The Curly Coated Retriever is the oldest of the English Retrievers. It partly originates, like all Retrievers, from the St. Johns dog, and also from the Tweed Water Spaniel. The Curly was first exhibited as a showdog in 1860, before, in 1864, the Kennel Club split the retrievers into the Retrievers-curly coated and Retrievers-wavy coated classes.The Curly has always been the “blue-collar” retriever, especially in its native home of England, where a Curly was more often owned by a gamekeeper or poacher than an aristocrat. Both gamekeepers and poachers needed reliable retrieving dogs, which under all circumstances could perform heavy work, and insisting that all day. They used to work alone, unlike other Retrievers. Besides, also unlike most Retrievers, except of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, the Curly Coated Retriever is quite vigilant and less approachable towards strangers. Curly´s are strong dogs, not so very fast, but with impressive perseverance. The Curly was bred for the so-called ´rough shooting´. It was expected that he could independently locate and retrieve shot game. They were very popular during the early years and were on many of the large estates. The war years however and the introduction of the Labrador were factors that reduced enormously their popularity. In 1919 there were only 5 registrations left.
These days, the Curly Coat is the tallest of all Retrievers. However, look at the picture above. It´s from 1897. And compare this picture with this next photograph. This is a picture from CH ‘Snapehill Benjamin’ (1938). This latter Curly resembles the modern ones. The former seems to be quite a bit smaller. Is that a coïncidence or is it more than that? Could it be that the Curly has been bred purposefully in order to become taller?
But consider, finally, this picture of Mr. Darbey’s Champion Tiverton Beauty II here below. Mr. Samuël Darbey owned the Tiverton kennel, the most famous kennel around the turn of the age. It seems nearly as big as Ch. Snapehill Benjamin. Nearly, not quite. So, I’m still inclined to believe that the Curly’s have become slightly taller in the pre-WOII years. Do you agree?