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Black Mouth Cur: The Jack Of All Trades Dog Breed

Key Takeaways

  • Although somewhat forgotten in modern times, the Black Mouth Cur was one of the most important dog breeds during the Westward Expansion of the 19th century.
  • A Black Mouth Cur dog is a strong yet sensitive type; they can be ferocious protectors, but they’re also keen hunters, clever herders, and great with kids. 
  • This jack of all trades dog breed isn’t for everyone, but those that can take care of it will be blessed by a dog that can truly do it all.

The Black Mouth Cur, also known as the Southern Black Mouth Cur, is a valued working dog that was bred to herd livestock and track hunters’ quarry, as well as guard their owner’s household. This breed brims with energy, is strong and agile, and can show impressive bravery when the need arises. They also bond intensely with their owners, and thus don’t take too well to punishment or verbal abuse. The fact that they are sensitive dogs does give them a great advantage, however. It’s one of the reasons they’re such good hunters, for one thing. And because of how closely attuned they are to humans, Black Mouth Curs are excellent at judging emotions, temperament – and some, myself included, would even say character. 

Despite its extensive track record, however, it is not a very well-known breed of dog. But in my humble opinion, it should be. Black Mouth Curs are the oldest breed of dog bred in the United States of America and some credit it with playing a major part in the success of those who traveled west and settled the frontier. These dogs were such a part of early American culture that it is believed to be the breed of dog immortalized in the book, and movie, Old Yeller. Oddly enough, they did not use a Black Mouth Cur in the filming of the movie – that dog was a Mastiff/Labrador mix. 

Like the dog in Old Yeller, Black Mouth Curs were bred to help in every aspect of settler life. This is what gave them the characteristics and temperament they have today. They had to be fierce to protect their families and their herd from predators and people that meant them harm, but they also needed to be gentle and safe around children and livestock. Remarkably, these dogs manage to excel at all of these roles. 


Very little is known about the exact origins of the Southern Black Mouth Cur dog, except that it first showed up in the American south, most likely in Mississippi or Tennessee. As the need for an all-around working dog grew, the Black Mouth Cur rose in popularity and they were taken westward as the country expanded. As the need for dogs that excelled in different skill sets increased, different lines of this breed developed. These differing bloodlines are why the breed has not yet been accepted by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a registered purebred breed. The United Kennel Club (UKC) recognized the Black Mouth Cur as a distinct, registerable breed in 1998. 

These Black Mouth Cur bloodlines differ in size, coloring, and skill set. They are all the result of the breeding lines developed and curated by individual families more than 100 years ago. 

  • JD Howard – this was the first line of the Black Mouth Cur breed to be registered as such, in Alabama, in 1940. They are built more like hounds with longer legs and a less muscular build. They range in color from yellow to red and have short course coats. 
  • Carnathan– this bloodline is the result of the breeding of one male JD Howard Black Mouth Cur with a wide variety of females from other dog breeds. The emphasis was on creating the most well-rounded dog, not maintaining a clean bloodline. The result is a line of Black Mouth Curs that vary widely in color, including brindles. They are somewhat shorter than their JD Howard relatives and are broader and more muscular. 
  • Weatherford’s Ben – these are an offshoot of the Ladner line of Black Mouth Curs. They are the only Black Mouth Cur bloodline with only a single color scheme, light yellow with black mouth, nose, and ears. Their coloring is similar to that of the Yellow Lab but they are more slender and leggier than labs. 
  • Ladner– the Ladner family has been breeding Black Mouth Curs for over 200 years and is credited with much of the original development. Their bloodline is well recognized for their hunting ability but also for being intelligent enough to be service dogs or to serve as search and rescue animals. 

Regardless of which bloodline a Black Mouth Cur’s origins lie, they all share the marks of being bred to stand up to the rigors of early American life and to adapt to serve many necessary functions. 

Today’s Black Mouth Curs 

While it is no longer necessary for a single dog to fulfill as many different roles, the modern Black Mouth Cur is still a jack of all trades. They’re still being used to herd cattle across the open plains because of their excellent stamina, and they’re prized by hunters for their ability to track down even the wiliest of prey. They have the intelligence to serve as service or military dogs and the eagerness to please to make training easy. As a household dog, their ferocity and bravery makes them a great family protector, and their gentleness and patience makes them fantastic to be around, whether you be a child, a lifelong dog owner, or someone who’s just not used to being around dogs. 

In today’s America, the Black Mouth Cur is not a very popular breed of dog, due in part to the AKC not recognizing them as a distinct breed. But just because they aren’t as sought after as other dogs does not mean that they are not held in high regard by those who own them, or are otherwise familiar with them and their talents. Among these people, the Black Mouth Cur breed is widely valued for hunting, ranching, and as family pets. 

Black Mouth Cur Breed Standard 

As mentioned earlier, the Black Mouth Cur has not been recognized by the AKC. However, it has been recognized by many other breed registries, including the UKC. These are the Black Mouth Cur breed standards as drawn up by the UKC. 

The UKC has placed the Black Mouth Cur in the scenthound group, considering it most similar to the hunting dogs found in that category. This category varies a great deal in both the types and uses of breeds contained in it. They range from setters to coonhounds and beagles to dachshunds. 

Black Mouth Cur.

The Black Mouth Cur is primarily characterized as a medium-sized dog with long legs and a broad head. They come in a wide variety of colors but all share the black markings on their mouth, ears, and nose. They vary in height but must be over 16 inches at the shoulder and be between 35 to 95 pounds in weight. It should be noted that the distinct bloodlines, having focused on different purposes, show wide variance in build. Those bred for tree hunting tend to be a smaller size and slimmer while the lines bred for herding are larger and more muscular. 

The eyes of the Black Mouth Cur should be large and evenly spaced on the head. They may be brown, green, or yellow. The color around the eyes should match that of the lips, which should be dark brown or black. Their ears should be set high on their head, be wider at the base than at the tips and be the same color as the lips and eye markings at least at the edges.  


The Black Mouth Cur is a high-energy dog respected for its loyalty, courage, and intelligence. They are perhaps not the best dog breed for beginner dog owners as they need consistent and strict training to counter some of their more aggressive tendencies. 

That is not to imply that the Black Mouth Cur does not make good family dogs, because once properly socialized and trained they are excellent companion dogs. They are eager to please and crave a connection to their two-legged pack mates. But it should never be forgotten that they were originally bred to be both hunters and protectors. If not trained to do otherwise they will hunt down other animals, including cats. They will also aggressively protect what they perceive to be theirs from others, both other people and other dogs. Both of these tendencies can be controlled with early socialization and proper training. 

The Black Mouth Cur is not well suited for urban life. They need lots of room to run, preferably a large fenced yard or one secured by a wireless dog fence, where they can burn off their excess energy by tearing around untethered. Not allowing them to get the exercise they need may lead to a host of behavioral problems. 

They also do not do too well when left on their own for extended periods of time. They crave attention from people and want to please them. One of the major drawbacks of their intelligence is that they can quickly become bored without stimulation and human interaction. Left to their own devices, I’ve seen dogs of this breed come up with incredibly creative and destructive ways to amuse themselves.  

Health and Care 

The Black Mouth Cur dog is of a very hardy breed, perhaps because of limited, very careful breeding. They are generally healthy dogs, rarely falling victim to the genetic defects so often associated with purebred dogs and have a lifespan that rivals that of mixed-breed dogs, 12 to 15 years.  

That is not to say that they do not have health issues that should be watched out for. Their short course coat makes them susceptible to mange. Their floppy ears mean that ear infections may be a problem as debris can fall into the ears and get trapped. To avoid this, regular ear cleanings are necessary. 

They are prone to a few genetic problems, including epilepsy and hip dysplasia, but still at much lower rates than some of the better-known breeds of dogs. Like most other dogs, they are also prone to cataracts later in life. 

Closeup of Black Mouth Cur.

Arthritis is also a common ailment in older Black Mouth Curs, as it is with most dogs they live long enough to wear down their joints. This condition may be made worse by obesity which is also common in this breed. 

While its lack of popularity may make things difficult, it’s still worth keeping an eye out for Black Mouth Cur puppies if you are in the market for a new dog. But keep in mind that although they can be great family and companion dogs, they are not the right fit for every household. 

In order to be safe around your family friends and other pets, Black Mouth Curs must be socialized and well trained starting at a very young age. The training must be consistent, with the same expectations from every member of the family. They also require a fair amount of time devoted to them both for their physical and emotional health. 

Black Mouth Cur dogs also require a lot of space and exercise. Unlike many breeds, regular walks, even long ones, will not be enough to keep your Black Mouth Cur happy and healthy. They need open space and plenty of time to run free in it. If this does not sound like an environment you can offer your dog, then this may not be the breed of dog for your household. 

If, however, you can provide your Black Mouth Cur dog with the training, love, and attention that he or she needs, you will be richly rewarded. You will gain a loyal companion who is eager to win your approval and will learn whatever skill you put before him in order to do so.  

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are Black Mouth Curs aggressive? 

Like many breeds of dogs, a Black Mouth Cur needs to be properly socialized at a young age to avoid aggression. While not overly aggressive, they are very protective of their family members and may see every stranger as a threat if not trained otherwise. They also have a strong predatory instinct and may aggressively chase wild animals or cats if not taught at a young age that these creatures are not food. 

 What is a Black Mouth Cur a mix of? 

The origins of the Black Mouth Cur are not entirely clear. It is likely that they are a mix of the English Mastiff, which came to America on the Mayflower, and smaller mixed breed dogs that were already here. As they were created to be scrappy, multi-purpose dogs, lineage was not as important as utility, so very few records were kept of their early development. 

 Is a Black Mouth Cur a Pitbull? 

Although somewhat similar in appearance, the Black Mouth Cur is not a type of Pitbull. If there is some Pitbull DNA in their ancestry there is no record of it. 

 Do Black Mouth Curs bark a lot? 

Black Mouth Curs are not known to be nuisance barkers. They will, of course, bark when they perceive a threat or to welcome you home but generally, they are quiet unless given a reason to make noise. 

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