Posts Tagged ‘curly coated retriever’


Most sources list the Tweed water spaniel or Tweed water dog as a breed strongly resembling a small liver or yellow curly-coated retriever.

In the late nineteenth century, the flat-coated retriever expert Stanley O’Neil encountered some of the Tweeds helping salmon fishermen with their nets on the Northumberland coast:

Further up the coast, probably Alnmouth, I saw men netting for salmon. With them was a dog with a wavy or curly coat. It was a tawny colour but, wet and spumy, it was difficult to see the exact colour, or how much was due to bleach and salt. Whilst my elders discussed the fishing I asked these Northumberland salmon net men whether their dog was a Water-Dog or a Curly, airing my knowledge. They told me he was a Tweed Water Spaniel. This was a new one on me. I had a nasty suspicion my leg was being pulled. This dog looked like a brown Water Dog to me, certainly retrieverish, and not at all spanielly. I asked if he came from a trawler, and was told it came from Berwick.

The dogs were water spaniel/Newfoundland (“St. John’s water dog) crosses, which were essentially a regional variant of the curly-coated retriever.


Read Full Post »

This is a South Carolina golden retriever:

You very rarely see one that is this curly.

There are actually two sources for this type of coat in golden retriever. One is the Tweed water dog or Tweed water spaniel, which was sort of a regional type of “unrefined” curly-coated retriever that was endemic to the Scottish Borders and Northumberland.

The other is the actual refined show curly, and at least one of the breed’s very prolific sires had a well-known show curly ancestor.

This golden retriever is probably the closest thing we’ll ever see of a modern-day Tweed water dog.

This dog even has the “conical”  head shape that early writes mentioned the breed having.

Read Full Post »

Painting by Richard Ansdell:

(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Before retrievers began to be categorized into breeds, there were dogs like this one.

This dog shows characteristics of St. John’s water dogs and water spaniels.

It’s a sort of rougher version of the curly-coated retriever, though this dog may have been bred into strains that gave rise to either the standardized wavy-coated retriever or curly-coated retriever.

It’s rougher sort of dog because in those days there were no purebred retrievers. Retriever was just a job description, and lots of different dogs did the job.

It was just that shooting sportsman of the middle part of the nineteenth century began to desire dogs of Newfoundland (St. John’s water dog) extraction.

My reading of what the “Tweed water spaniel” that is mentioned in the golden retriever pedigrees is that this dog was very much like the dog in this painting.

The only difference was that it was yellow or liver in color.

Tweeds were often mistaken for curly-coated retrievers, and perhaps the best way to understand what they were was that were a sort of rough form of curly-coated retriever that just happened to occasionally come in yellow.

For this reason, I’m some what leery of calling this dog a water spaniel.

It was more of what we’d think of as a retriever than a water spaniel.


Read Full Post »


The above image is of “Sambo,”  an early curly-coated retriever that belonged to Henry Coleman Folkard,

This image appears in Folkard’s The Wild-Fowler: A Treatise on Ancient and Modern Wild-Fowling, Historical and Practical (1864).

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “wild-fowling” is an English term for what Americans call “duck hunting.”

Folkard claimed that the curly-coated retriever was much more suited for retrieving shot ducks than the large Newfoundland, which was too large for the duck blind and had a tendency to collect too much dirt and mud.

The curly-coated retriever was just a cross between some kind of Newfoundland, especially the St. John’s type, and some sort of water spaniel.

There were plenty of curlies of this sort throughout the British Isles, but it eventually became a rather clearly defined breed really early on.

“Sambo” is a politically incorrect name for people of mixed African ancestry. Because this retriever was black and white- and was more black than white– the name would have made sense.

But it’s out of this variable roughly bred retriever stock that all our refined breeds of retriever breeds were developed.

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

This image comes from the 1930’s, and it shows that the curly-coated retriever was about the same size as a golden retriever.

Today, they have the highest maximum height at the withers and are normally quite a bit larger than goldens, flat-coats, and Labradors.

Read Full Post »

From Practical Kennel Management (1877):

There are three different breeds usually named: 1, the Black Flat-coated Retriever; 2, the Black Curly Retriever; and 3, the Red Retriever.

1. The Black Flat-coated Retriever. — Head: a good long head, with a capacious mouth and good teeth; eye large, bright, and extremely intelligent; ears not too large, low-placed, and set to the head, short feather on upper part, and bare towards the tips; nose ought to be large, showing great development of nasal sinuses; shoulders deep and obliquely placed; loins and back, wide and strong; thighs strong and muscular; limbs as strong as a lion’s, and straight as an arrow; feet round and compact, and toes well arched. The head should appear almost human, in its amount of sagaciousness and character. The head is covered with fine, very short hair. Colour a raven black; coat very thick and warm, very straight and glossy—satiny, in fact; stern well feathered, and carried straight. These dogs in disposition appear timid, but they are very courageous in a fight.

2. The Black Curly Retriever.—In general formation, both this dog and the Red Retriever ought to be the same; but his coat is one mass of short, multitudinous, crisp curls. There ought to be no feather on the legs below the hocks, and no flag on the tail— nothing but the short, crisp, curls from the occiput to the point of the tail. The curly-coated dog is more leggy than the flat-coated. This breed is apt to be harder in the mouth, and not so easily taught.

3. The Red Retriever.—Same points as last, and the same sort of coat, only the colour is a liver-red. There is also a breed of White Curly Retrievers coming into fashion. The size I like in a Retriever is about 25 in. at the shoulder.

The description of the flat-coated retriever is fairly typical for texts of the time period. The only unusual part of the description of them being great fighters. This breed is predominant ancestor of the modern flat-coat and golden retrievers. Having seen a tiff between a female golden retriever and her half boxer daughter, I can say that the golden wasn’t really the best at canine combat. They are lovers, not fighters.

But the description of the curly-coated retriever is of much greater interest.

The implication that the liver curly was an entirely separate variety that was on the same “taxonomic level” as the split between flat-coats and curly-coats of the day is also of interest. This suggests that there was a move to make the liver curly a separate breed or that it originated from different water spaniel and St. John’s water dog crosses.

Or it may have been nothing more than the curly-coated retriever fanciers preferred the black dogs over any other color, and those who wanted to show the odd liver had to create their own variety.

Being raised to the variety status could have led to a breed split, as it did with the yellow flat-coat variety in the first decade of the twentieth century.  That variety of yellow flat-coat is now called the golden retriever.

It would be interesting to figure out why the “red retriever” never became a distinct breed. Perhaps it may have something to do with the fashion of breeding liver curlies to black ones to reduce “dinginess” in the coats of the black dogs.

But I’m sure the most interesting discussion is of the “white” curly-coated retriever strain. My guess is that these “whites” were actually pale yellows, for the yellow coloration has popped up in virtually every breed of retriever at one point. And two breeds of retriever have only yellows– the golden and the Nova Scotia duck-toller.

The yellow color likely was a recessive that sometimes popped up  in the St. John’s water dog, but with the British retrievers, another source for the yellow color could be the Tweed water spaniel or Tweed water dog.

I would love to see a depiction of  a white or yellow curly. These dogs must not have been too numerous, for they have entirely disappeared from the curly-coated retriever bloodlines.

Read Full Post »

From Country Life Illustrated (16 November 1901).

Read Full Post »

Check out the  entry for the curly-coated retriever The AKC’s Complete Dog Book (the latest edition).

The entry on the flat-coat, which follows this one, is also quite good.

These entries are written by the parent breed clubs, and many of them are quite Pravda-esque– “XX is the smartest dog ever. It is also one of the most ancient.”  But these two, at least, are pretty level-headed.

Neither of these conflate the old “Labrador” dog (St. John’s water dog) with the modern Labrador retriever.

The modern Labrador retriever is a British breed; the St. John’s water dog is the ancestral breed from Newfoundland.

Labrador retrievers are not Canadian. They are as Canadian as the other three breeds of British retriever that derive from this dog.

Read Full Post »

This curly-coated retriever belonged to Mason Mitchell, the American Consul for Samoa. (American Samoa is still a possession of the US).

The dog was sent to Mitchell from Auckland, New Zealand. Mitchell then passed to dog onto the Ithaca Gun Company in New York State.

Curly-coated retrievers have always had a very strong following in Australia and New Zealand.

This image comes from Hunter-Trader-Trapper (September 1918). And yes, I am aware of this dog’s name.  It’s the same name as the Dambuster’s Labrador. We wouldn’t use it today, but at the time it was appropriate. Some descriptions of curly-coated retrievers mention the  “n*&)er curl.”

So it makes sense that this dog would have that name.

We just wouldn’t use it today, because it’s such an offensive word.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: