Black Mouth Cur

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Black Mouth Cur
Greg Hume /

A well-built dog of medium stature with drop-down ears and often (but not always) a black mask on their face, the Black Mouth Cur is an adaptable and athletic breed that loves to work hard. Developed in the United States, there are a number of different ‘lines’ of Black Mouth Cur dogs, who each display certain unique physical attributes and personality traits.

Traditionally used as an all-round farm worker, the Black Mouth Cur can perform a multitude of tasks, including rounding up cattle, guarding property and hunting small game such as squirrels. This high energy breed can be a handful and they require a huge amount of exercise, as well as an experienced trainer, if they are to reach their full potential.

About & History

While the term ‘cur’ can be used today to describe any mixed breed or ‘mongrel’ dog, the Black Mouth Cur is most certainly a pedigree or purebred dog. Cur dogs in general are known to be good working dogs of medium build who have muscular bodies and both hunting and herding instincts. There are a number of distinct varieties of the breed that are differentiated by physical appearance and location of origin. Most of the Black Mouth Cur lines are named after the kennels where they were developed. Possibly the most recognised lines of the breed are the Mississippi Ladner Yellow Black Mouth Cur and the cattle herding Florida Black Mouth Cur.

Farm dogs have always been in high demand in the southern United States, and the Black Mouth Cur has been prized for many years for its versatility and the strong work ethic it displays. Which state the Black Mouth Cur hails from is open to debate, but most bets are on either Mississippi or Tennessee.

While it is believed that the Black Mouth Cur has been in existence for centuries, the earliest records of the breed date back to the 1800s. The true origin of the breed has been lost in history, but it is widely accepted that they are descendants of European dogs that were brought to America with the original settlers, and many believe that the English Mastiff was one of the breed’s predecessors. These dogs would have certainly bred with the local American canines, ultimately resulting in breeds, such as the Black Mouth Cur.

A multi-purpose dog to this day, the Black Mouth Cur is most often seen in a working capacity, whether it be as a hunting companion, a cattle driver or a watch dog. Many individuals play the role of both farm hand and family pet with their devotion to their families ensuring their roles as companion animals.

It was not until 1998 that the UKC officially recognised the Black Mouth Cur within their scent hound group. Despite this, many breed members are not registered with any official body.


Black Mouth Cur Large Photo
Greg Hume /

While there is more variation within the Black Mouth Cur than many other breeds, they do have a breed standard to which they should adhere. In general, the Black Mouth Cur should be a medium-sized dog of obvious athletic ability with a nearly square-shaped body. They should have a big head with a level skull and prominent cheek bones. Their ears should drop down and should not be overly big.

Their eyes should not be set too closely together and can be yellow, green or brown. Their limbs should be long and well-muscled, while their feet should be solidly built, ending in thick pads. Breed members may have single or double dewclaws. The tail of the Black Mouth Cur varies greatly from individual to individual, with some being born with naturally stumpy tails and others having long, slender tails.

The short coat of the Black Mouth Cur should be thick, though texture may vary from dog to dog. Acceptable colours include:

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Black
  • Fawn
  • Buckskin
  • Brown
  • Brindle

A small amount of white patching on the fur is allowed, though this should never exceed 10% of the overall coat colour. Despite the breed name, dogs may or may not have a black muzzle, though a black mask is unquestionably preferred. Dilute fur colours are allowed.

While there is a great variability in breed size, it is generally accepted that females must be at least 40cm tall, while males must reach heights of over 45cm. Similarly, females should weigh no less than 16kg and males should weigh more than 18kg.

Character & Temperament

A social dog, the Black Mouth Cur is grateful to spend time in the company of humans and enjoys playing with children and socialising with adults. While they are a working dog by nature, this does not impede them from forming strong bonds with their family members to whom they demonstrate a great loyalty. They are known to be a courageous and territorial breed that will protect their property and their family from any potential threat. Along with their defensive instincts comes a natural distrust of strangers, which is a characteristic that requires extensive socialisation to overcome, if the animal is not to be used as a guard dog.

While the Black Mouth Cur is playful and spirited, most breed fanciers would agree that this is not the best suited dog for young children as they can be boisterous and high energy.

As the Black Mouth Cur has worked alongside other canines for many years, they tend to tolerate them well, however, there have been some reports of dog-to-dog aggression, so caution is advised when introducing unfamiliar dogs. With regards to smaller animals, such as cats or squirrels, it’s important to remember that the Black Mouth Cur has a high prey drive and will instinctively hunt these animals if given the opportunity.


Photo of Black Mouth Cur puppy
Brownca25 /

Once bonded with their owner, they will usually work well alongside them and perform the tasks they have been bred to do to a high standard, including herding, hunting and guarding. However, when it comes to other forms of training, such as obedience and recall, the Black Mouth Cur presents a challenge as they have a reputation for being stubborn and independent.

It is essential that trainers maintain their dominance at all times as the Black Mouth Cur is particularly sensitive to the ‘pack hierarchy’. The use of negative reinforcement or punishment training should be avoided, as the sensitive Black Mouth Cur responds far better to reward-based training.


Bred for function rather than fashion, the Black Mouth Cur benefits from coming from a wide gene pool. They are typically a healthy breed and dogs tend to live from 12 to 14 years, though some individuals can live for several years beyond this. Health conditions that should be on the radar of breeders and buyers include:

Hip Dysplasia

An orthopaedic condition that occurs in a large number of pedigree dogs, it is recommended that breeding animals have their hips ‘scored’ to ensure animals with bad hips are not bred from.

Ear Infections

While the drop-down ears of the Black Mouth Cur may be attractive and are certainly useful when squeezing through narrow spaces during a hunt, they predispose the breed to the development of ear infections. Due to their conformation, help is needed to thoroughly clear out any wax and debris that has built up within the ear canals. It is advised that owners clean their dogs’ ears every week or two.


Seizures can occur for a huge number of reasons, but when they occur without any underlying explanation, they are said to be caused by epilepsy. Some animals with mild epilepsy will not need any intervention, though medication is recommended for those individuals who suffer from frequent or prolonged fits.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Predictably, the Black Mouth Cur is a dog that needs a substantial amount of exercise to keep it happy. An hour-long brisk run is the bare minimum that this dog requires on a daily basis. They thrive in rural settings where they have the freedom to roam to their heart’s content and exhibit their natural behaviours, such as tracking and hunting. Attempting to confine this breed in a small home without providing it with a substantial amount of exercise will only end in heartbreak.

Before acquiring a Black Mouth Cur, owners should ensure their property is set up for one. Their yard must be incredibly secure as this breed is notorious for finding any weakness in a fence in order to escape. They are also extensive diggers and chewers, so are possibly not best suited to families with prize flowerbeds or vegetable patches!


Most breed members experience two shedding seasons a year, during which they will require more frequent brushing. In between these sheds, Black Mouth Curs need minimal grooming. Owners should focus on their ears, which can be prone to clogging up with wax and becoming infected. From puppyhood, an ear cleaning routine should be put in place, and continued for the lifetime of the dog.

Famous Black Mouth Curs

Old Yeller is believed by many to have been a Black Mouth Cur. This was a popular book that focuses on the relationship between a boy and his dog that was written by Fred Gipson. The novel was later made into a Disney movie.


While many working Black Mouth Cur dogs are crossed with local dogs, probably the two most common mixes in America today are the Black Mouth Cur cross Labrador and the Black Mouth Cur cross Pitbull.

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