Curly Coated Retriever

Reviewed by: BD Editors

A brown adult curly coated retriever on grass
A Curly Coated Retriever

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Family Canidae
Genus Canis
Species Canis lupus
Subspecies Canis lupus familiaris
Height 23 – 27 inches (58.4 – 68.6 cm)
Weight 65 – 80 lbs (29 to 36 kg)
Lifespan 10 – 12 years
Social Structure Domesticated, sporting dogs
Status Least concern
Natural Habitat Domesticated, hunting dog
Average Litter Size Varies
Main food item Dog food
Potential predators Few predators

The Basics

The curly coated retriever is one of the oldest retriever breeds. It was first shown in England in 1860. It is a fearless gun dog that was bred to retrieve game – mostly ducks and quail – both on land and from the water. This breed was popular amongst English gamekeepers, hunters, and poachers for its retrieving abilities. Today is it still used as a working dog but is also found competing in dog sports, such as agility, as well as working as therapy dogs. These retrievers have also been used in search and rescue missions.

As the name suggests, this dog has a curly coat that provides protection from its environment, allowing it to carry out its work effectively. These retrievers are either black or liver-colored, with a long head and ears that are set rather low. Curly coated retrievers are moderate shedders.

The curly coated retriever is a big, durable gun dog that is muscular and agile and it comes across as more elegant than the other retriever breeds, which includes labradors and golden retrievers. It is the largest of the six retriever breeds. This dog is highly intelligent and easy to train, although some can be stubborn. They require consistent training to ensure that they don’t become bored and unruly. Potential owners should also be aware that this dog is slower to mature than other breeds, which means that the puppy stage can last longer.

Like other retrievers, the curly coated retriever is loyal, affectionate, and playful. This breed is slightly more independent than some of the other retriever breeds and therefore not as needy. Unlike other retrievers who are quick to make friends, these dogs are warier of strangers which can make them more suited to guarding than other retrievers. They are high energy and require lots of outdoor exercises as a bored curly coated retriever can be a bit of a handful.

Four curly coated retriever puppies
Curly Coated Retriever puppies.

Fun Facts about the Curly Coated Retriever!

The curly coated retriever is one of six retriever breeds that have been bred as hunting companions. While it is lesser known than some of its relatives, this retriever is a great hunting companion and has several biological adaptations that make it suited for life in the great outdoors. Let’s take a closer look!

Single, curly coat

Curly coated retrievers are known for their curly coat which is unique among the retriever breeds. Ths dog has a single coat made up of small, dense curls that lie close to the skin and protect it from brambles and any other rough vegetation that it may encounter when retrieving game. These tight curls are also waterproof, providing protection from icy water and wet weather. The fur around the head and ears is often wavy or straight. These dogs will sometimes have longer fringes of hair around their belly, ears, thighs, and back of the forelegs which is often trimmed. Curly coated retrievers do not need regular grooming and bathing, making it lower maintenance than other retriever breeds.

Black curly coated retriever face
Curly coated retrievers have a single coat that is made up of tight curls except on their face where the hair is straighter.

Soft Mouth

Curly coated retrievers are renowned for their soft mouth which is one of the characteristics that make them exceptional hunting companions. A soft mouth, or bite inhibition, refers to a behavior in carnivorans where the animal learns to control the strength of its bite. This is an important characteristic in dogs that are retrieving game as a hard bite can result in bite makes left in the birds. A soft mouth ensures that the bird is retrieved undamaged and not half-chewed which would make it inedible. Many retrievers naturally have a soft mouth but those that grip too hard can be trained to loosen their grip through dedicated training.

While some people think that you can train a dog to reduce its bite and be soft-mouthed, some breeds are naturally more soft-mouthed and preferred by hunters. This includes all the retriever breeds as well as cocker spaniels and the Gordon setter.

A curly coated retriever in a hunting harness sat next to its owner who is holding a bird
Curly Coated Retrievers make great hunting companions.

Purebred since the 1900s

The curly coated retriever originated in the United Kingdom and written records of its existence date back to the early 1800s. However, this dog has only been purebred since the early 1900s, so exact records of its lineage do not exist. Although its exact ancestry is unknown, it is thought that it could have been bred from crosses of the old English water dog, Irish water spaniel, and a small Newfoundland. It is possible that it also has some poodle ancestry.

The population of the curly coated retriever has fluctuated over the years and was greatly impacted by both world wars which resulted in a decrease in its numbers. While the curly coated retriever used to be popular among hunters and gamekeepers, today the labrador retriever and golden retriever are more popular which means the number of curly coated retrievers has become limited.

Cite This Article

MLAAPAChicago Editors. "Curly Coated Retriever." Biology Dictionary,, 17 Sep. 2020, Editors. (2020, September 17). Curly Coated Retriever. Retrieved from Editors. "Curly Coated Retriever." Biology Dictionary., September 17, 2020.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter