The Cur dog is not so much a breed as a type. It’s a group of dog breeds and crossbreeds bred to specialize as hunting or working dogs in the southern half of the USA.
While the name “Cur” often means mongrel dog, these Curs aren’t the result of random crossbreeding. They are dogs that have been carefully bred from the most specialized of the species, though not always with regard for the breed – their ability as working dogs has been the main driver for breeding.
These dogs are versatile and strong and love to work. In both past and present they have been widely used for livestock herding, guarding the homestead, locating livestock lost in scrubland and hunting game such as cougars, bears and raccoons, either by sight or scent, by treeing or tracking.
If you’re wondering what other working breeds of dog there are, you might consider the German Shepherd, Irish Wolfhound or Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Or for duck hunting, you might try this article on Top Retrieving Breeds.
Things to Consider when Looking at Cur Breeds
Types of Cur
In general, Curs from states such as Louisiana and Florida are larger and heavier, well adapted to be cow and hog dogs in the swamplands common in this region.
Curs from the mountains in the Southeast tend to be smaller and stockier, good for working close to their handler in wooded areas.
The Curs from the Southwest are larger, with long legs. These are well trained for cow or hog work, but also sometimes for forestry.
There are also a range of cur/hound hybrids that are taller and with larger ears and a stronger nose.
As Cur breeds are medium to large dogs with high energy levels, it’s important to give these breeds a dog food formulated for large breeds or for working dogs. This will ensure that your dog has the right nutrients to keep in top condition. It’s a good idea to get advice from a vet to choose the most appropriate diet.
Training and Socialization
The Cur breeds are highly intelligent and hard-working. Because they build up a good relationship and have a lot of loyalty for their human family and are willing to please, they are quite easy to train with a consistent approach and positive reinforcement.
However, you must always be aware that they were bred as hunting and guarding dogs, and that this may lead to territorial aggression, caution around strangers, herding with the family or chasing other pets. Spending time and effort on socialization as a puppy can reduce this if you intend to keep them as a family pet, but the instincts will always be there.
Exercise and energy levels
Bred to go out hunting or herding livestock, the Cur breeds all have high energy levels, speed, and stamina. These are not breeds to consider for inner-city apartment living. They will need a lot of space to roam and several hours of exercise every day, as well as needing an active purpose to their lives to prevent boredom and thus destructive behavior.
If you don’t involve them in their natural hunting or herding activities, you might consider flyball, agility, jogging or some other active pursuits that you can engage in with your dog.
Now that you know a bit more about the Cur breeds in general, let’s have a look at the different breeds. Approximately twenty-five Cur breeds have emerged over the years. In this article we’ll take you through the key information about the main Cur breeds recognized by the United Kennel Club, to help you decide if one of them will be right for you.
Cur Dog Breeds
|Ranking||Name||Height||Weight||Life span||Breed size||Temperament||Origin|
|1||Black Mouth Cur||18-24 inches||26-60 lbs||12-15 years||large||Kind, Fearless, Loyal, Active||Alabama, Southern United States|
|2||Blue Lacy||18-20 inches||26-60 lbs||12-16 years||large||Devoted, Intelligent, Bold, Alert||Marble Falls|
|3||Catahoula Leopard Dog||22-26 inches||40-90 lbs||10-12 years||large||Intelligent, Energetic, Inquisitive, Independent||Louisiana|
|4||Mountain Cur||18-26 inches||30-60 lbs||14-16 years||medium||Protective, Quiet, Courageous, Tough||United States|
|5||Stephens Cur||16-23 inches||35-55 lbs||10-14 years||medium||Intelligent, Hard-working, Instinctual, Trainable||United States|
|6||Treeing Cur||18-24 inches||30-60 lbs||12-16 years||large||Intelligent, Alert, Athletic||United States|
|7||Treeing Tennessee Brindle||18-24 inches||35-50 lbs||10-12 years||large||Sensitive, Intelligent, Affectionate, Courageous||United States|
#1 – Black Mouth Cur
Well-muscled and rugged, the working Black Mouth Cur is ideal for both herding cattle and hunting. However, they are also suitable to be a family pet. Black Mouth Curs come from Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and Alabama where they were bred as athletic multi-purpose working dogs.
They are, like all Curs, short-haired with either coarse or fine fur. They come in colors ranging from nearly white through to mahogany and will often have a black muzzle. To be called a Black Mouth Cur, no more than 10% of the body fur should be white. Tails can be a variety of lengths. Weight can range from 40 pounds all the way up to 100 pounds and the minimum height is 16″.
With appropriate training and socialization this intelligent and sensitive dog can make a great companion, though it does need a large space to run around in and several hours exercise every day. It would be happiest, though, with a task to do, and can be trained for search and rescue, hunting, herding or agility.
As a social animal, it would not be happy left alone so it would be best if you have an outdoor, active job that the dog can be part of. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the Black Mouth Cur is highly territorial so makes a great guard dog.
#2 – Blue Lacy
The Blue Lacy, sometimes known as the Lacy Dog, originated in Texas in the 1800s where they helped with hunting and herding on the ranches. They are lovely dogs, highly energetic but very trainable. The Lacy part of the dog’s name refers to the family that created the breed, rather than anything to do with appearance.
Strong and fast, they can range from 17 to 22 inches in height and weigh between 25 and 55 pounds. Though called “Blue” the colors may vary a lot. The Blue variety can be between light silver and dark charcoal, the red from cream to rust, and the Tri combines both of these, with a little white. Eyes are yellow/amber.
Bred for working big game and herding difficult livestock, the Blue Lacy is a determined and intelligent dog. They are easy to train but do need to be kept well occupied and may have too much driven energy for a young family. When training, it’s important to use positive reinforcement, as they are sensitive and don’t do well with harsh methods or punishment.
Best as a working dog, they love herding, tracking, and hunting, though if you keep them as a pet, then agility training may be a good substitute. They are territorial, so begin socialization early.
Rugged and sturdy, they have few health issues, though food allergies and skin conditions can occur.
#3 – Catahoula Leopard Dog
From Louisiana, the Catahoula Leopard Dog was traditionally bred for hunting wild boar. The intention has been to develop a working, hunting, guarding dog that’s also good enough with children to be a suitable family pet.
Because they are bred with hunting ability and family-oriented temperament in mind, little attention has been paid to appearance, which can thus vary widely. In general, they can range from 20 to 26 inches and weigh from 40 to 110 pounds. Well-muscled, they have large heads with dropped ears and a tapered muzzle. Tails are usually long and curved.
Coats are short and smooth but can come in a wide range of colors described as Red Leopard, Blue Leopard, Black Leopard, Gray or Silver Leopard, Tri-color, Quad-color and Five-color and even Patchwork! Eyes can also come in a range of colors and variations.
Highly intelligent and full of energy, the Catahoula Dog can, even with good socialization, have some issues with people and other animals. With a high prey-drive, intolerance to strangers and an assertive attitude, they have been known to be aggressive to other dogs and to injure smaller pets.
Despite this, they are generally good and protective of the children in the family, and other children who come to play. This doesn’t always extend to adult visitors though, who will be treated with great suspicion. The best way to minimize problem behaviors is with rigorous and extensive training and socialization and with a highly active exercise regime.
As working dogs, the Catahoula Leopard Dog has a unique way of working a herd of livestock. Their ability to work in this way is one of the key priorities of breeders. They are also regularly used for search and rescue, and in hunting raccoon, deer, mountain lions and even bears.
Generally fit and healthy, the two main health issues to watch out for in the breed are deafness and hip dysplasia.
#4 – Mountain Cur
An all-purpose working, hunting and water dog, the Mountain Cur hails from Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and Ohio. Great for guarding family property as well as hunting, it enabled early settlers to obtain meat and pelts for trade.
The Mountain Cur is still a highly prized all-round working dog. As a hunter it runs fast, with its head held high and can follow cold and hot tracks. As a hunter, they have strong treeing instincts (to force prey to climb up a tree, where the hunter can assess or pick them off) and can be trained to leave whatever game you do not want.
The short coats may be smooth or rough, and come in blue, black, brown, yellow, or brindle with occasional white markings. The dog is stocky and muscular and between 16 and 26 inches tall and weighs between 30 and 60 pounds. The lifespan is about 15 years and there are no specific breed-related health issues.
An intelligent and easily trained dog, they are tough, but do get on well with people. However, they are protective of their home and family and will also grow very anxious if not given the opportunity to work, hunt or guard. If they can work, they will generally be obedient, happy, and calm.
Plenty of close human training and reinforcement is important, as is thorough socialization and long daily walks.
#5 – Stephens Cur
Sometimes also known as the Stephens Stock or the Stephens Stock Mountain Cur, this dog was developed for hunting in Kentucky. Singly, it would hunt squirrels or raccoons, but when working as a pack, would happily take on a bear or cougar.
Lithe and powerful, they are well suited to sprinting, jumping, and treeing and will courageously face up to a wide variety of wild animals.
Small and compact, the Stephens Cur is between 16 and 23 inches in height and weighs between 35 and 55 pounds. The close-grown double coat is black with some white markings. The head is small with ears hanging down. The dark brown eyes are expressive.
As it has a lot of energy and strong hunting instincts, and it does not generally make a good family pet. However, many people are successfully taking these hard-working dogs into their homes as pets. If you have a lot of space and an outdoor-based active working lifestyle then a Stephens Cur could make a loving pet with a great family bond.
Generally, this is a healthy breed with few issues apart from the risk of injuring itself through its outdoor pursuits. It’s a good idea to keep a close watch for tick-borne diseases, cuts and scrapes and ear infections.
#6 – Treeing Cur
With no particular standard when it comes to appearance, the Treeing Cur is the most varied of all the Curs.
There is little standardization when it comes to looks as working ability has traditionally been a more important factor in breeding programs. The Treeing Cur is generally about middle-sized, from about 18-24 inches in height and 30 to 60 pounds in weight. The short, dense fur comes in the full range of colors, with a long (often docked tail), athletic build and floppy ears.
Bred to be a multi-purpose working dog, the Treeing Cur is a hunter, guard, and stock dog. Intelligent and alert, they are tough and courageous. They are not well suited to city or suburban life, needing a lot of space to run and a job to keep them occupied.
Primarily used to tree squirrels, raccoons, opossum, wild boar, bears, mountain lions and bobcat, the Treeing Cur is dauntless when faced with tricky opposition as well as demonstrating great agility and speed across a range of terrains. Keen to please their master, they are also protective of the family and property.
Generally, an extremely healthy dog with a long lifespan, there are no particular health issues with this breed.
#7 – Treeing Tennessee Brindle
Developed in the 1960s in Tennessee by a Reverend Earl Phillips, the Treeing Tennessee Brindle is widely regarded for hunting abilities as well as their attractive brindle coat.
Standing 16 to 24 inches in height and weighing 30 to 50 pounds, this breed has soft short fur with attractive brindle markings. Some white patches are permissible.
Intelligent and with an extraordinary hunt drive, the Treeing Tennessee Brindle is also extremely fast and has a strong sense of smell. As the name suggests, they have an outstanding ability to send prey up a tree and keep it there until their master arrives.
If you are not going to use the Treeing Tennessee Brindle for hunting, then you need to ensure that he gets plenty of exercise. Lots of time to run around in a large, fenced in backyard as well as several long walks each day are essential. In addition, you can play ball games, swim, hiking, frisbee and agility are also excellent substitutes for the busy working life he was bred for.
It’s not often that you hear a dog being praised for its beautiful singing voice, but this is the case with the Treeing Tennessee Brindle – they really sing out when they are on the trail, baying to the hunter to let them know where they are!
As a family pet, if carefully socialized, consistently trained, and well exercised, you will develop a strong family bond with your Treeing Tennessee Brindle. It will be an affectionate family member, though you will find that it will defend you from all (potential) enemies, guard you and your property and treat all strangers with suspicion.
Wrapping Up: Which Cur Dog Breed is Right for You?
As you can see, the Cur dogs are not at all second-rate mongrels. Rather, they are a selection of highly intelligent dog breeds selectively bred for their ability as working dogs.
They need a lot of exercise and occupation, and their hunting and guarding instincts must not be overlooked, but they can make excellent family companions if you have a lot of space and a very active lifestyle in which you can involve your dog for large parts of the day.
As you choose the Cur breed to suit you, you’ll need to, of course, look at the history and temperament of the parent dogs. Find out more about the breeder and the lineage of the dog you are considering is also important.
While you may find Cur breeds at a shelter, and should always adopt an unwanted dog if you are able, because of their hunting instincts, it’s crucial to find out how well a rescue dog may have been socialized before introducing it to your family home, other pets and children.
In general, these breeds are handsome to look at, athletic and healthy, devoted to their masters and hardworking. You’d need to think about your lifestyle and whether you are planning to work your dog (or what substitute activity you are planning for them) to help you select which Cur Breed you might work with or welcome into your home.