Corded Breeds: An Introduction

Dog breeds with corded coats always catch attention at dog shows or events. These breeds are adorned with ropes of hair that can reach the floor, leaving many curious about how to create and maintain this unique coat style.

What are these ropes of hair, you ask? They are actually called “cords” and are long strands of interwoven hair with a core of live hair. However, no breed is born corded. The soft puppy coat tends to form very short cords that may be hidden by fluffy outer ends. Cords are the result of meticulous care and cleanliness, without the need for brushing or combing.

Cording requires a long and slightly curly coat. Generally, corded coats are seen in breeds known for having hair rather than fur. Some AKC-recognized corded breeds include the Bergamasco Sheepdog, Havanese, Komondor, Poodle, Puli, Pyrenean Shepherd, and Spanish Water Dog. Let’s explore why these breeds historically have corded coats.

Komondor

Komondor
Ershov_Andrey/Shutterstock

The Komondor is known for its corded coat. An adult Komondor may have floor-length mop-like white cords covering its entire body, including the face. The Komondor worked as a Hungarian flock guard, and its untended coat naturally formed large mats that resembled a sheep to potential predators and offered protection against bites.

The AKC Komondor standard mentions that the adult Komondor should have a heavy coat of tassel-like cords that feel like felt. These cords form naturally due to the dog’s coarse, wavy, or curly outer coat trapping the soft wooly undercoat, which forms the cords. The breed standard also advises judges not to penalize younger dogs for having short cords, as cord length depends on age.

Puli

Puli herding in a pasture.Puli herding in a pasture.
Katinka Bakos/Shutterstock

Smaller than the Komondor, the Puli is another breed known for its corded coat. The Puli’s coat comes in various solid colors. Bred as a herding dog, the working Puli would often be shorn, leaving cords only on the rear end. Unlike the Komondor, Pulis can be shown either corded or brushed out, with most adults being shown corded.

The AKC Puli breed standard describes their cords as “wooly, varying in shape and thickness, either flat or round.” The cords’ shape and thickness depend on the coat’s texture and the balance of undercoat to outer coat. While the standard allows for showing the breed brushed out, corded Pulis are more common today, with improved coat textures compared to early showings in North America.

Bergamasco Sheepdog

Bergamasco Sheepdog laying on a stone wall outdoors.Bergamasco Sheepdog laying on a stone wall outdoors.
American Kennel Club

Unlike the perfectly formed cords of the Komondor, the Bergamasco has flocks, a type of cording that is irregularly large, flattened, and wide. Flocks are about 1.5” to 3” in width and can open up to a fan at the ends. Instead of neat mop strands, the overall look is haphazard, with individual clumps and tassels.

The Bergamasco has a unique coat made up of three types of hair: a wooly outer coat, long straight rough coat known as “goat hair,” and a fine, oily undercoat. It is the goat hair and outer coat that primarily form the flocks, which can reach almost to the ground in mature dogs.

The AKC Bergamasco Sheepdog breed standard explains that goat and wooly hair are not evenly distributed over the body, resulting in differences in cord formation. For instance, goat hair is more prevalent on the head and upper back, leading to less flock formation, while wooly hair dominates the neck, shoulders, and chest, creating more flocks. The majority of flocks are found on the back of the body and legs, where wooly hair is predominant.

Poodle

David Woo ©American Kennel Club

We often think of Poodles with perfectly groomed hairstyles, but did you know the first Champion Poodle in England had a corded coat in the late 1800s? Known as Champion Achilles, this Poodle sported 30″ cords, longer than its own height of 23″! Initially, cords were believed to be limited to a special type of Poodle known as “curlies,” but it is now known that corded coats can be found in various Poodle coat types.

As trends evolved, corded Poodles became less common before making a comeback in recent decades. Modern corded Poodles typically have shorter, more manageable cords. While most corded Poodles are Standard Poodles, the other varieties can also have corded coats. Owners of corded Poodles note that certain colors cord more easily than others.

The AKC Poodle standard describes cords as tight, even, and of varying lengths. Cords are longer on the mane, body coat, head, and ears, while they are shorter on puffs, bracelets, and pompons. Corded Poodles must be shown in one of the approved Poodle clips for AKC shows, with the Continental clip being the most common for corded Poodles.

Havanese

Havanese with a corded coat.Havanese with a corded coat.
©American Kennel Club

The Havanese is the smallest of the corded breeds and the only one in the Toy Group. Their lightweight, slightly wavy coat naturally tends to cord, although most Havanese are kept brushed out. Due to their small size, they are perhaps the easiest of the corded breeds to maintain.

The AKC Havanese standard stipulates that adult corded Havanese should have a full coat of tassel-like cords covering the entire body. However, this look may not be achieved in young dogs, as their corded coats tend to separate into wavy sections naturally.

Spanish Water Dog

Best of Breed: GCHS CH Jango CM2, Spanish Water Dog; 2016 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin Herding Group judging, Orlando, FL.

Corded Breeds: An Introduction

comments

Comments