Mountain Cur

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult Mountain Cur
Tacosunday /

Any dog with the word ‘mountain’ in the name is either going to be very large or needs lots of space to roam. For the Mountain Cur, it is the latter. These squirrel hunting dogs are raised to the outdoor life and need lots of space to run and be active all day long.

Think of a Mountain Cur as an all action dog. They were bred to guard, hunt, and protect, so much so that a laid back lifestyle of inactivity is their worst nightmare. Indeed, a Mountain Cur prefers to be roughing it on a trail than stretched out on a sofa, and as the name suggests, they are unsuited to city life.

However, for the right owner and the right lifestyle, a Mountain Cur will be utterly devoted to their family, so much so that they would sacrifice their life to protect that of their owner.

About & History

The Mountain Cur is a dog breed that evolved out of the needs of American settlers. Because of this there are no written records of their early origins, only word of mouth stories.

It is said that the Mountain Cur arose from Cur-type dogs that accompanied those arriving in the southern United States. These dogs had a multitude of purposes and were considered a precious commodity. Indeed, when the colonisers were on the move, the valuable puppies were carried in saddle bags or even allowed space inside a covered wagon.

The reason the Mountain Cur was considered such a prize was the multitude of ways they helped those early settlers. They were guard dogs warning of danger, also prepared to fight to the death to protect their owner. But they were consummate trackers and so-called ‘tree dogs’ because of a natural ability to hunt squirrels and drive them up trees for hunters to kill.

The origins of the very first Mountain Cur remain hazy, but it seems likely Spanish settlers brought with them a type of brindle-coloured bobtail Cur. Indeed, each country had their own version of the Cur, an old word derived from an ancient term for ‘growling’. These dogs had a mish-mash heritage but all shared common traits of being excellent trackers, athletic, and loyal to their masters.

An official Mountain Cur breed was recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1957. In the present day, the Mountain Cur is considered a rare breed. In part, this is because their character means they are unsuited to city life, and so they remain a niche breed only suited to a specific lifestyle.


Neither too large nor too small, the Mountain Cur is described as medium-sized, although there’s quite a lot of variation in what is an acceptable size, so even this generality isn’t a hard and fast rule. The ideal Mountain Cur is described as being ‘in proportion’ but with long legs and a sturdy frame. Indeed, they are not so heavy as to be clumsy, and yet sturdy enough to be rugged.

As a working breed, the Mountain Cur is well-muscled and copes well with running over treacherous territory. These are not a fading violet of a breed, but more like a native heather that survives and flourishes in barren wildernesses.

The Mountain Cur has a medium-length tail; however, this is often docked by the breeder on health and safety grounds (as a working dog). They have drop ears that frame the face in a fetching manner, drawing attention to what are usually large brown eyes. This breed has a double coat that is thick but short and closely fitting to the body. They shed lightly, except that is, when they have a twice yearly moult when they shed very heavily indeed.

The most common coat colours are brindle, black, brown, yellow, red, or blue. Indeed, some curs are named for their coat colour, such as the Yellow Mountain Cur or Blue Mountain Cur.

Character & Temperament

Key to understanding the Mountain Cur temperature is to know they are a working breed with the ‘working’ part not being optional. Take a Mountain Cur out of the wilderness and expect them to behave with manners in a city and it’s just not going to end well.

These dogs are hard-wired to run, track, guard, and hunt. It’s in their DNA and no amount of soft-living will make up for their need to be out in the great outdoors, being active from dawn till dusk. Not to provide for this need will cause the dog great frustration, and they’ll divert their energies into antisocial habits, such as barking, chewing, or digging.

The Mountain Cur also likes to be an only pet. They aren’t welcoming to other dogs and their protectiveness can extend to seeing off other would-be four-legged family members. However, this all said, for the right person the Mountain Cur will be a devoted companion who puts the safety of their master above everything else.


A happy, motivated Mountain Cur is intelligent and eager to learn. With an outlet for their energy, a Mountain Cur can be motivated by reward-based training methods to listen to their owner. Ideally, this attentiveness can be channelled into teaching the dog games, such as fetch or training them to swim.

Oh, and a word of warning. The Mountain Cur is a tree-dog, as in they hunt tree-dwelling animals, such as squirrels. Whilst they don’t aspire to the tree-climbing abilities of a cat, they do have an astounding ability to scale vertical obstructions. Thus, a Mountain Cur can be capable of clearing a 10-foot fence.


The Mountain Cur hails from hardy stock, with only fit individuals likely to cope with the rigours of mountain life and surviving to pass on their healthy genes to the next generation. The breed is not linked to any specific hereditary diseases, however, like any dog they can develop health problems.

Skin Infections

The Mountain Cur is suited to outdoor conditions. If treated as a pet and kept indoors, in a centrally heated environment and subjected to regular bathing, this can cause their skin to become dry.

With the skin no longer in optimal health, this can predispose the Mountain Cur to acquiring skin infections. This can result in inflamed hot spots or patches of dry flaky skin. Antibiotics may be necessary to resolve bacterial infections. Then, once the infection is under control, avoid over-bathing the dog, as this dries the skin, and also be sure not to expose the dog to artificially warm environments.

Ear Infections

Those folded ears protect the ear canal from debris, but also act to reduce air flow. This can create a micro-climate deep inside the ear canal that is warm and moist. In these conditions yeasts, ear mites, and bacteria can flourish, setting up ear infections.

It’s best to check the dog’s ears daily to remove any grass awns or foreign bodies that have somehow entered the ear. Also check that the ear looks pink, with soft supple skin and a lack of any form of discharge.

If the ears produce a lot of wax, then it’s beneficial to clean the ears regularly with a good product designed for use in dogs. But if the discharge is smelly, purulent, or the dog seems unduly irritated by the ears then a vet check is essential.

Tick-Borne Diseases

Depending where the Mountain Cur lives, their active pursuits places them at a higher than average risk of acquiring a tick-borne disease. Of these, the most common are Lyme disease and, of course, Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

An owner should remember that there can be a considerable time delay between the dog being bitten by a tick and developing signs of illness. In the case of Lyme disease, this can be several months. If your dog lives in an area associated with ticks, and becomes vaguely unwell, stiff, and has an intermittent lameness then a vet check is strongly advised.

Prevention is preferable, so the regular use of an acaracide (a product that kills ticks) alone with daily tick checks is the best form of defence.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Mountain Cur needs exercise in the same way we need air to breath. They think nothing of running for hours and hours, and covering huge distances over rugged mountainous landscapes. Then they’ll trot home as if that was a mere warm up and want to play fetch.

Anyone considering a Mountain Cur as a pet needs to be particularly active. The Mountain Cur would keep pace with an long-distance runner in serious training for a marathon, and would excel at taking part in activities that use both mental and physical energy, such as Canicross or agility.


That short coarse coat takes very little by way of care. Although a light shedder as a rule, this all changes twice a year when the dog undergoes a heavy moult.

As with any dog, it’s a good idea to brush the dog every few days, and at least once a week. This helps you spot teasels and tangles in the coat, and deal with them before they become a problem.

Famous Mountain Curs

Catch up with local Mountain Curs on Instagram.


Although originally a dog with a mixed heritage, the breed has its own breed standard. Considered a rare breed, the efforts of breeders target maintaining the purity of the breed rather than out-crossing.

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