menu icon

The Black Mouth Cur

Home »  Dog Breeds »  Made Famous in the Novel Old Yeller
 Black Mouth Cur

The Black Mouth Cur is a medium to large cattle and hunting dog from the US, in particular the Southern states of the US. A large number of Curs are used there by sportmen, ranch owners and hunters and the Black Mouth Cur is one of them. Other names might be American Black Mouth Cur, Blackmouth Cur, East Texas Cur, East Texas Brindle Cur, Red Black Mouth Cur, Southern Black Mouth Cur, Southern Cur, Yeller Cur and Yellow Black Mouth Cur. In the novel Old Yeller by Fred Gipson Old Yeller was a Black Mouth Cur though in the movie a Mastiff/Lab cross was actually used. It is a dog praised for its strong work ethic and is used as watchdog, guard dog, cattle dog and hunting dog. Many people think the word cur is a derrogative term for a mixed breed dog but while that can be the case in the UK, that is not the case when it is being used accurately in the US. This and other curs are purebreds and Cur referes to a working group of dogs. You can think of Cur as being the type of dog it is, like terriers or hounds for example. The Black Mouth Cur is one of the more popular curs in the US today.

The Black Mouth Cur at A Glance
Name Black Mouth Cur
Other names American Black Mouth Cur, Blackmouth Cur, East Texas Cur, East Texas Brindle Cur, Red Black Mouth Cur, Southern Black Mouth Cur, Southern Cur, Yeller Cur, Yellow Black Mouth Cur
Nicknames BMC
Origin US
Average size Medium or large
Average weight 35 to 95 pounds
Average height 16 to 25 inches
Life span 12 to 18 years
Coat type Dense, short, coarse
Hypoallergenic No
Color Yellow, fawn, red, black, brown, brindle
Popularity Not a registered member of the AKC
Intelligence Average – not one of the most intelligent breeds but certainly not slow
Tolerance to heat Very good to excellent – can handle most climates
Tolerance to cold Very good – able to work in the cold
Shedding Average but have seasonal blow outs that are a lot heavier
Drooling Average – some drool more than others but is not excessive
Obesity Moderate to average – as long as it gets the kind of exercise it needs it should not gain weight
Grooming/brushing Low to moderate maintenance – brush once or twice a week
Barking Occasional – will be some barking but not constant
Exercise needs Very active – if not used as a working dog it really needs a lot of physical and mental engagement
Trainability Moderately hard – need experienced trainers
Friendliness Good to very good with socialization
Good first dog Moderate – this is a dog for experienced owners
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Good but need socialization as they are territorial
Good with other pets Moderate to good – socialization is needed, sees small animals as prey
Good with strangers Moderate to good – socialization is very important or they become over protective which is not a good mix with being overly wary of strangers
Good apartment dog Low – this dog need space, at least a large yard, preferably land
Handles alone time well Moderate – prefers not to be left alone for long periods
Health issues Quite a healthy and hardy breed though some issues include hip dysplasia, eye problems, and ear infections
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for license, basic training, miscellaneous items and toys
Average annual expenses $1000 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $350
Rescue organizations None breed specific, look to local shelters and rescues if interested in adoption
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm – 4, Maimings – 4, Child victims – 3 Deaths - 0
Advertisement

The Black Mouth Cur's Beginnings

The Black Mouth Cur's origins are not exactly known for sure though there are theories. It is known they were developed in the Southern states of the US, probably Alabama but they are also commonly found today in Tennessee and Florida. They were bred to be a working farm dog and hunting dog, and they have been around since at least the 1800s. As with most curs it was not until recently that it was pedigreed, and records of its breeding were not kept with much care or detail. One of the general agreements is that it is likely descended from European breeds brought with colonists when they came to the new world. These dogs would have had difficulty in the south, with the climate and conditions being a lot different to what they were used to. It is possible these were crossed with each other and also with Native American breeds too to develop dogs that could deal with more difficult terrain, wildlife and climate. It was used in various roles by frontier farmers, guard dog, protecting cattle and livestock from predators and hunting meant it also helped feed the family and bring pelts.

Dogs mentioned in records dating around the mid 1800s seem to refer to this breed though its name at the time was not what it is now. Over the years different breeders developed it differently so there were various lines but in the mid 1900s the most well known was from a respected breeder called L H Ladner. Ladner called them Black Mouth Curs because of the black lips which sometimes goes over the muzzle too. The Ladners have been breeding Black Mouth Curs for over a hundred years and still do today. Also around that time in 1956 the book Old Yeller was written implied by the author to be a Black Mouth Cur though an different mix was used in the movie. It is because of this book and movie that this became a more popular breed of cur.

New Lease on Life

It was the Ladner Black Mouth Curs that were the first to be registered with a national dog registry in 1964 with the National Kennel Club. There are other recognized lines today though too including the Texas Black Mouth Cur, Florida Black Mouth Cur, Southern Black Mouth Cur and the Howard Line of Southern Black Mouth Curs, which were actually the first registered line (not national) from the early 1940s. The United Kennel Club recognized the breed in the late 1990s but it is not accepted by the AKC. And while some lines are registered there are many that are still not pedigreed and do not have registration papers and such. It continues to be used as a working dog, most of those that are registered are full time or part time working dogs. It can be used to drive cattle and other livestock and also to hunt for various sized game, from racoons and squirrels to wild hog. It is also earning a good reputation in areas such as sniffer dog and search and rescue dog. While well known in some parts of the southern US, it is basically unknown in the rest of the world, and even in the rest of the US.

The Dog You See Today

Advertisement

The Black Mouth Cur is strong, muscled solid dog and can range in size from medium up to large weighing 35 to 95 pounds and standing 16 to 25 inches tall. Since there are several different lines its appearance does vary. It tends to be a little longer than tall or equal length and height. It is an athletic and strong looking dog but can range from looking more lithe, or more stocky depending on its line. Its natural tail can come in two shapes, a little curved, tapers to the tip and medium to long, or it can be a short bob. Those with long tails may have them docked by owners where tail socking is still practiced. Their feet are compact and medium sized with tough large pads and some do have webbed toes. It has a broad chest. Coats can vary a lot in shades, patterns and colors though common ones include various shades of fawn, a small percentage of white, black, brown, red and yellow. They tend to have short and dense coats and can vary from being fine to quite coarse.

A Black Cur's head is large but still in proportion to the rest of it with a broad flat skull. The muzzle is squared and most often has a black mask on them and black pigmentation around the mouth where its name comes from. Its ears are wider at the base and hang down low and are medium sized. Its eyes are medium to large and can be either yellow, green or brown in color. There can be black coloring around the ears too and a small amount of white around the nose and beneath the chin.

The Inner Black Mouth Cur

Temperament

BMCs can be very good family dogs when in the right home and if well exercised and trained. It is a social animal and it is intelligent so it needs company, it will want to spend lots of time with you and it needs stimulation mentally as well as physical exercise. While it is a powerful and focused hunter in the home with its family it is protective, kind, loyal and brave. It is eager to please but needs owners who are firm and strong willed so that rules are clear and adhered to. With the right training and socialization it should be even tempered and will likely form very close bonds, especially with the person that takes it hunting or out to exercise and train.

While it has a high prey drive that makes it good at hunting, it is not usually aggressive towards people when out walking for example, but it can be territorial so wariness can turn to over protectiveness and aggression to strangers at home, without good socialization. It is a good watch dog and guard dog and will alert you to intruders as well as defend you and the home from anyone breaking in. When it comes to the affection it displays that can vary from one Black Cur to another, some are more physically loving than others.

Living with a Black Mouth Cur

What will training look like?

Advertisement

While the BMC is an intelligent dog and it is eager to please it is still one that needs experienced owners who are ready to be in control and make it clear who is the boss. In terms of dominance that can vary between the different types but in general this breed needs time to bond with its trainer before success in the training starts to be more noticeable. Start training early and once the rules are set be sure to stick to them. Be firm, confident and in control but also be patient and stay positive. It does not respond best to physical correction or harsh scolding. Keep the sessions interesting, short and not too repetitive. It can be quite stubborn but when you establish leadership and a good bond it is able to learn a variety of things beyond just basic obedience. Fortunately the hunting it learns very easily and quickly and it is also easy to housebreak. Make sure that as well as undertaking at least basic level obedience training you also start early socialization with it. Expose the Black Mouth Cur to different sounds, places, people, situations and animals so it learns how to deal with them.

How active is the Black Mouth Cur?

Black Mouth Curs are definitely not couch dogs and are not for inactive owners. If being used to hunt with on a regular basis that will go a long way to giving it what it needs, but is not it will need a good three hours or more a day of various forms of activity from a couple of long walks a day, play time in a large yard, visiting dog parks or a safe place for off leash running and play and so on. Training it to take part in events like pulling weights, tracking game, coursing and so on it a good way to engage its mind and its body. It is not an apartment dog and ideally needs at the minimum a large yard, but even better some actual land to run on, explore and play on. Make sure it is well fenced as it is an excellent escape artist. It likes to dig, is very athletic, and rarely uses a trot speed, it is either in walk mode or sprint! It would love to have jobs to do and without enough mental and physical stimulation they can be very high strung, destructive, nervous, aggressive, vocal and hard to live with. It has a great deal of stamina and even when you think it has had enough it may still appear restless, it does not relax easily. It does not even calm down when it ages, Black Mouth Curs are known to remain vigorous and active even up to advanced age. When out walking it make sure it stays on a leash, it will chase anything that moves, small animals, cars, people on bicycles and so on!

Caring for the Black Mouth Cur

Grooming needs

Taking care of this breed does not involve a great deal of time or effort but there are some things that need to be done, as with any dog. Its short coat is easy to look after, just give it a brush and comb now and then especially after going out in the brush where it can pick up things. It sheds a moderate amount and rarely needs trimming, but does usually have seasonal shedding blow outs once or twice a year. It should be bathed as it is needed, not too often though so that you do not dry out its skin.

Advertisement

There are also other general grooming duties like nail clipping, teeth brushing, and ear cleaning. Its nails may be worn down naturally with its high level of activity but if not you will need to clip them with proper dog nail clippers. Take care not to cut too far down the nail where the quick of the nail is, as there are nerves and blood vessels and cutting those will hurt the dog and cause bleeding. Its ears should be checked for infections signs once a week and if all clear can be also be cleaned weekly too. Wipe the areas you can reach using a damp cloth or a dog ear cleanser and cotton ball. Do not insert anything into its ear, that can not only cause a lot of pain but also permanent damage to its hearing. Brush its teeth using a dog toothpaste and brush at least two to three times a week.

Feeding Time

What and how much your Cur eats really depends on its level of activity, whether it is a working dog, how old it is, its metabolism rate, and its health. At least 3 to 4 cups of dry dog food a day, (split into two meals) of a good quality is likely, more is possible, and it should be formulated for active dogs. Make sure it has access to water all the time and that it is freshened when possible.

How is the Black Mouth Cur with children and other animals?

If well trained and socialized from a young age the BMC can be good with children. It is protective of them and can play for hours with them. It helps a lot of they are raised alongside each other. However it should be supervised when with very young children, or is best not in a home with the young as it is not great at being more gentle with them and knock overs and accidents are likely. Make sure children are taught how to play, touch and interact with it in the appropriate and kind way. It can get along with other pets if raised with them and again with good socialization but keep in mind it is a hunting dog so has a high prey drive. It is also very territorial so while it may get on fine with other dogs away from its home, when strange dogs come on to its land it could become aggressive.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life span of the Black Mouth Cur is about 12 to 18 years and it is considered to be a vigorous and healthy breed. There are some issues that it can be prone to though such as injuries like torn ligaments or sprained muscles from out being active, ear infections, eye problems, bone problems, epilepsy, mange and joint dysplasia.

Biting Statistics

When looking back at reports of attacks against people that have done bodily harm over the last 35 years, in both Canada and the US, there has been some mention of the Black Mouth Cur. There were 4 reported incidents, all of which were classed as maimings, meaning the victim was left permanently disfigured, scarred or lost a limb. 1 of the victims was an adult, the other 3 were children. This may seem like a serious sign of human aggression in the breed but in fact considering this is over 35 years of reports, this amounts to just 1 attack every 8 to 9 years and there are no deaths. It is not a breed that is likely to cause human casualties and should not be regarded as a more aggressive breed. All dog breeds have the potential for an off day, even your friendly Lab or retriever types. Early socialization, training, good care, enough mental and physical stimulation can help lessen the risk but nothing can make a dog 100% risk free.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Black Mouth Cur puppy will cost about $350 for a decent pet or working dog from a respectable breeder. If you want a show dog or want to use a top Black Cur breeder that cost is likely to go up. Avoid using less respectable means such as puppy mills, or backyard breeders, where the health of the dogs is very much in question as is its temperament and breeding line. At best they are ignorant but at worst there are some very bad breeders who treat their animals very poorly. If you are not set on a purebred or are just looking for an active companion you might also want to check out local rescues and shelters. There are lots of dogs waiting for a new forever home, adoption fees tend to range from $50 to $400, and they usually come with medical needs taken care of.

Advertisement

Once you have found your dog there are some things it will need at home. These initial costs include things like a crate, carrier, bowls, bedding and collar and leash and come to about $200. When you have it home you should get it to a vet as soon as you can for a check up and some tests and have some medical needs dealt with, if they have not already been done. This means it needs vaccinations, blood tests, a physical exam, deworming, micro chipping and spaying or neutering. These initial health needs come to about $290.

There are also ongoing costs when you have a pet. Each year you can expect to spend about $1000 on your Black Mouth Cur. $485 of that should cover basic health care like shots, check ups, flea and tick prevention and pet insurance each year. $245 of it will be for miscellaneous costs like training, toys, license and miscellaneous items needed. Then another $270 should cover feeding it a good quality dry dog food and doggy treats.

Names

Looking for a Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

  • Male and Female Dog Names
  • The Black Mouth Cur is best suited to people who hunt, people with farms or ranches or lots of land, active singles and families but people with experience. It is not an easy dog to train without that experience and it is not a dog happy with just a 30 minute walk a day. It needs to work, to hunt, to run and to spend time with the family it will be very loyal and protective of.

    More to Explore

    Dog Owner Reviews