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Curly Coated Retriever

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Curly Coated Retriever
Curlies only come in liver like this dog
Curlies only come in liver like this dog
Alternative names
Country of origin
United Kingdom - England
Common nicknames
Classification and breed standards
FCI: Group 8 Section 1 #110  
AKC: Sporting  
KC (UK): Gundogs  
UKC: Gun Dog Breeds  
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct

The Curly Coated Retriever (curly) is an intelligent, friendly breed of dog originally bred for upland bird and waterfowl hunting. He is the tallest of the retrievers and is easily distinguishable by the mass of tight curls covering his body. Curly Coated Retrievers were developed as upland game hunters and waterfowl retrievers in England and were recognized as a breed as early as 1860. Curly Coated and Wavy Coated (now known as the flat-coated) Retrievers were the first two recognized retriever breeds.


The curly is an active, upstanding, well-muscled breed bred for upland bird and waterfowl hunting. Although he is related to the other more popular retrieving breeds, the curly is quite different in type and structure and somewhat different in temperament than the more common retrievers. A correct curly will appear slightly leggy but is actually slightly longer than tall. The breed sports a coat of tight, crisp curls. He is balanced and agile with a significant air of endurance, strength, and grace.


The coat of the curly is a hallmark of the breed. A correct coat is a large mass of small curls that lie close to the skin. Breeders aim for tight, crisp, individually pronounced curls rather than loose, open curls. The coat is sufficiently dense to provide protection in ill weather and icy water, and against brambles and briars.

The only places on a curly's body that are not covered in tight curls are the forehead, face, front of forelegs, and feet, where the hair should be short, smooth, and straight. A looser curl is acceptable on the ears. The breed should have no undercoat.

Patches of uncurled hair behind the withers or bald patches of skin are undesirable. The coat should not be sparse, silky, fuzzy, very harsh, dry, or brittle.

Bald patches which may temporarily occur in growing puppies who are changing to adult coat and in bitches who have recently whelped are not necessarily indicative of a permanent problem.


The only acceptable colours for the Curly Coated Retriever are solid black and solid liver (brown). Occasional white hairs are permissable, but white patches are a serious fault.

Eyes should be either black or brown in black dogs, and brown or amber in liver dogs. Yellow eyes are undesirable.

The nose should be fully pigmented, black in black dogs and liver in liver dogs.

Height and Weight

  • Dogs: 25-27 in at the withers
  • Bitches: 23-25 in

Weight should be in correct proportion to the size of the dog.

  • Dogs: 70-90 lbs
  • Bitches: 50-70 lbs

Care and Maintenance


To maintain the crisp, tight curls on a Curly Coated Retreiver, groomers avoid brushing the dog as this could promote unwanted "fuzziness" or fluffiness. However, the coat must be combed through to remove any dead hair. This should be done before bathing the dog. After bathing the dog, the curl will be looser and fluffier but will tighten up, especially if sprayed with plain water. A curly kept as a companion and/or hunting animal need not be elaborately groomed but needs to be kept clean and free of mats for the health of the dog. Bathing should be as needed. Dead hair should be combed out of the coat as needed and toe-nails should be kept trim.

Show ring exhibitors normally trim feathering from the tail, ears, belly, legs and feet. Trimming is not required when exhibiting a curly at a dog show but most judges will likely discount the dog if he is not trimmed. Shearing of the body coat is undesirable.

All curlies shed. Bitches usually shed more heavily during their heat cycles (usually twice a year). Dogs and bitches may also shed more in the spring, especially those living in areas with extreme seasonal temperature changes. Combing through the coat to remove dead hair is helpful, particularly during those times of heavier shedding.

Curlies tend to shed hair in clumps, rather than one single hair at a time, which aids in cleanup.


An active dog which is also prized for his endurance, the curly should be fed a high quality food. Some breeders feed a natural diet, consisting of meat and vegetables. Others feed good quality commercial dog foods. Some breeders feed both. A good curly breeder or a veterinarian will be able to recommend a suitable diet for a curly, depending on age, size and activity level.


The Curly Coated Retriever likes his exercise; he was bred for athleticism and endurance in the field. A curly is an intelligent dog and is happiest when he has adequate exercise and play. Swimming is ideal and so is running and walking with his owner. Retrieving work OR play, such as retrieving a tennis ball, is another way to exercise the dog. He is not a dog for the lazy owner.

While active and exuberant outside, at play, or in the field, the curly is a calm house dog.


Life expectancy

Average life expectancy is 9-12 years, although there are instances of curlies living to 15 to 17 years of age.

Known medical issues


The Curly Coated Retriever is a very lively, fun-loving breed. They are slow to mature, which makes them a great addition to any active family. As long as the CCR has enough exercise, he can be very calm and laid back in the home environment, which makes them both a great activity dog as well as a placid member of the family. CCRs are great dogs for flyball and dog agility trails as they love the outdoors, working with people, and activities of any kind.

Curly Coated Retrievers were bred to work more independently than other retrievers. This has given them a reputation for being reserved with strangers and they are often accused of being aloof because of it. However, CCRs are very loyal to those they know and are very fond of children.

CCRs are extremely intelligent, learn quickly and love to please their owners; even so, training one can sometimes be difficult as they can easily get bored with repetitive training. Short, fun sessions are the best way to a CCR's mind. The breed is quick to figure things out, and once it has learned how to do something (such as open a gate or door), he will use his new skill any time he sees fit.

This breed can sometimes be stubborn and self-willed. These individuals need careful motivational training, as preventing bad behavior is much easier than reversing it. Negative reinforcement causes some dogs to refuse to obey commands.


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