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The Curly-coated Retriever








The curly-coated Retriever is commonly believed to be of earlier
origin than his flat-coated relative, and he is of less pure descent.
He probably owes ancestral tribute to the Poodle. Such a cross may
conceivably have been resorted to by the early Retriever breeders,
and there was little to lose from a merely sporting point of view
from this alien introduction, for the Poodle is well known to be by
nature, if not by systematic training, an excellent water dog, capable
of being taught anything that the canine mind can comprehend. During
the early years of the nineteenth century the Poodle was fairly
plentiful in England, and we had no other curly-coated dog of similar
size and type apart from the Irish Water Spaniel, who may himself
lay claim to Poodle relationship; while as to the Retriever, either
curly or flat coated, he can in no sense be assigned to any country
outside of Great Britain. The presumption is strong that the
gentleman from France was largely instrumental in the manufacture
of the variety, but whatever the origin of the curly-coated Retriever
he is a beautiful dog, and one is gratified to note that the old
prejudice against him, and the old indictment as to his hard mouth,
are fast giving place to praise of his intelligence and admiration
of his working abilities.

Speaking generally, it seems to be accepted that he is slightly
inferior in nose to his flat-coated cousin, and not quite so easy
to break, but there are many keepers and handlers who have discovered
in individual specimens extraordinary merit in the field combined
with great endurance. It is not certain that any great improvement
has been effected in the variety during recent years, but there are
particular dogs to-day who are decidedly better than any that existed
a dozen years or more ago, when such celebrities as True, Old Sam,
King Koffee, Ben Wonder, Doden Ben, Lad and Una, were prominent, and
there is no doubt that the curly coats attained show form in advance
of the flat-coated variety.

The coat of the curly Retriever plays a very important part in his
value and personality. There are many kinds of coat, but the only
true and proper one is the close-fitting nigger curl, of which each
knot is solid and inseparable. A coat of this quality is not capable
of improvement by any method of grooming, for the simple reason that
its natural condition is in itself perfect. The little locks should
be so close together as to be impervious to water, and all parts of
the body should be evenly covered with them, including the tail and
legs. A bad class of coat, and one which readily yields to the faker's
art, is the thin open curl which by careful manipulation can be
greatly improved. Another bad quality of coat is one in which, upon
the withers and over the loins in particular, the curls do not tighten
up naturally, but are large, loose, and soft to the feel. Regarding
the dog as a whole, the following may be taken as an all-round
description:--

* * * * *

GENERAL APPEARANCE--That of a smart, active, clean-cut and alert dog,
full of go and fire--a sportsman from stem to stern. HEAD--Long and
not weedy in the muzzle, nor thick and coarse in the skull, but
tapering down and finishing with a stout broad muzzle. SKULL--Should
be flat and moderately broad between the ears, which are rather small,
and well covered with hair. EARS--Should lie close to the side of
the head, but not dead in their carriage. FACE--The face should be
smooth, and any indication of a forelock should be penalised. EYE--The
eye should in all cases be dark and not too deeply set. NECK--Well
placed in the shoulders and nicely arched, of moderate length and
yet powerful and free from throatiness. SHOULDERS--Well laid back
and as free from massiveness as possible, though there is a decided
tendency in this variety to such a fault. LEGS--Straight and well
covered with coat. The bone should show quality and yet be fairly
abundant. FEET--Compact and hound-like. BODY--Should show great power,
with deep, well-rounded ribs. As little cut-up in the flank as
possible. TAIL--Strong at the base, set on in a line with the back
and tapering to a point, the size of the curls upon it diminishing
gradually to the end. HIND-QUARTERS--Should show great development
of muscle, with bent hocks, the lower leg being strong and the hind
feet compact. Any suspicion of cow hocks should be heavily penalised.
COLOUR--Mostly a dull black. Some liver-coloured dogs are seen with
very good coats and bodies, but their heads are generally thick and
coarse, and the colour of their eyes does not always match, as it
should do, with the colour of the coat. A few dogs of this colour
have achieved distinction on the show bench.

* * * * *





Next: The Labrador

Previous: The Retrievers



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