Exploring the origins and current state of three retriever breeds from England
This episode continues our path through the origins of today’s modern retriever breeds by focusing on the Curly-coated, Flat-coated, and Golden Retrievers. All three of these breeds were developed in England and came to be known by the characteristics of their coat as opposed to a geographic name.
The least well-known of these breeds is the Curly-coated Retriever which, despite a reputation for a strong work ethic and agreeable personality, has never enjoyed much popularity in the retriever world. The Curly is one of the oldest of the retriever breeds but has never had more than a couple hundred new dogs registered in any given year. Their unique, tightly-curled coat is effective for shedding water as well as providing additional warmth. The origins of this coat aren’t known with any degree of certainty; it could tie all the way back to the St. John’s Water Dog, or it could be the result of adding in Barbet or Water Spaniel breeding stock along the way.
The Flat-coated Retriever actually enjoyed a high degree of popularity in the English hunting scene prior to the explosion of the Labrador. Their beautiful, raven-black coat and noble gait have earned them a reputation of being almost royal in their appearance and carriage. In fact, author David Hancock went so far as to suggest that Flat-coats be renamed the English Retriever due to the fact that no retriever breed ever maintained an eponymous link to the country… and what better candidate than the noble Flat-coated Retriever.
Among these breeds, the Golden Retriever has enjoyed the most popularity by far, whether as a companion, a mascot, a service dog, or as a hunting dog. The Golden’s lovable, good-natured personality leaves no doubt as to why they have found so much success in the pet market. Field lines, however, have produced some outstanding hunting dogs with the same capacity for running in field trials and hunting birds as the rest of the retriever breeds.
We wrap up the episode with a discussion of the now-extinct Norfolk Retriever which, based on the descriptions that remain, sounds awfully similar to today’s Chesapeake Retriever. Its origins are unknown, but it’s not unreasonable to guess that the shipwrecked puppies that led to the Chessie may have had relatives that did in fact make it to England. There is no question that none of our dog breeds were developed in a vacuum; instead, their rich history is intertwined and connected with other dogs of the same era.
Tune in to hear more about the development of these retrievers and how they came to be the world-class athletes and trusted companions that they are today. As always, we thank you for listening and hope you’ll continue to reach out with your comments, questions, and ideas. We can be reached at HDC@northwoodscollective.com. And don’t forget this week’s big announcement, that Hunting Dog Confidential is going to print! We are so excited to unveil this magazine which will feature stories of all kinds of hunting dogs from all around the world. Check out the official announcement and subscribe today!
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Hunting Dog Confidential is presented by Eukanuba Premium Performance Dog Food
Jennifer Wapenski is the managing editor of Hunting Dog Confidential Magazine and co-host of the Hunting Dog Confidential podcast. She has a lifelong passion for the outdoors, dogs, and wildlife; as an adult, she discovered that upland bird and waterfowl hunting were natural extensions of these pursuits. Jennifer lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their two Deutsch Langhaars.