The Curly-Coated Retriever is one of the oldest retriever breeds, with origins traced back to the early 19th century in England. They were initially developed for hunting waterfowl and upland game, capitalizing on their exceptional swimming ability and soft mouth. These dogs were designed to be hard-working and diligent, allowing them to retrieve game in the harshest weather and roughest waters. In the 1880s, Curlies and Poodles were bred to create a tighter, low-shedding curly coat in the Curly-Coated Retriever, which is waterproof and thorn-resistant to help in thick bramble and cold waters. By the late 19th century, the Curly was exported as far as Australia and new Zealand.
Curly-Coated Retrievers can suffer from cataracts, color dilution alopecia, distichiasis, elbow dysplasia, entropion, exercise-induced collapse, follicular dysplasia, glycogen storage disease IIIa, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, optic nerve colobomas, patellar luxation, persistent pupillary membranes, progressive retinal atrophy, progressive retinal atrophy (crd4/cord1), subaortic stenosis, and vitreous degeneration. Genetic testing is recommended, including for the following additional conditions: hyperuricosoria, degenerative myelopathy, and progressive rod-cone degeneration. As a deep-chested breed, Curly-Coated Retrievers are also susceptible to bloat, also known as gastric dilation volvulus (GDV). This is a life-threatening condition that can come on suddenly, so it’s important to know the warning signs and get an affected dog immediate veterinary care.
Curlies are known to be intelligent, trainable, and loyal dogs. They are typically more reserved than other retrievers, but still very friendly. They are usually calm indoors but outdoors, their natural retrieving instincts kick in, and they love to run, swim, and retrieve. They can be aloof with strangers but are generally good with children and other pets. Curlies typically mature more slowly in comparison to some other breeds, both physically and emotionally. They often maintain a playful, 'puppy-like' demeanor well into their older years.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) states that Curlies are among the oldest of the retriever breeds.
The English Water Spaniel and the Retrieving Setter are two extinct dog breeds that are believed to be the first ancestors of the Curly. It is possible that that Curly is also descended from the Irish Water Spaniel.