What the Heck is a Curly-Coated Retriever?

Many people are confused when encountering their first Curly-coated Retriever. If curly fanciers had a dime for every time their curly was mistakenly identified as some type of cross-bred mix, curly fanciers would all be rolling in money. 


If you meet a curly in person, you will actually be meeting one of the oldest and rarest purebred dogs in existence. Pedigrees of curlies can be traced back to 1860 and they were one of the first standardized breeds.


So, what can you expect upon meeting your first curly?

  Curly-coated Retrievers are hardy, all-weather dogs.


Curlies are either black or brown which, in this breed, is called liver. A few curlies might have a white patch on the chest (which is a no-no in the show ring.)


The liver color can vary in shade from a lighter, reddish color to a deep, dark chocolate brown. Some liver coats get sun bleached if the dog spends a great deal of time in the sun.

Curly coated retriever: A liver and a black curly-coated retriever.
Curly coated retriever: A chart comparing sizes of the five retriever breeds.


Click to Enlarge

Most curlies are going to be taller and leggier than the golden and Labrador retrievers you may have met.

The sizes in the chart here are based on

U.S. standards for each breed.

Click the picture to magnify the curls.


A curly's coat is unique among all dog breeds and will be different from any other dog breed you have encountered. The tight, crisp curls lie close to the skin, protecting the dog against cold, wet weather and heavy cover. The coat is not cut or sheared like a poodle--although it is often tidied up for the show ring. 


Yes, curlies do SHED.



The curly pictured here is standing with her front legs on an ice shelf. Retrieving in cold and icy water can be common during hunting season. A curly's coat can provide some protection against icy water and cold weather.


Click the picture to magnify the coat.


If the curly you meet greets you with a wagging tail and a friendly demeanor, good. Some curlies might not greet you as effusively and that's okay, too. 


Some are friendly and outgoing; others are more reserved and aloof. Both types of temperament are correct. 


Curlies do best with a generous amount of exercise but, when mature, are sensible and calm companions in the house.

curly coated retriever launches into water to make a retrieve.

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