Although they aren’t as well-known as golden retrievers, poodles, or any of the other breeds often seen in dog parks and pet stores across the country, black mouth curs are wonderful dogs who deserve more attention than they typically receive.
Fun-loving, energetic, loyal, and brave, black mouth curs have a lot going for them. They are excellent working dogs and, when matched with the right owner and living situation, they can make good companions too.
We’ll talk about the basics of the breed below – including their history, physical characteristics, personality, and health – so that you can decide if a black mouth cur is a good fit for your home and family.
History of the Black Mouth Cur
The history of the black mouth cur is relatively muddled.
They’re known to have lived in the southeastern United States since the 1800s, but nobody knows exactly where or when the first ones were produced. Many breed advocates point to Tennessee or Mississippi as the most likely birthplace of the breed, but details of the breed’s origin remain elusive.
They were likely developed to be multi-purpose working dogs, and they excel at most of the basic tasks farm dogs are expected to perform.
They are capable of herding livestock, they make excellent hunting and tracking dogs, and they are courageous and capable guardians who won’t hesitate to defend their home and family from perceived threats.
They accompanied the pioneers who headed west to settle new lands and eventually became relatively common throughout the country. In fact, Old Yeller is often thought to have been a black mouth cur (although the author never explicitly states such, and the dog who played Old Yeller in the movie was a retriever mix).
Despite their popularity in the U.S., black mouth curs have never become very popular overseas – they tend to be a stateside favorite. Ironically, these all-American dogs aren’t recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
This is likely due in part to the breed’s variability and the fact that different breeders often strive to produce dogs with different characteristics. For example, those bred as pets or for protective purposes usually reach the upper end of the breed’s size range, while those bred to tree raccoons and other prey are usually less than 60 pounds.
The United Kennel Club does recognize the black mouth cur, placing them in the scenthound group.
Black Mouth Cur Physical Appearance: Size, Coat, & Build
Black mouth curs are medium to large dogs, who vary pretty significantly in terms of size. Some are little more than 16 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh around 40 pounds, while large individuals may be nearly 10 inches taller and approach the 100-pound mark.
All black mouth curs have short coats, but they occur in a variety of colors. Most have black markings on the muzzle (hence their name), but their body coloration can be yellow, brown, red, or black. Some black mouth curs even have a brindle pattern. Some have very coarse hair, while others are coated in softer, finer hair.
As a working breed, black mouth curs are lean, muscular, and athletic-looking. They appear as though they’re ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice, and their legs are relatively long – a fact that helps them travel long distances.
These dogs have a very endearing expression, and their medium-sized ears tend to fold over in a pretty adorable manner. Sometimes, their ears also feature a black or dark-colored wash, which looks very handsome in conjunction with the black muzzle markings.
Image from Wikipedia.
Black Mouth Cur Personality & Temperament
An increasing number of people are keeping black mouth curs as companions, but most members of the breed are expected to work for a living. And the way in which these dogs are kept can significantly affect their personalities.
Working black mouth curs tend to be all business. They are very smart, they’re reasonably easy to train for experienced owners, and they can learn a variety of skills, commands, and tasks. They have an amazing work ethic, and they’ll gladly spend all day in the field before clocking out for dinner. They love their people, but they probably love working more.
But black mouth curs kept as pets are often quite different.
Black mouth curs kept as companions are typically very loyal and loving dogs who bond strongly with their families. They’re usually fantastic with kids, although you’ll need to supervise any interactions with young children, as this breed can be a bit rambunctious. Given their size, this can lead to accidental injuries. They may also “herd” children.
Black mouth curs are relatively sensitive, so their owners must employ firm yet gentle training techniques. They should be provided with copious amounts of praise and positive reinforcement throughout the process, but most will enjoy learning new things and pleasing their person.
These are extremely energetic dogs and they need an outlet for their drive to work, so frequent exercise is required to keep them happy. They’ll need at least one (very) long walk per day, and frequent trips to the lake or dog park are also a good idea.
Black mouth curs do not always get along well with dogs who already live in the home, so if you intend to keep more than one dog, it is wise to purchase them both at the same time (and while both are young) or be ready to work with a professional dog behaviorist to ensure that the two dogs get along together.
Black mouth curs can also be a bit distant with unfamiliar people, and they’re quite protective and territorial.
Health and Grooming Needs of Black Mouth Curs
Black mouth curs are typically very healthy dogs, and they don’t suffer from many common diseases or disorders. This may be due in part to the large genetic pool from which the breed originated.
Nevertheless, black mouth curs appear predisposed to a few health problems, including:
- Hip dysplasia
- Ear infections
- Several eye disorders, including cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and ectropion
Black mouth curs are a dream dog for owners who don’t want a dog with a high-maintenance coat. They don’t require any elaborate grooming services – a weekly brushing and a bath every month or so should keep their coat healthy and looking great. They don’t shed or drool very much either, so they may be a good option for allergy sufferers.
Black mouth curs can, however, be pretty filthy pups if provided with lots of time outdoors. Like many other breeds, they seem to love coating themselves in dirt, mud, and anything disgusting they can find lying around on the ground.
And if they are allowed to do so immediately before coming inside and jumping on the couch, all the better!
You will need to trim your black mouth cur’s nails regularly and provide him with an appropriate preventative flea treatment, as you would any other breed.
Some owners note that black mouth curs seem very susceptible to mange, but, rather than being a tendency of the breed, this may have more to do with the way working black mouth curs are often kept outside, in outdoor kennels.
This further illustrates the importance of implementing good flea-prevention practices.
Ideal and Not-So-Ideal Living Situations for Black Mouth Curs
Black mouth curs can thrive in a variety of living circumstances and familial situations. The primary things you need to be able to provide a black mouth cur include:
- Plenty of Space – Black mouth curs are quite energetic, and you must give them plenty of room to run, jump, and play, or they can develop a variety of destructive behaviors. Ideally, you’ll want a large, securely fenced yard (they’re often escape artists who like to wander) so they can burn off energy regularly.
- Early Socialization – While loving with their families, black mouth curs can be territorial and occasionally overprotective. To avoid this, you’ll want to socialize early, introducing your pup to as many people and pets as you can while he’s young.
- Lots of Attention – Black mouth curs kept as pets rarely enjoy being left home alone for long periods of time. In fact, doing so can unleash a host of destructive behaviors. They like a lot of interaction with their owners and thrive best in homes where somebody is home all day long.
If you can satisfy the above criteria, a black mouth cur may be a great choice for your family. On the other hand, prospective owners in either of the following categories should probably opt for a different breed.
Not Best For First-Time Dog Owners
Black mouth curs can certainly make great pets, but they aren’t well-suited for novice owners. While they are pretty intelligent and relatively eager to please, they can be slightly difficult to train. They need an owner who can assert calm leadership, while still providing all of the support and positive reinforcement this sensitive breed requires.
Not Great For Apartment Dwellers
Black mouth curs are also a poor choice for those who live in apartments, primarily because of the breed’s energy level and need for space.
They may also bark and howl quite a bit as your neighbors come and go. Even if you’re willing to put up with the noise these dogs can create, your neighbors are unlikely to be as understanding.
The black mouth cur is a pretty neat breed that can make a good pet for some families.
Just be sure that you carefully consider the amount of space you have available, as well as the amount of time you have to spend with your new pet, before deciding to add one of these black-muzzled beauties to your home!
Do you have a black mouth cur? What has been your experience with this breed? Share your stories in the comments!