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An Introduction To Cur Dogs

Written by Ella White


Handsome black mouth cur dog

You might have heard people talking about cur dogs, and not been sure what they mean. Or maybe you’re a wannabe cur dog owner, but aren’t sure exactly which breeds count within this group. Well, look no further. In this article we will explain exactly what cur dogs are, what characteristics apply to them, and which breeds are considered curs.

What Are Cur Dogs?

The phrase ‘cur dog’ refers to a range of different dogs that all share similar characteristics, rather than one ‘type’ of dogs (like ‘pitbull’). There are 14 cur dog breeds, all of which are native to North America and known for their hunting, herding, and protective instincts.  

Cur breeds are not recognised by the American Kennel Club, although some like the Black Mouth Cur, are recognized by the United Kennel Club. This is in part due to the fact that curs are usually working dogs and are not show breeds. But despite this background, curs can and do make great pets for owners that don’t need to use their dogs for farm work.

What Are The Shared Characteristics Of Cur Dogs?

Curs are best known as ‘treeing’ dogs, which means they track prey and scare them up trees, then bark until their owners come and catch their hunt. Since this method of hunting is far less common in the modern world, it’s rarely what curs are used for anymore. However, their range of similar traits make them both exceptional working dogs and pets.

  • They’re large dogs that typically weigh more than 70 lbs
  • They’re incredibly protective and loyal to their owners
  • They’re brave and courageous
  • They’re excellent at herding and hunting
  • They need a lot stimulation and love to work or be given ‘tasks’
  • They love the outdoors and need plenty of space
  • They are short haired and rarely shed (but they’re not hypoallergenic)
  • They can live up to 16 years – which is a long lifespan for a large dog

A List Of Cur Dog Breeds

While cur dogs aren’t one ‘breed,’ there are 14 different types of dog that are classed as curs based on their shared traits. 

  1. American Leopard Hound
  2. Black Mouth Cur
  3. Blue Lacy
  4. Camus Cur
  5. Canadian Cur
  6. Catahoula Leopard Dog
  7. Kemmer Stock Mountain Cur
  8. Mountain Cur
  9. Mountain View Cur
  10. Parnell's Carolina Cur
  11. Southern Black Mouth Cur
  12. Stephens Cur
  13. Treeing Tennessee Brindle
  14. Yellow Black Mouth Cur

What Are The Best Known Cur Dog Breeds?

The Mountain Cur

Mountain Curs are loyal, intelligent, and very strong willed. While they’re dedicated to their owners, they can be shy and protective around strangers. Like all curs, they’re exceptional trees, herders, and watch dogs. They’re medium sized and not the largest cur breed. And while they love to spend time with their owners, they’re also driven by work and love to be given tasks to fulfill.

The Black Mouth Cur

Fun fact: Old Yeller was a Black Mouth Cur – and though he was fictional, his protective instincts and loyalty to his family are entirely grounded in the reality of this breed. Black Mouth Curs originated in the southeastern USA and were originally used for herding and guarding. You might also spot them out on search and rescue missions. And while they’re often kept as pets now, they are naturally very high-energy dogs that need a lot of exercise and stimulation.

You’ll recognize a Black Mouth Cur by the black muzzle that gives the breed its name. They come in a range of colors including fawn, tan, red, and yellow, and are short-haired which makes them an easy breed to groom. Another fun fact about the Black Mouth Cur is that white coated dogs are not considered pure-bred unless white spots make up more than 10% of their fur. 

The American Leopard Hound

The American Leopard Hound is thought to have originated in North Carolina in the 18th century as a descendent of breeds brought in by the Spanish conquistadors. However, they were not an officially recognized breed until the 1960 and like all curs they are still not recognized by the AKC. 

Leopard Hounds come in nine different colors and various patterns including leopard and brindle. Like all curs they are strong-willed and intelligent working dogs. However American Leopard Hounds are thought to be easier to train than some cur breeds as they are eager to please and respond well to praise and attention from their owners.

As agile and strong dogs, American Leopard Hounds are excellent and nimble fighters, as well as treeing and herding dogs. But their determination means they don’t back down, which can be difficult for inexperienced owners. However, they are also loyal and affectionate family pets once they’re well trained and socialized.

The Catahoula Leopard Dog

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is thought to be the result of breeding wolf-like dogs native to America with Spanish breeds like bloodhounds, greyhounds, and mastiffs, and later with breeds brought in by the French. Their name refers to Catahoula Lake in Louisiana, and they’re also known as Catahoula Curs, Catahoula Hounds, and Catahoula Hog Dogs. And even to this day there are very few of the breed outside of this area of the USA.

This almost-all-American breed has been used in Louisiana for centuries as a hog catcher and herder. And it’s this exceptional skill which has made them so popular with farmers in the area. In fact, their breeding has been so focused on working ability that there are no clear traits among the breed’s coat and eye colors.

Despite being adorable and intelligent, the Catahoula Leopard Dog isn’t the easiest pet and is best suited to very experienced dog owners. They are strong-willed, assertive, and independent and require a lot of thorough training and socialization in their early life. But with the right owner, they can be loyal, affectionate, and friendly companions.