Posts Tagged ‘murray river curly-coated retriever’


This dog is an IWS mixed with either golden or flat-coated retriever. A liver IWS bred to a golden with black pigment will produce black puppies.

Here’s her profile at Black Retriever X Rescue.

This cross tells me that IWS are not that distinct from the other retrievers, and the old name “Irish retriever” may be a better way of understanding what they are.

Water spaniels are ancestral to retrievers, but this particular breed of water spaniel still exists. It’s the only one left in the whole of the British Isles.

Most people think all spaniels are land spaniels, but even retrievers can do spaniel work. Goldens can do the same behaviors for which English springers are known.

The line between retriever and spaniel is a bit fuzzy, although the main retrievers have “Newfoundland” ancestry that spaniels don’t have.  I read a source that said some St. John’s water dogs were cross with IWS at some point, but I haven’t been able to verify it. The extinct Tweed water spaniel was a mixture of St. John’s water dog and some kind of water spaniel. It looked more or less like a yellow or reddish curly-coated retriever with just a bit more bone.

I’m sure the Murray River curly-coated retriever folks who read this blog will be interested in looking at this dog. She resembles their dog very closely, but she’s black in color.


Also compare this dog with  the late Shuttle, the golden who used to be in  my header. Their heads have similar shapes.


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Again, this breed hasn’t been standardized, so it’s going to vary in type.

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If I were to ask you to name the retriever breeds, you would probably say the Labrador, the golden, the Chesapeake Bay, the Flat-coat, the Curly-coat, and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (the only retriever whose name has too many words in it). More thoughtful people would also add the Newfoundland (some really could be used as retrievers), the standard poodle, the barbet, and the Portuguese and Spanish Water dogs, as well as the Irish and American Water spaniels. Some might add the Boykin spaniel, which can be used as a retriever, as can field, cocker, and English and Welsh springers (although for all intents and purposes, only the working type English cocker ad springer really are widely used as gun dogs). The Wetterhoun and all of the HPR breeds on the European continent can be used as retrievers. So the list can get quite lengthy. There are still a few setters that can retrieve, although it’s not widely bred into them.

I also knew a mini dachshund that had quite strong retrieving instinct, but she was a smooth-hair and utterly useless in cold water. And dachshund legs aren’t good for swimming. 

But of the true water dogs, I have left out a breed. In fact, most of us in the Northern Hemisphere would leave it out. In fact, the curly-coated retriever that we that was developed in Britain is really uncommon, much rarer than the flat-coat, which is growing in popularity because of its similarity with the well-known golden and flat-coated retrievers. The NSDR was only recently recognized in the US, but it is developing a following. The old curly-haired dogs are so unknown that I’m sure lots people think they are goldendoodles or Labradoodles if they happen to see a curly.

But in the Land Down Under, the curly-type was a popular dog. The Labs and goldens that the Aussies get are so inferior in working ability, that they really have had to hold on to their working retrievers. Curly-coats were popular when Australia became an immigration destination for many Europeans, and the curlies have remained their working retriever. But it was their own distinct curly. In fact, the Aussies have their own line of Curly-coat that is definitely a separate breed. It is really similar to the old curly coat, which wasn’t as long in the leg as the moden dog. This dog is the Murray River Curly-coated Retriever, which along with the NSDR, has a very cumbersome name!

Here’s a video of one playing with a Labrador/British Curly cross in Australia, which is really the only place where they exist– kind of like the platypus!:

The Murray River is in the southern part of the continent. The the late nineteenth century, the people who lived along the river lived very close to nature. They needed a dog to help retrieve shot game for the table–a “meat dog.” This early type of curly fit the bill. These dogs date to the 1870’s.

By 1900, local retriever fanciers had clearly developed their own type of curly-coat, perhaps with outcrosses to flat-coats (which were the dominant retriever  at the time) and the Irish water spaniel. The resulting dogs had slightly different coat from the Curly we know in this hemisphere. The curls were not as tight, and the dogs were not extremely large. It also does not come in black, as the other curly. The only color it comes in is liver, which may be influenced because of the use of the IWS in the cross. Also, keep in mind that all early retrievers had a least some water spaniel influence.


Murray River curlies

Compare with the curly we know better:


The British curly has a strange coat like a Persian lamb’s fleece. It’s not a doodle dog. It’s a retriever that sheds– a lot. This breed has remained pure for longer than the other retrievers, simply because its coat cannot exist when it is crossbred. The short curls really cut through the water, and it would be a popular gundog, except that it has a temperament more like the old type water dogs than the Labrador. Although not as rough as the Chesapeake, it’s been known to be a bit stubbon and a occasionally aggressive. Breeders have done a lot to reduce these tendancies. Soft Maple Curlies is a kennel that is trying to change some of this, breeding dual purpose dogs (the curly, unlike the Lab and the golden, has a working conformation standard).

I’ve never actually seen a Murray River Curly.  As far as I know, they do not exist in the US. They aren’t recognized as a show breed, and they are bred very much for their working ability. Apparently, the Murray River curly is what Australians mean when they say curly-coated retriever, so it’s probable that this breed is actually more common in Australia than the British curly. I guess the British curly is becoming a museum piece.

If you would like to find out more, check out the Soft Maple Curlies site. They know more about them than I do, because I’ve got very limited experience with this breed. I’ve heard they are similar to the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, which is thought of as the most dominant of the retrievers. However, the Chesapeake has been bred for a more gentle temperament and greater biddability.

For info on the Murray River Curly, here’s a good site. Here’s another. As one would expect from performance bred dogs, the size varies in the Murray River Curly. However, the original site is wrong about the MRCCR being the smallest retriever. Even at those sizes, the NSDR is still smaller. But I wouldn’t expect Australians to have known about the NSDR, which is also a regional breed. NSDR bitches can be as small as 35 pounds. It is possible that there are some individuals of the Murray River curly are smaller than this.


Murray River duck shooters and their Murray River Curlies, circa 1900.

I want to thank the youtube user Dmentias for providing more accurate information. This breed is not yet standardized, and it is still thought of as a regional dog.  It does not appear in any of the dog breed books (it’s not in Bruce Fogle’s Encyclopedia of the Dog, but the Labradoodle is!)

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