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  • Janean Marti

By 1877, Curly Coated Retrievers lived in the United States.

As a curly coated retriever researcher/historian, I believe curly coated retrievers were imported to the United States as early as the Civil War period (1860-1865) but I still hesitate to write that in stone. However, I wanted to make sure everyone knows I now have documentation the curly was living in the U.S. as early as 1877.

As followers of this page know, I have documented a curly exhibit at the Westminster Kennel Club in 1879. This was a fine fellow, by a newspaper account of the day, named Jake. Two years earlier than the 1879 Westminster show, however, a curly coated retriever was being offered for sale in the Midwest. The Midwest location makes sense because of the extensive market hunting of waterfowl in and around the Great Lakes.

Here is the text of the advertisement as printed in a Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune newspaper in 1877:

FOR SALE - A fine young English black curly retriever dog, bred from imported stock; must be sold; a rare chance.
Address F28, Tribune

Why be so interested in when the curly coated retriever first appeared in the U.S.? Well, for a number of reasons.

First, of course, is just my interest in accurate history on a breed I have loved, admired, and share my life with for 4 decades. The American Kennel Club, as well as numerous books, magazines, and websites continue to provide incorrect information about the curly coated retriever breed. I hope that if I print the correct information there will be a time when the mighty American Kennel Club will take notice.

The American Kennel Club, as well as books written by so-called experts on the breed, continue to state the curly did not arrive in the U.S. until after 1900.

The second reason I am interested in providing the correct dates for importation of the curly coated retriever to the U.S. is that it is likely curly coated retrievers in the U.S. served as foundation stock for at least two American breeds: the Chesapeake Bay Retriever and the American Water Spaniel.

Elsewhere on these pages is documentation that curly coated retrievers were ancestors of both the Labrador and golden retrievers. Certain histories of the Chesapeake and the American Water Spaniel indicate crosses were made to curly coated retrievers in the U.S.

We know curly coated retrievers certainly arrived on these shores early enough to provide substantial foundational ancestors for both Chessies and American Water Spaniels. In fact, dogs in the U.S cited in some photographs and historical accounts as "Newfoundlands" were likely curly coated retrievers. More about that in later posts. But for now, if you encounter someone who believes curly coated retrievers were NOT pioneers in the U.S. as far as purebred dogs, please let them know the truth. We know for certain they were here by 1877.

And look at the 1877 Chicago Tribune ad. It says the curly coated retriever for sale was bred from imported stock. That likely means the parents of the curly for sale were in the U.S. BEFORE 1877!

As faithful followers of these pages know, I have one source that says curly coated retrievers lived in the U.S. during the Civil War period. In fact, I have two sources that say that but one is buried on one of my old computers and I have not been able to unearth it yet. In the meantime, let's keep reminding the AKC, and our own breed club, and anyone else who is interested: the curly coated retriever is one of the oldest purebreds and was working in the U.S. by 1877.

Copy of ad from 1877 Chicago Tribune advertising curly coated retriever dog for sale.
Ad from 1877 Chicago Tribune advertising curly coated retriever for sale.

Written and published July 31, 2019.

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