Curly History

A little about the Club

The Club history can be dated back to 1890. When although the “Curly” was a popular dog in the gundog community, it was losing its popularity, so the club was formed with the object of furthering its interest. Our first recorded Secretary was
G.W. Mason (Gomersal) in 1899 and by 1912 the club had £33.19s in the bank, and the Secretary was A.R. Fish (Penwortham) The Clubs activities are a little vague, as details of the meetings, were they were held, what was decided, are difficult to find out. Apart from who was the secretary at the time.

So to more modern times

We used to hold the AGM’s at Crufts when it was in London. We were only allotted a certain time (so much per hour) and problems always arose because the meeting before us invariably over-ran and then before we could finish people were walking into the room from the next society. Our next move for the AGM was to Manchester in Belle Vue. Tommy Spooner was on Manchester committee and they provided us with a very nice room and often free tea and biscuits which was like heaven after the Crufts sessions. Committee meetings were held round the benches at “suitable” shows. This was really quite chaotic as you can imagine, with people wanting to prepare dogs if it was before judging or leave if it was afterwards. Really from the sublime to the ridiculous, when committee meetings next moved to Committee peoples homes. It made it much fairer in one sense as everyone had a turn at the “long distance” Somerset, Sheffield, Wales and those in between. People often became too comfortable and length of meetings increased. Our last destination is Featherstone, a comfortable , warm room, where we take a working lunch. Where we go from here remains to be seen.
Audrey Nichols

Today, with the development of ICT Communications, the Committee Meetings are held over Zoom, meaning everyone gets to attend from their own home. This is much more convenient for everyone. The AGMs are held in conjunction with the Spring Open Show, usually in February each year.

Curly Coated Retrievers history and development

Their ancestry is unknown. This is because in the very early days, dogs had their purpose, such as retrieving, and various cross mating would have taken place to produce the best dog for a particular purpose. There would be several dogs around in those early years that were used for retrieving that are now extinct The Large Rough Water dog, Tweed Water Spaniel, Lesser Newfoundland, to name a few together with a few that remain, the Irish Water Spaniel, and dogs from the Continent, the Wetterhound, Barbett, and Poodle.

The curly was first exhibited in the show-ring in 1860, and four years later there were separate classes for the wavy coated and curly coated varieties. They were very popular during those early years and were on many of the large estates, however the war years and the introduction of the Labrador were to greatly reduce their popularity. Their fortunes have ebbed and flowed throughout the years with registrations as low as 5 in 1919 to the record of 168 in 1994.


Curlies are intelligent and very smart. They are easily trained but you need to work round their streak of independence. They become bored quite easily so any training needs to be done in the guise of a game. Certainly early socialization is a must, giving him as many different situations as is possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q, Is it a labradoodle or a poodle cross?
A, This may well have happened in the 18th Century but they have been pure bred from the early 1900’s.

Q, Do they moult?
A, Yes they do. Usually a male will shed his coat once and year and females twice annually (to tie in with their seasons) Some curlies shed very little whilst others have a complete moult.

Q, What colours are there?
A, There are just two colours, black and a dark brown which is called liver.

Q, Are they good with children?
A, Most curlies are very good with children. Of course children must be supervised and taught that a dog has feelings and must be treated correctly and with care.

Q, What should I ask a breeder for when buying a puppy?
A, You should ask about the parent’s health. They should have been x-rayed for hip dysplasia and have a certificate from the K.C./B.V.A. Ask about the breeds average score. They should have ideally been eye examined and have a certificate to show this. It is also recommended that both parents are health tested for EIC, GSD, and PRA. Ask about the age of the bitch and how many litters she has produced (no bitch should be bred from before the age of two years. Ask if the breeder is a member of the parent Club. The breeder should also furnish you with the name and address of the Club’s Secretary; the clubs Rescue co-ordinators details should also be given. Contact the Puppy co-ordinator for information on other litters that may be available.

The following are a couple of articles on the history of the Curly Coated Retriever.

Written accounts of similar dogs date back to 1803. The Curly is likely to have been the first breed used for serious retrieving work in England. He was shown for the first time in 1860. A breed club was founded in 1896, and the standard was established in 1913. In the mid-nineteenth century in England, he was more popular as a pet than as a hunting dog. Today, the breed is very limited in number except in a few countries, including New Zealand. There were no records of breeding kept before the late 1800’s, the Kennel Club then began to keep records, and we can see the development of the breed from these records. The First World War saw a dramatic drop in the curly population, mostly because of the lack of food. A few people, however, helped to keep the breed alive even in those very rough times. In the 1930s, we see the beginnings of the modern kennel prefixes but again England was thrust into another war. Dogs were shipped to potentially safe places to await the end of the war, yet the breed almost died out for the second time in 30 years. In the 1940s, there was a resurgence of breeding stock, with the breeding of dogs that were to become the beginning of the present-day pedigrees During the 1950’s and 60’s there was some very active breeding being done, and the number of Curlies in England grew. We began to see the exporting of Curlies to Australia, Scandinavia, and the USA. In 1951, under the Chairmanship of Frank Till, the club was reformed to become the club we recognise today. It held its first open show on 23 September 1979 attracting 73 dogs making a total 136 entries. In 1984 the Kennel Club gave its blessing for the club to hold a championship show and the first was held on 25 August 1984 attracting 70 dogs making a total entry of 130. Last year (2005) saw the club host its first Limit Show attracting a total of 46 dogs, a limited obedience test was held in conjunction with this show. The growth of the breed continued into the ’70s and ’80s with some well-known prefixes coming to the front. Ch. Darelyn Rifleman began his historic show career in the early 1980’s, with best in show wins against dog entries of 16,315 and 23,627 at England’s biggest shows. He became an important producer and his offspring are in many pedigrees throughout England, Europe, and Australia today. Many breeders, using these early pedigrees, have developed the modern curly and have influenced the development of the breed worldwide.

General Information

General Appearance: This smartly upstanding, multi-purpose hunting retriever is recognized by most canine historians as one of the oldest of the retrieving breeds. Developed in England, the Curly was long a favorite of English gamekeepers. Prized for innate field ability, courage and indomitable perseverance, a correctly built and tempered Curly will work as long as there is work to be done, retrieving both fur and feather in the heaviest of cover and the iciest of waters. To work all day a Curly must be balanced and sound, strong and robust, and quick and agile. Outline, carriage and attitude all combine for a grace and elegance somewhat uncommon among the other retriever breeds, providing the unique, upstanding quality desired in the breed. In outline, the Curly is moderately angulated front and rear and, when comparing height to length, gives the impression of being higher on leg than the other retriever breeds. In carriage, the Curly is an erect, alert, self-confident dog. In motion, all parts blend into a smooth, powerful, harmonious symmetry. The coat, a hallmark of the breed, is of great importance for all curlies, whether companion, hunting or show dogs. The perfect coat is a dense mass of small, tight, distinct, crisp curls. The Curly is wickedly smart and highly trainable and, as such, is cherished as much for his role as loyal companion at home as he is in the field. The curly is an active dog, with a great sense of fun. They are well balanced and slightly longer than tall. They are also distinguished from all the other retrievers both in temperament, being slightly more aloof with strangers, although a protective and loyal family dog, to their distinctive tightly curled, dull coat, which is impenetrable to water. The face and front of legs remains straight haired. They are the tallest of the retrievers ideally being 27” for a male and 25” for a female. They are slow to mature and this needs to be taken into account when any training is given. They are highly intelligent dogs and their brains need to be used to the full. Although their coat is so distinctive it is virtually trouble free, no daily/ weekly brushing or combing is required (although this can be helpful when they do moult) Damp the coat down once a week, massaging it with the fingers and patting flat is all that is required.


Self-confident, steadfast and proud, this active, intelligent dog is a charming and gentle family companion and a determined, durable hunter. The Curly is alert, biddable and responsive to family and friends, whether at home or in the field. Of independent nature and discerning intelligence, a Curly sometimes appears aloof or self-willed, and, as such, is often less demonstrative, particularly toward strangers, than the other retriever breeds. The Curly’s independence and poise should not be confused with shyness or a lack of willingness to please. In the show ring, a correctly-tempered Curly will steadily stand his ground, submit easily to examination, and might or might not wag his tail when doing so. In the field, the Curly is eager, persistent and inherently courageous. At home, he is calm and affectionate. Shyness is a fault and any dog who shies away from show ring examination should be penalized. Minor allowances can be made for puppies who misbehave in the show ring due to overexuberance or lack of training or experience.