The Curly-Coated Retriever: A Unique Blend of Elegance and Versatility  > Dog Breeds >  The Curly-Coated Retriever: A Unique Blend of Elegance and Versatility

The Curly-Coated Retriever, often affectionately referred to as the Curly, is a distinguished dog breed originally bred in England for upland bird and waterfowl hunting. Recognized as the tallest among retriever breeds, the Curly is especially notable for the tight curls covering its body, making it easily distinguishable from other retrievers. This breed, along with the Wavy Coated Retriever (now known as the Flat-Coated Retriever), were among the first two recognized retriever breeds, established as early as 1860​

​Physically, the Curly-Coated Retriever is an active, well-muscled dog, exhibiting a slightly different structure compared to more common retrievers. Typically appearing slightly leggy, the breed is actually slightly longer than tall, characterized by a balanced and agile structure with a significant air of endurance, strength, and grace. The breed’s coat, consisting of tight, dense, curly hair in solid black or liver, is adept at repelling water, burrs, and preventing damage from outdoor activities. The eyes of these dogs are black or brown in black dogs, and brown or amber in liver dogs. Show standards for the breed specify a height of 25 to 27 inches for males and 23 to 25 inches for females, with weight being proportionate to height​

​In terms of temperament, the Curly-Coated Retriever may sometimes appear aloof with strangers, but they are typically very loyal and affectionate with their owners and family. This behavior harks back to their origin as guard dogs for Victorian gamekeepers. They are extremely intelligent, but their training can be challenging at times, as they may get bored with repetitive tasks​

​The Curly’s coat is single-layered, with no undercoat, and the tight curls are relatively easy to maintain. Curlies do shed, albeit not as much as breeds with undercoats, and more so during heat cycles or in the spring. Bathing should be done as needed, and while show ring exhibitors may trim feathering from the tail, ears, belly, legs, and feet, excessive body coat trimming is undesirable​

Exercise is crucial for the Curly-Coated Retriever, as they were bred for athleticism and endurance. They are happiest when they have adequate exercise, mental stimulation, and play, making them well-suited for active sports such as hunt tests, flyball, and agility trials. Despite their active nature outdoors, adult Curlies are generally calm house dogs. Their love for swimming makes them valuable retrievers, particularly in situations involving water crossings​

​The average life expectancy of a Curly-Coated Retriever ranges from 9 to 14 years, with some living up to 15 to 17 years. However, they are prone to certain health issues, including cancer, cardiac problems, epilepsy, exercise-induced collapse, various eye problems, gastric dilatation volvulus (bloat), glycogen storage disease (GSD), and hip dysplasia​


In summary, the Curly-Coated Retriever is a breed of elegance and versatility. Its unique appearance, coupled with its intelligent, loyal, and affectionate nature, makes it a beloved companion for families and hunters alike. The breed’s physical attributes and aptitude for various activities render it a standout among retrievers, embodying both the beauty and utility desired in a sporting dog.