There are dog breeds that may not be very popular but are, nevertheless, the perfect fit for a certain type of family. One such dog is the Mountain Cur. We’re pretty sure this is also the first time you’ve heard of such a breed. And that’s why we’re here. This American breed has been around longer than many of the more popular ones, always working for its family and cherishing every moment it spends with them. Let’s learn more about the enigmatic Mountain Cur.
History of the Mountain Cur Dog Breed
European immigrants brought with them scent hounds and terriers when they moved to the United States and settled in the mountainous regions of Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, and Kentucky sometime in the 18th century. These European dogs were mated with Indian Curs. It’s a sordid combination, but one that produced an off-beat kind of dog that was fully capable of adjusting to the ways of life of both the Pioneers and the native Indians.
Many dog aficionados consider the Mountain Cur as the first American purebred. The initial lines are all over the Appalachian Mountains. The hounds provided the Curs with exceptional scenting abilities while terriers gave them tenacity and grit. It is also possible that other European dogs were mated to native Indian Curs, most especially the Beauceron, to give the Mountain Cur its remarkable herding abilities.
Pioneers used these dogs to guard their family as well as their belongings and property. The dogs were also used in hunting game, especially prey that climbed trees like raccoons and squirrels. It is for this reason that the Mountain Cur is well-regarded as a treeing and trailing dog, more than capable of following the trail of small game as they scurry through the thick shrubs of the forest floor before heading up to the trees. Big mistake for the small animal as once it has climbed a tree; the Mountain Cur will already be at the base patiently waiting for its human master to take down the game.
But the Mountain Cur was not only proven effective in the dense forests of the Southern Mountains. When the Pioneers started heading westwards, perhaps because of the lure of gold in the western shores of the new country, they brought with them their Mountain Curs mainly as herders. The dogs have proven their mettle when it came to herding flock that the Pioneers brought with them in their westward migration.
The Mountain Cur is a versatile and durable dog. It may be impossible to trace the different types of dogs that make up the Cur, but one thing is certain: it’s a very tough and dependable dog whether it is in the wild and wooded areas of the mountains or in the dry or swampy areas of the plains.
The Mountain Cur’s hardiness is immortalized in the book “Old Yeller”. Unfortunately, its movie adaptation showed a Labrador-looking hound, not a yellow bobtailed and short-haired dog that isn’t skittish when facing off with a full-grown bear and has displayed remarkable skills in treeing and hunting. This is one dog that always aims for the nose of a rampaging bull. Of course, when the Old Yeller story was written, these dogs never really had a name and it wasn’t even mentioned in the book. However, the characteristics of the dog as depicted in the Old Yeller book matched the temperament and behavior of frontier dogs.
By the Second World War, many of the descendants of the pioneering families eventually left rural life to work in factories that drove the war machine of the country. At the turn of the mid-20th century, there were already very few Mountain Curs remaining.
Right before the conclusion of the Korean War, four individuals sought to save the dying breed. Carl McConnell from Virginia, Dewey Ledbetter from Tennessee, and Woody Huntsman and Hugh Stephens from Kentucky worked together to bring back the original Mountain Cur. In 1956, the quartet formed the Original Mountain Cur Breeders’ Association or OMCBA and laid down the foundations for the standardization of the breed.
A controversy surrounding the establishment of the Mountain Cur breed standards, however, marred the first few years of the organization. This prompted McConnell and Stephen to leave the OMCBA and form another organization called the Stephen Stock Mountain Cur Association or SSMCA.
In the last two decades of the 20th century, Afton, New York-breeders Michael, and Marie Bloodgood created a new type of Mountain Cur they called the Mountain View Cur. This dog was named after the Bloodgood’s kennel Mountain View.
In 1998, the United Kennel Club recognized the Mountain Cur as a breed and classified it as a scenthound. On the other hand, the American Kennel Club placed the Mountain Cur in its Foundation Stock Service as a means of providing recognition to the breed, but short of officially registering it as such.
Aside from the fact that the Mountain Cur can be proudly called an American purebred, there are other things that every potential owner of the Mountain Cur needs to know.
- According to the AKC, the Mountain Cur can grow anywhere from 16 to 26 inches, although it is not unusual that some dogs will be taller. Female Mountain Curs are generally shorter by 2 inches than their male brethren.
- The Mountain Cur typically weighs 30 to 60 pounds. Some Curs have also been reported to reach 95 pounds.
- It has a life expectancy of anywhere between 10 and 13 years, although it’s possible that some dogs can live up to 16 years.
- Mountain Curs have relatively short hair which makes it exceptionally easy to groom. It does shed twice a year, however.
- It can have a blue-, brown-, or yellow-colored coat, although most dog owners prefer the brindle coloration. Some Mountain Curs can have white markings on the chest or face.
- It’s a very active hound requiring daily physical and mental exercises.
Things You Should Know
Rugged, protective, outdoorsy, intelligent, and courageous are just some of the many traits that define the Mountain Cur. However, if you’re thinking that this dog is very easy to care for, think again. It’s not for the couch potato simply because the Mountain Cur is happiest when it’s working in the wild. But if you’re really intent on bringing one home, make sure you understand the following requirements.
When the pioneers developed the Mountain Cur, they wanted a dog that they can easily train to protect their family and property. They also required a dog that needs no frequent input on how to trail and tree small prey. This doesn’t mean that the Mountain Cur immediately know what to do, however. What this dog has is the intelligence and wit of its forebears. Unfortunately, it also has the independence to think and act according to how it perceives a particular situation. It is for this reason that the Mountain Cur is never intended for those who have a more or less passive or submissive personality.
But don’t misconstrue this as a requirement for being aggressive towards the dog. You are expected to be dominant, but to do it in a way that the dog will follow you since it recognizes you as its leader. As such, you should embody the many fine qualities of a pack leader including the ability to use firmness with gentleness. Part of being a leader of the pack is showing them what is considered as the acceptable behaviors of each member of the pack. You should, at the very least, show the Mountain Cur exactly how to behave in your pack. Otherwise, it will be the other way around with the dog teaching you how packs behave.
It is for this reason that training the Mountain Cur can be quite challenging. Oh, they’re smart, obedient, and trainable. But this only occurs if the one training them is knowledgeable about the dog’s true nature. Using positive reinforcement methods can also help, often in combination with consistency, perseverance, firmness, and patience. If you think you cannot keep up with such a requirement, you can forget about getting a Mountain Cur.
The Mountain Cur may not be as muscular as the American Pit Bull Terrier or even the Rottweiler, but it still needs plenty of high-quality proteins for the development and maintenance of its muscles. This is because this dog is very fond of moving around, hunting, treeing, and even herding any other animal that it views as its flock or even as small game. That being said, it also pays to give the dog supplements for its joints, although you can always give it dog food that already comes with such nutrients.
A 50-pound Mountain Cur will need about 1,200 to 1,300 calories each day, typically divided into 2 meals. If you have dog food that comes with a calorie serving size of 400 calories per cup, then you will be giving about 1.5 to 1.6 cups per meal. Healthy snacks are encouraged so you can give the Mountain Cur fresh fruits and vegetables as treats in between meals. However, make sure you steer clear of human food items that are harmful to dogs.
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Mountain Curs are prized for their versatility especially in the great outdoors. They can trail small critters as they scurry through the woods and up forest canopies. They are excellent swimmers, too; albeit not as proficient as the web-footed Poodle or the Olympic Labrador Retriever. They can herd cattle and sheep as efficiently as a Border Collie and other shepherd dogs. In other words, Mountain Curs are happiest when they get to work outdoors, but most especially in the wild.
If you’re the type of person who absolutely hates going out except to party at clubs and other night outs, then the Mountain Cur is not for you. Not only does it need daily physical exercises, but mental stimulation is also an absolute must, too. The Mountain Cur appreciates lengthy, vigorous walks. Just make sure to keep it on a leash since it does have the tendency to run after small animals (remember, it’s a trailing and treeing dog). If you’re fond of biking, running, or even jogging, the Mountain Cur is always a great companion.
Exercise and mental stimulation are always an important part of a Mountain Cur’s existence. Exercise is what keeps its muscles well-toned and its other organ systems functioning optimally. Mental stimulation sharpens its brain and helps keep it from getting bored. Take it from us; you don’t want the Mountain Cur to get bored in your house.
Because one of the essential tasks of Mountain Curs is to protect its family, it is important that the puppy is socialized with other people and other pets as soon as it arrives in one’s home. The more people it gets acquainted with early in its life, the better it is for the Mountain Cur to temper its guarding instincts. You don’t want to extinguish its unique guarding behavior, however. You only want it to recognize the behavior of an individual who is welcome in the family and the behavior of someone who is definitely unwelcome.
The same is true with other pets especially the smaller ones. It should be remembered that the Mountain Cur is a very prolific trailing and treeing hunting dog. It can easily pounce on cats (incidentally, cats have a knack for climbing trees which the Mountain Cur can interpret as small game). You’d want it to recognize other pets as family friends, too.
While the Mountain Cur is especially devoted to its family, forever protecting them with its life, it’s not ideal for families with young kids. Their herding instincts are quite strong and they can show their remarkable abilities by ‘herding’ your little ones.
Grooming-wise, the Mountain Cur is pretty easy to manage. Since it has a relatively short coat, brushing or combing isn’t as tedious as dogs that have longer and denser coats. Once weekly should suffice since you still need to comb its hair so that the natural oils will be distributed evenly on its skin. Plus, it’s always a good routine to circulate the blood underneath the skin. Do take note, however, that the Mountain Cur sheds seasonally so it’s always a good idea to have the vacuum cleaner in optimum operating functionality.
Bathing isn’t absolutely necessary. Dental hygiene, however, is an absolute must. This should be performed every day; if not, twice a week is okay. Clipping or trimming the Mountain Cur’s nails every 3 to 4 weeks is ideal. Cleaning its ears can be performed at the same time or more frequently.
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Mountain Curs are a sturdy breed. They were able to withstand the harsh conditions of the woodlands, swamps, dry regions, and the frontier lands. However, this doesn’t make them immune to health conditions that are known to affect dogs. Hip dysplasia is a very common issue among Mountain Curs. So is obesity and bloat. Ear infections can also be prevalent because of their outdoorsy nature.
The Mountain Cur is a good choice for those who…
- Lead very active outdoor lifestyles, preferably those who venture into the woods or other rural landscape
- Have older kids, preferably older than 8 years of age
- Understand the need for a more positive approach to training
- Can socialize the Mountain Cur the moment it steps into the house
Sadly, we really cannot recommend this dog for those who…
- Really don’t like to exercise, much less head outdoors for some really fun activities
- Believe in aversive training methods as the only way to teach dogs
- Have allergies especially to pet dander
Dauntless and decisive, having been exposed to confront even the largest and angriest cat in the wild, the Mountain Cur is never an easy-going, submissive dog. It’s not a lap dog. Rather, it is a working dog through and through. Silent on the trail, the Mountain Cur can easily pick up the scent of a game and follow its trail regardless of where the critter eventually hides.
It is not showy when it comes to its affection for its family. Instead, it shows its devotion by guarding and protecting its family from almost any threat. It is this over-protectiveness that has made the Mountain Cur such an invaluable companion especially in the early years of the nation. It is intelligent, but it needs a strong leader to follow. It’s the archetypal dog that requires order in its pack. The only way one can succeed with this dog is if he or she is at the top of this order.
The Mountain Cur has been around for many centuries, yet has never gained such popularity as other dog breeds. However, it is not because it is not well-loved by the people that it serves, but because of its outdoorsy nature. It’s a dog that can be particularly lonely and depressed in urban areas where the call-to-work is almost nil. So, if you live in the city and you’d want a Mountain Cur in your life, you’d better think again.