Retrievers are among the coolest dogs on the planet. Inclined to retrieve almost anything, their versatility seems to have few limits; they can be found detecting bombs, romping with kids, and hunting in woodlands or lakes. They sniff out drugs, lead the blind, and search for life in the rubble of a natural disaster. Retrievers do seem to be able to do it all.
That said, only two AKC retrievers have names defined by their hair shape (or follicles, to be technically accurate), the Flat-Coated Retriever, and the Curly-Coated Retriever, virtual opposites in the coat department, but interestingly, thought by some to both be descendents of the English Water Spaniel.
An ideal coat in the Flat-Coat is straight and lays flat. Any waviness should be slight in order to be permissible, but most assuredly, the coat is not wooly, short, silky or fluffy, and it’s definitely not curly.
Enter the Curly-Coated Retriever. His coat is supposed to be (wait for it) – curly, and not just curly (small c) but Curly (capital C), a thick mass of small, tight, crisp curls.
Not all curls are created equal. One dog might have tight crisp curls, another may have large soft open curls, and a third might be growing curls on the small and silky side. Some dogs have better coats as puppies, some dogs take an eternity to grow coat, and some never do get a correct coat.
And then there is the matter of undercoat. There isn’t any. Without an undercoat, the breed looks (how to say this….) not as good when they “drop coat” as they do otherwise. Most Curlies aren’t shown at a dog show until the coat grows back, and how owners handle this varies from owner to owner: Some take to clippers to even out the coat, others just comb out the dead hair and wait. Some do nothing at all and bide their time. Pity the breeder whose bitch goes bald after a litter of puppies!
And as far as we can tell, patience isn’t just a virtue in this breed, it’s a necessity. Most Curlies are in possession of their grown-up coat by the age of two, but other dogs can fall on either side of that age when getting their adult coats. If all goes well, what a magnificent coat the Curly has! A riot of crips, tight curls that the worst kinds of weed fail to penetrate. Resilient, water resistant, and protective, the curls go all the way up the neck to the dog’s occiput, down the thigh and back leg to at least the hock, and over the entire tail. The coat on the face, front of the legs and feet is smooth, and curls start at the top of the skull and form either a “V” shape or a curved shape called a “bonnet.”
Some people have likened the Curly’s coat to Astrakhan, the tightly curled fleece of a newborn karakul lamb (or fabric that imitates Astrakhan’s looped surface). It can be downright pricey when it’s a garment or hat. The Astrakhan Karakul Lamb cap below was marked down from $450 $225, and you can buy it here.
Author, David Hancock, has opined that if the astrakhan coat isn’t there neither is the Curly-Coated Retriever. He adds that the distinction is reinforced by the fact that the Curly is the tallest retriever with a silhouette all his own.
What say you, Curly owners?