper one is the close-fitting nigger curl, of which each

knot is solid and inseparable. A coat of this quality is not capable

of improvement by any method of grooming, for the simple reason that

its natural condition is in itself perfect. The little locks should

be so close together as to be impervious to water, and all parts of

the body should be evenly covered with them, including the tail and

legs. A bad class of coat, and one which readily yields to the faker's

art, is the thin open curl which by careful manipulation can be

greatly improved. Another bad quality of coat is one in which, upon

the withers and over the loins in particular, the curls do not tighten

up naturally, but are large, loose, and soft to the feel. Regarding

the dog as a whole, the following may be taken as an all-round


* * * * *

GENERAL APPEARANCE--That of a smart, active, clean-cut and alert dog,

full of go and fire--a sportsman from stem to stern. HEAD--Long and

not weedy in the muzzle, nor thick and coarse in the skull, but

tapering down and finishing with a stout broad muzzle. SKULL--Should

be flat and moderately broad between the ears, which are rather small,

and well covered with hair. EARS--Should lie close to the side of

the head, but not dead in their carriage. FACE--The face should be

smooth, and any indication of a forelock should be penalised. EYE--The

eye should in all cases be dark and not too deeply set. NECK--Well

placed in the shoulders and nicely arched, of moderate length and

yet powerful and free from throatiness. SHOULDERS--Well laid back

and as free from massiveness as possible, though there is a decided

tendency in this variety to such a fault. LEGS--Straight and well

covered with coat. The bone should show quality and yet be fairly

abundant. FEET--Compact and hound-like. BODY--Should show great power,

with deep, well-rounded ribs. As little cut-up in the flank as

possible. TAIL--Strong at the base, set on in a line with the back

and tapering to a point, the size of the curls upon it diminishing

gradually to the end. HIND-QUARTERS--Should show great development

of muscle, with bent hocks, the lower leg being strong and the hind

feet compact. Any suspicion of cow hocks should be heavily penalised.

COLOUR--Mostly a dull black. Some liver-coloured dogs are seen with

very good coats and bodies, but their heads are generally thick and

coarse, and the colour of their eyes does not always match, as it

should do, with the colour of the coat. A few dogs of this colour

have achieved distinction on the show bench.

* * * * *