The Breed History
The Curly-coated retriever is thought to be derived from Retrieving Setter and English Water Spaniel stock, the St. John's Newfoundland, and perhaps also the Poodle and Irish Water Spaniel. "Curlys" are one of the earliest known breeds of the retriever group, and early breed development occurred in Britain. The breed type was considered set by about 1850. During the two World Wars, and up until the 1960s the breed was close to extinction. The first breed specimens likely arrived in America in 1907. This is still a rare breed.
Breeding for Function
These dual-purpose dogs were particularly effective soft-mouth waterfowl retrievers used for duck, quail and other fowl. The coat was carefully bred for, so that they could withstand cold water hunting and heavy underbrush.
Height at Withers: female 23-25" (58.5-63.5 cm), male 25-27" (63.5-68.5 cm).
Weight: 70-80 lb (32-36 kg).
Coat: The distinctive curly dense coat is made up of an outer coat with discrete short tight curls, though straight shorter hair is found on the face, feet and the pinna hair covering is intermediate in curl. Accepted coat colors are black and liver. Very small white patches are allowed. Black is dominant, liver is recessive in inheritance. Rare yellows occur but are not an accepted breed color. Has low grooming needs except during shedding times; the coat does not need trimming. Some breeders rarely or never brush these dogs but just periodically bathe them.
Longevity: 10-13 years
Points of Conformation: High head carriage, a distinct, tightly curled water-resistant coat, slightly longer than tall conformation characterize the Curly-coated Retriever. They possess moderate muscling and bone. The wedge-shaped head is more narrow, refined, with the muzzle tapering more than with the other retrievers. The stop is shallow, and the almond shaped eyes are black, brown or amber. The large nose is black or brown. The small ears are folded and close lying, with heavy leather. The neck is moderate in length, and not throaty. The topline is level, with a slight slope downward at the croup. The thorax is deep and moderately sprung ribs stay full towards the rear of the rib cage. The abdomen is moderately tucked up. The tail is straight, thick, tapering and reaches to the tarsus. Limbs are straight boned, and the feet are round with well-knuckled toes. Metacarpals and metatarsals are short. The dewclaws on the forelimb are often removed, and the ones on the hind limbs are usually removed. The dog moves with a long stride, with agility, speed and smoothness.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Willing to please, calm and affectionate, hardy, high trainability, a good guard dog. He is noted to persevere in the field during a hunt. A Curly may be somewhat aloof with strangers. Slow to mature, some also have an independent streak. Early socialization and obedience training is recommended. A low activity level around the home, but typically has high exercise needs. Not recommended for apartment living. The Curly-coated Retriever needs close human companionship.
Normal Physiologic Variations
The coat tends to be oily so bathing 3 or 4 times a year is recommended as a minimum.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 15.3% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 0.5% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Curly-coated Retrievers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Glycogenosis Type IIIa (Glycogen Storage Disease, GSD): An autosomal recessive inherited metabolic disorder that causes liver and skeletal muscle disease due to deficiency of the glycogen debranching enzyme (GDE) and tissue storage of abnormally structured glycogen. Clinical signs include episodic exercise intolerance, collapse, and lethargy. This disorder was discovered in an extended family of Curly-coated Retrievers (CCR), with representative cases from USA, Canada, and New Zealand. A genetic test is available and shows 0.5% affected and 8.7% carrier.
Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC, Dynamin 1 Mutation): An autosomal recessive disorder of muscle weakness, incoordination and life threatening collapse accompanied by hyperthermia after just five to fifteen minutes of intense exercise or excitement. After 10 to 30 minutes of rest, most dogs return to normal. Limited genetic testing reveals over 10% carrier Curly Coated Retrievers. A direct genetic test is available.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 7.3% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 7.64% of Curly Coated Retrievers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 3.82% of Curly Coated Retrievers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: The breed can develop anterior subcapsular striate cortical cataracts between 5-8 years of age, and posterior subcapsular cataracts at 2-4 years of age. Other forms of cataracts also occur in the breed. Identified in 3.64% of Curly Coated Retrievers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Curly Coated Retriever with a cataract.
Follicular Dysplasia (Patterned Baldness): Inherited, non-inflammatory, truncal, symmetrical, cyclic hair loss. Melatonin may allow regrowth. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Vitreous Degeneration: Liquefaction of the vitreous gel which may predispose to retinal detachment. Identified in 2.18% of Curly Coated Retrievers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (bloat, GDV): Polygenically inherited, life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate treatment. Reported at an increased frequency in the breed.
Subaortic Stenosis (SAS) and Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD): Both polygenically inherited heart disorders have been identified in families of Curly Coated Retrievers. Can lead to congestive heart failure. Diagnose with echocardiography.
Coat dilution alopecia, Corneal Dystrophy, Ectropion, Entropion, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Retinal Dysplasia, and von Willebrand's Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Mast Cell Leukemia: A seven-year-old female Curly-coated Retriever presented with acute circulatory collapse, emesis, diarrhea, abdominal enlargement, icterus, cyanosis, dyspnea, pulmonary edema, hepatomegaly, ascites, and right ventricular enlargement. Hematologic and biochemical examinations revealed mast cell leukemia, mature neutrophilia, monocytosis, thrombocytopenia, hemolytic hyperbilirubinemia, hyperhistaminemia, renal and hepatic injuries. Mast cells were distributed systemically, but predominantly in the diaphragm and liver with a large mass among the serosa of ileum, cecum and colon.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for GSD IIIa is available from the Fyfe Lab at Michigan State University http://mmg.msu.edu/faculty/ fyfe.htm (517-355-6463x1559). Direct test for presence of black and liver coat colors, and black and brown nose is available from HealthGene and VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, congenital cardiac evaluation by a cadiologist, and CERF eye examination. Optional recommended tests are; elbow radiographs, and direct GSD IIIa test. (See CHIC website; www. caninehealthinfo.org). Recommend thyroid profile, including autoantibodies, and patella evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Curly, Curly-coat Retriever.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 138 (129 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: The Curly Coated Retriever Club of America: www.ccrca.org
Curly Coated Retriever Club of Canada: www.angelfire.com/ny/curlycoat/CCRCC.html
Curly Coated Retriever Club (UK): www.curlycoatedretrieverclub.co.uk
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