The Curly Coated Retriever may be the most graceful and elegant of the retrievers, appearing longer legged and more agile than the others. They are an active land retriever and a hardy water retriever, able to withstand the rigors of repeated retrieves into heavy thickets or cold waters. Their distinctive coat provides protection from cold and briars and is made up of a dense mass of tight curls.
One of the oldest and most distinctive of the retriever breeds, the Curly-Coated Retriever may have been used in England for retrieving as long ago as the late eighteenth century. Although its exact origin remains conjectural, it probably stems from crosses of the descendants of the Old English Water Dog with the Irish Water Spaniel, and a small type of Newfoundland. These breeds together combined some of the finest water dogs in existence into one animal.
Later crosses to the Poodle, a fine water retriever in its own right, served to further enhance the tight curls. By the mid 1800s, the Curly-Coated Retriever was the most popular retriever in England, prized not only for its unsurpassed retrieving abilities but also as a staunch and trustworthy companion. It was among the first breeds to be exhibited at English dog shows.
Exports to Australia and New Zealand were well received, and the breed still enjoys great popularity there. The first exports to America were in 1907, with the breed receiving AKC recognition in 1924.
The Curly-Coated Retriever is an eager and tireless land and, especially, water retriever outdoors, but a calm companion indoors. He is sensitive and gentle, very good with children, and responsive to commands. He is reserved with strangers. One of the most courageous of the retrievers, he is nonetheless quite sensitive. He makes an ideal partner for an active, outdoor-oriented person who also wants a loyal family companion.
The Curly can be an easy dog to maintain, requiring no unusual care. He needs daily exercise, preferably involving swimming and retrieving. Because brushing diminishes the tight curls, he should be combed only occasionally, preferably before getting wet.