The Murray River Curly Coated Retriever (MRCCR) is a breed of dog endemic to South East Australia. It appears to be have been developed as a working duck dog in the late 1800s. It takes its name from the Murray River, the major river in South Eastern Australia where it originated from.
The Murray was popular as a retriever and a duck dog in Victoria, southern NSW and SA. Its popularity wained when duck shooting and the need for dogs became less popular. Today it can be found in all states of Australia.
The Murray Curly is often confused with the standard Curly Coated Retriever. The Curly Coated Retriever Association of Australia points this out. The Murray Curly has been labelled a designer dog...which is a recent label. Soft Maple Kennels from Canada have an excellent page of types of curlies. Then P Mathis in his knowledgeable articles about curlies around the world acknowledges a smaller type curly sometimes called a river curly but believed they came from the Murray River in New Zealand. While there may be some Murray River Curlies in NZ their origin is Australia.
The Murray Curly is generally a smaller type of retriever with weights being within 5kg of 25kg. It is generally liver, some have white markings on their chests. The Murray's curls are looser than a standard curly but range from wavy to tight. Their ears seem longer or more spaniel like than most retrievers. Older types in the breed are short in the leg.
Currently there is no breed club or breed standard. To address this matter a Yahoo group for owners and supporters of the Australian Murray Curly coated retriever was established in 2006.
The Murray has many devoted owners who believe the Murray to be the most loyal, biddable and best companion dog they have ever owned. They can be protective but generally only of their owner and owner's property. We have also found that many owners have equine interests and that Murrays and horses seem to get along well.
The Murray rightfully deserves to be recognised as an Australian retriever and thanks to a devoted group of owners and breeders has been saved from extinction. The world would be a much sadder place without Murrays.
Very little is know about the origins of the Murray River Curly Coated Retriever. Apparently the breed was started around the late 1800s by duck hunters in the Murray River region of Australia. A special type of dog was needed to retrieve ducks during duck hunting. The dog needed to be a good retriever, able to cope with loud noises, intelligent, able to swim well and have large amounts of stamina. There is confusion as to the dog breeds used to create the Murray River. Some sources suggest the Flat Coated Retriever and a particular type of Spaniel were bred to produce a dog with the required characteristics. Apparently the Flat Coated Retriever chosen was one with a wavy coat rather than a purely flat coat. Other sources suggest it was due to breeding between Curly Coated Retrievers and Irish Water Spaniels. A recent source that came to light believes that the Murray was descended from dogs brought here by American captains employed on the Murray River steamers in the 19th century. Whatever the origin, the Murray River Curly Coated Retriever is now a breed unto itself in Australia. They are not related to the Poodle as some people think and are in fact a relative of Golden Retrievers, Labradors and other Retrievers.
In fact all Retriever breeds tend to be related and were often interbred.
As with most water hunting dogs they have a brown or liver curly coat . The colour helps them blend with their environment and the curls aid in waterproofing the dog. They do not have a second undercoat as some breeds do so they do feel the cold if left wet and inactive in a cold environment. The dog will shed his coat for Summer however not in copious amounts. Murray Rivers, as they are often called, are used to a hot, dry environment. The Murray River region often experiences temperatures in the high 30s to low 40 degrees C during the Summer. Whilst the dog can cope with this weather they do appreciate a swim to cool themselves down. During summer, the tips of the dog's coat may begin to turn an orangey colour or appear lighter in colour. This is just the coat being bleached with the sun and it may be removed by a trim or a comb to remove dead hair if you wish.
The MRCCR is only available in one colour, generally known as 'liver' however a perhaps more fashionable current term is 'chocolate'. Their eyes are always a golden yellow colour.
The breed will generally have webbed feet enabling them to swim better. This is a unique trait of the Retriever breed. They also tend to have large paws, probably slightly larger than their other proportions would suggest.
They are a medium size dog with the males ranging in weight from 20 kg - 40kg, depending on the breeding. The bitches are often smaller at 20 kg - 30 kg. Their legs should be shorter than most retrievers, they tend to be stocky and they have a deep chest. They were bred as a working dog and tend to have a muscled body to match.
Murray Rivers have large floppy lips. This is so as not to bruise the bird when hunting. However, they don't tend to drool. The only times this appears to be a problem is either directly after drinking and when the dog is salivating waiting for it's food.
Generally, the breed has a great personality. From the moment the puppy first sees you he will fall in love with you. They are loyal and will protect their owners and property. They generally get along quite well with other dogs and cats, provided the cat stays still and doesn't run away! This is provided that the puppy is well socialised from a young age. Of course, they tend to chase birds as they were bred for this. They make a great family dog and are very good with children. They love to play and be part of the 'pack'.
They are very energetic and need reasonable amounts of exercise. They have a great deal of stamina and so long as there is something to play with they will keep going. One of my husband's dogs brought back 120 ducks one day during shooting. The dog was exhausted and didn't move for the next three days.
As with most dogs, the better trained they are from a young age the better behaved they will be. I recommend taking your dog to puppy training of some sort to get them used to other dogs and people - to socialise them well. If this is not done, the Murray River may grow into a dog fearful of strangers. This can result in 'fear snapping', meaning the dog may snap at strangers if the stranger pushes themselves on the dog. It does not mean the dog will bite strangers just possibly snap in the air at them. Murray River's tend to be an intelligent breed and are trained easily. The Murray Rivers that exist tend to be used as working dogs.
Contrary to appearances they require little grooming. The coat will shed for Summer hence any Winter length is lost. In general, they are a short coated dog provided the dead hair is removed. The best form of grooming is to let the dogs swim.Any loose, dead hair tends to come out of the coat during swimming. If this is not possible they can be brushed however the curls tend to 'fuzz' and the dog needs a spray with water or a bath to return the curl. I have seen some Murray Rivers where their coat was matted and almost like dreadlocks. This was only because the owner neglected to either brush the dogs or let them swim on a regular basis.Occasionally, a trim as the hair on their ears and tail can grow a little longer than their body and the curls turn into waves.
As with any dog their claws may need trimming if they aren't worn down on a hard surface. It's best to get them used to this from an early age so as not to traumatise the dog.
If the dog is allowed to swim regularly, it won't need a bath very often. They don't tend to smell and swimming cleans them up anyway.
In the past some Murray's were reputed to have personality problems, this can happen to any breed of dog that is not socialized and where the breeding pool has not been large. Hopefully any such dogs are not bred from and this problem has not been encountered in any of the Murray groups member's dogs.
As with all floppy eared dog breeds, they are prone to ear infections. It may be difficult for the ears to dry out after swimming and hence get infected. The best way to avoid this is to either use a drying solution in their ears after every swim or to tie their ears back so they can dry out. Regular cleaning of the ears is recommended.
Due to their weight, they are actually considered a large breed of dog. As with all larger dogs they tend to grow quickly which can cause joint problems. Diseases such as hip or elbow dysplasia may occur. Currently this breed is not screened for these diseases however a vet could examine any dog you are considering purchasing.