If you consider yourself an outdoorsy person who enjoys adventurous hikes over lazy days spent indoors, you should meet the mountain cur. A loyal and dedicated companion, mountain curs are always up for an adventure. Originally bred as worker dogs, mountain curs are outdoor enthusiasts—especially if they have a job to do.
Mountain curs require daily physical and mental stimulation—and lots of it. They're rugged and energetic with a splash of spunky attitude, so they're best suited for pet parents who have time to be consistent with obedience training. With their ample energy and high intelligence, mountain curs can be a handful at home without proper training, so they might not be the best match for first-time pet owners.
A mountain cur isn't a pet commonly seen at the dog park; they're actually a fairly rare breed and can be identified best by their strong physical features and blocky head. While they were bred for hunting, they're loving, faithful companions once they're acclimated to their pack.
One of the first things you'll notice about the mountain cur dog is their strong, alert stature. With high-set ears, a wide blocky head, and a strong, muscular neck, they certainly look the part of an active dog that's ready to tag along on the next great adventure!
The mountain cur's coat is short and smooth and can be found in a variety of colors. There can be blue, black, brown, yellow, red, and brindle mountain curs, and a litter of mountain cur puppies can produce pups with completely different coats.
Male mountain curs generally stand between 18–26 inches, while females are a bit smaller at 16–24 inches tall. Weighing between 30–60 pounds, mountain curs are on the larger end of medium-sized dogs.
The mountain cur was originally bred as a working dog, which means running and treeing—a hunting method where dogs chase animals up into trees—are in their nature. These pooches have a lot of pent-up energy they need to expend, so if you're looking for a couch pup-tato, you're barking up the wrong tree here!
"Those factors do not make training more difficult," she says. "What does make having this breed more difficult is when the owners don't put the necessary time and effort into raising the puppy or adopted mountain cur. So they assign 'labels' to the mountain cur, such as 'difficult,' which put blame on the dog rather than accountability on the caregivers."
Because mountain curs are such smarties, they actually pick up cues and tricks quickly when you put in the effort. With their intelligence, though, comes a bit of a willful streak—which is all the reason more why it's important to be consistent with positive reinforcement training. This will help ensure that your pup thrives!
"A household with cats may find it frustrating, as mountain curs will continue to have the prey drive for chasing and treeing cats," says Michelle Burch, DVM at Safe Hounds Pet Insurance. "Treeing of the cat may end up being your bookshelf or entertainment center. The prey drive can focus on small mammals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and ferrets."
Burch says having a high prey drive doesn't mean they can't live with other small animals as long as owners are willing to put in the work by properly introducing the dog to all family members and sticking with training.
"With consistent training, a mountain cur can learn which animals in the household are not prey and are not meant to be chased," she says.
Mountain curs love roaming and exploring, so having a safe, wide-open space, like a large fenced-in yard, will make their tail wag with happiness. Emphasis on the "fenced-in" aspect—because of their high prey drive, your mountain cur might not be able to resist darting off after a squirrel.
The mountain cur's short coat means you typically won't have to worry about his fur matting or tangling, but he'll enjoy a nice brushing or combing every now and then—especially during shedding season. But be careful not to bathe him too often: Over-washing could dry out his skin. Stick with a bath every four to six weeks. If he starts smelling a little ... questionable, particularly after climbing a mountain or jumping in a lake, deodorizing wipes can help him smell a bit more tolerable.
With their high prey drive and willful nature, it's important to teach your mountain cur cues like "stay" and to come when called. (Once you've mastered these basics, you can teach them tricks that are a bit more fun). They can often get distracted by interesting smells outside, so make sure they're safe inside a fenced area or on a leash at all times.
Torelli says training can provide them the mental stimulation and physical activity mountain curs crave.
"Integrate training time in short bouts of healthy exercise and playtime," she says. "Does your mountain cur bring you a toy during playtime? Offer a treat! Do they run back to you while safely off leash in the house or in the backyard while supervised? Offer a treat! Behavior that is reinforced repeats itself, thanks to the positive consequences and outcomes that follow."
Because mountain curs were originally working dogs, they require a lot of exercise. These dogs are very active, and should have at least 60–75 minutes of activity each day. Hiking, jogging, and swimming are all good ways to keep them active and happy. Just make sure to ask your veterinarian to clear a mountain cur puppy or older dog for high-impact exercise, Torelli says, to avoid damaging their joints or bones. But you can't go wrong with a good swim!
"Swimming is a good physical activity for these dogs, as it helps to expend a large amount of energy with low impact on the joints," Burch says.
Mountain curs can have problems with skin irritations and infections. Dry skin, typically from overbathing or a lack of air circulation, can lead to these infections. They're also prone to ear infections caused by wax build up. To combat this, clean their ears once a week.
Burch says mountain curs can easily become anxious due to boredom and will develop physical and mental stress if they don't have a job to do or aren't getting enough stimulation. Before bringing home a mountain cur dog, ask yourself if you can take care of his physical and mental well-being.
The mountain cur was an early pioneer dog brought to the U.S. by early European colonizers. These dogs were invaluable to the early settlers of the U.S. and put their best paw forward as pioneer companions, chasing and treeing game for hunters while watching over their families as well.
It's said that the southern Appalachian Mountains wouldn't have been settled without the mountain cur. The breed was so valuable to pioneers that they were often carried across land in baskets attached to pack animals, according to the Original Mountain Cur Breeders Association. Sometimes, the pioneers would even carry the dogs themselves.
The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1998. Today, mountain curs are still common pets and farm dogs in the South.
- While the average dog speed is 20 mph, a mountain cur can run up to 26 mph.
- In the 1940s, the breed was on the verge of extinction as many men went to fight in World War II or left country life for the cities. The number of mountain curs started to dwindle. Woody Huntsman, Hugh Stephens, Dewey Ledbetter, and Carl McConnell of Virginia are credited with saving this breed and for setting the standard of the mountain cur.
- While never specifically mentioned in the book, many believe the dog in Old Yeller is a mountain cur. The description and traits of the dog are that of a fearless companion who is dedicated to his owners, has a respectable sense of duty, and is a brilliant hunter that trees other animals. However, the dog cast in the 1957 film was a mastiff and Labrador retriever mix.