(The American Kennel Clubs Standard and Description)

General Appearance

This smartly upstanding, multi-purpose
hunting retriever is recognized by most
canine historians as one of the oldest of
the retrieving breeds. Developed in
England, the Curly was long a favorite of
English gamekeepers. Prized for innate
field ability, courage and indomitable
perseverance, a correctly built and
tempered Curly will work as long as
there is work to be done, retrieving both
fur and feather in the heaviest of cover
and the iciest of waters. To work all day a Curly must be balanced and
sound, strong and robust, and quick and agile. Outline, carriage and
attitude all combine for a grace and elegance somewhat uncommon
among the other retriever breeds, providing the unique, upstanding quality
desired in the breed. In outline, the Curly is moderately angulated front
and rear and, when comparing height to length, gives the impression of
being higher on leg than the other retriever breeds. In carriage, the Curly
is an erect, alert, self-confident dog. In motion, all parts blend into a
smooth, powerful, harmonious symmetry. The coat, a hallmark of the
breed, is of great importance for all curlies, whether companion, hunting
or show dogs. The perfect coat is a dense mass of small, tight, distinct,
crisp curls. The Curly is wickedly smart and highly trainable and, as
such, is cherished as much for his role as loyal companion at home as
he is in the field.

Size, Proportion, Substance

Ideal height at withers: dogs, 25 to 27 inches; bitches, 23 to 25 inches. A
clearly superior Curly falling outside of this range should not be penalized
because of size. The body proportions are slightly off square, meaning
that the dog is slightly longer from prosternum to buttocks as he is from
withers to ground. The Curly is both sturdy and elegant. The degree of
substance is sufficient to ensure strength and endurance without
sacrificing grace. Bone and substance are neither spindly nor massive
and should be in proportion with weight and height and balanced


The head is a longer-than-wide wedge, readily distinguishable from that of
all other retriever breeds, and of a size in balance with the body. Length of
foreface is equal, or nearly equal, to length of backskull and, when viewed
in profile, the planes are parallel. The stop is shallow and sloping. At the
point of joining, the width of foreface may be slightly less than the width of
the backskull but blending of the two should be smooth. The head has a
nearly straight, continuous taper to the nose and is clean cut, not coarse,
blocky or cheeky. Expression--Intelligent and alert.
Eyes--Almond-shaped, rather large but not too prominent. Black or brown
in black dogs and brown or amber in liver dogs. Harsh yellow eyes and
loose haws are undesirable. Ears-- Rather small, set on a line slightly
above the corner of the eye, and lying close to the head. Backskull--Flat
or nearly flat. Foreface--Muzzle is wedge-shaped with no hint of
snipiness. The taper ends mildly, neither acutely pointed nor bluntly
squared-off but rather slightly rounding at the bottom. Mouth is level and
never wry. Jaws are long and strong. A scissors bite is preferred. Teeth
set straight and even. The lips are tight and clean, not pendulous. The
nose is fully pigmented; black on black dogs, brown on liver dogs.
Nostrils are large.

Neck, Topline, Body

Neck--Strong and slightly arched, of medium length, free from throatiness
and flowing freely into moderately laid-back shoulders. Backline--The
back, that portion of the body from the rear point of the withers to the
beginning of the loin, is strong and level. The loin, that part of the body
extending from the end of the rib cage to the start of the pelvis, is short
and muscular. The croup, that portion of the body from the start of the
pelvis to the tail set-on, is only slightly sloping. Body-- Chest is decidedly
deep and not too wide, oval in cross-section, with brisket reaching elbow.
While the impression of the chest should be of depth not width, the chest
is not pinched or narrow. The ribs are well-sprung, neither barrel-shaped
nor slab-sided, and extend well back into a deep, powerful loin with a
moderate tuck-up of flank. Tail--Carried straight or fairly straight, never
docked, and reaching approximately to the hock. Never curled over the
back and should not be kinked or crooked. Covered with curls and, if
trimmed, tapering toward the point.


Shoulder blades are very long, well covered with muscle, and are
moderately laid back at about a 55 degree angle. The width between
shoulder blades is adequate to allow enough flexibility to easily retrieve
game. Upper arm bones are about equal in length with shoulder blades
and laid back at approximately the same angle as the blades, meaning
the forelegs are set under the withers. The equal length of shoulder blade
and upper arm bone and the balanced angulation between the two allows
for good extension of the front legs. The forelegs are straight with strong,
true pasterns. Feet are round and compact, with well-arched toes and
thick pads. Front dewclaws are generally removed.


Strong and in balance with front angulation. Thighs are powerful with
muscling carrying well down into the second thigh. Stifle is of moderate
bend. The hocks are strong and true, turning neither in nor out, with hock
joint well let down. Rear dewclaws are generally removed.


The coat is a distinguishing characteristic and quite different from that of
any other breed. The body coat is a thick mass of small, tight, crisp
curls, lying close to the skin, resilient, water resistant, and of sufficient
density to provide protection against weather, water and punishing cover.
Curls also extend up the entire neck to the occiput, down the thigh and
back leg to at least the hock, and over the entire tail. Elsewhere, the coat
is short, smooth and straight, including on the forehead, face, front of
forelegs, and feet. A patch of uncurled hair behind the withers or bald
patches anywhere on the body, including bald strips down the back of the
legs or a triangular bald patch on the throat, should be severely penalized.
A looser, more open curl is acceptable on the ears. Sparse, silky, fuzzy
or very harsh, dry or brittle hair is a fault. Trimming--Feathering may be
trimmed from the ears, belly, backs of forelegs, thighs, pasterns, hocks,
and feet. On the tail, feathering should be removed. Short trimming of the
coat on the ear is permitted but shearing of the body coat is undesirable.


Black or liver. Either color is correct. A prominent white patch is
undesirable but a few white hairs are allowable in an otherwise good dog.


The dual function of the Curly as both waterfowl retriever and upland game
hunter demands a dog who moves with strength and power yet is quick
and agile. The ground-covering stride is a well-coordinated melding of
grace and power, neither mincing nor lumbering. The seemingly effortless
trot is efficient and balanced front to rear. When viewed from the side, the
reach in front and rear is free-flowing, not stilted or hackneyed. When
viewed from the front or rear, movement is true: the front legs turn neither
in nor out and the rear legs do not cross. Well-developed, muscular thighs
and strong hocks do their full share of work, contributing to rear thrust and
drive. The extension in front is strong and smooth and in balance with rear
action. Balance in structure translates to balance in movement and is of
great importance to ensure soundness and endurance; extremes of
angulation and gait are not desirable.


Self-confident, steadfast and proud, this active, intelligent dog is a
charming and gentle family companion and a determined, durable hunter.
The Curly is alert, biddable and responsive to family and friends, whether
at home or in the field. Of independent nature and discerning intelligence,
a Curly sometimes appears aloof or self-willed, and, as such, is often less
demonstrative, particularly toward strangers, than the other retriever
breeds. The Curly's independence and poise should not be confused with
shyness or a lack of willingness to please. In the show ring, a
correctly-tempered Curly will steadily stand his ground, submit easily to
examination, and might or might not wag his tail when doing so. In the
field, the Curly is eager, persistent and inherently courageous. At home,
he is calm and affectionate. Shyness is a fault and any dog who shies
away from show ring examination should be penalized. Minor allowances
can be made for puppies who misbehave in the show ring due to
overexuberance or lack of training or experience.

Approved October 12, 1993
Effective November 30, 1993

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