Black Mouth Cur

Canis lupus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Kelley Varisco/

From the dog's description in the book, it is believed that Old Yeller was actually a Black Mouth Cur.


Black Mouth Cur Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Canis lupus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Black Mouth Cur Conservation Status

Black Mouth Cur Locations

Black Mouth Cur Locations

Black Mouth Cur Facts

Rabbits, squirrels, racoons, feral pigs
Name Of Young
Group Behavior
  • Pack
Fun Fact
From the dog's description in the book, it is believed that Old Yeller was actually a Black Mouth Cur.
Most Distinctive Feature
The Black Mouth Cur has a black muzzle and inside of its mouth.
Other Name(s)
Southern Cur, Southern Black Mouth Cur, and the Yellow Black Mouth Cur
Gestation Period
63 days
Affectionate, hardworking, and loyal.
Litter Size
3 to 12 puppies.
  • Pack
United States
United States

Black Mouth Cur Physical Characteristics

  • Yellow
  • Fawn
  • Black
  • Brindle
  • Dark Brown
Skin Type
Top Speed
20 mph
12 to 15 years
Males, 40-95 pounds. Females, 35-85 pounds.
Males, 18-25 inches. Females, 16-23 inches.

Black Mouth Cur as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Tendency to Chew
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
Separation Anxiety
Preferred Temperature
Average climate
Exercise Needs
Friendly With Other Dogs
Pure bred cost to own
Dog group
Male weight
40-95 lbs
Female weight
35-85 lbs

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“From the dog’s description in the book, it is believed that Old Yeller was a black mouth cur.”


The black mouth cur is something of a jack-of-all-trades in the dog world. American settlers in the South bred it as a combination watchdog, herding dog, and hunting dog by mixing many breeds from Europe. Affectionate, loyal, and hardworking, the Cur is a rugged working dog that loves its family and can be protective of its territory and people.

3 Different Types of Black Mouth Cur and Mixes

Though there are over 21 known mixes of the black mouth cur, below are three popular mixes.

  • German shepherd Mix: The black mouth cur shepherd mix has excellent guarding instincts and is a loyal breed. It is larger than the cur and needs lots of play and exercise.
  • Cursset: This cross between a black mouth cur and a Basset hound is a lovable family dog with high exercise needs. The Cursset is not a very vocal breed and is excellent with children.
  • Siberian black mouth cur: This is a mix of cur and Siberian husky. This is an excellent guard dog that is also good-tempered and affectionate. It also does well with other pets in the home. It should be socialized well and early.

3 Pros and Cons of Owning a Black Mouth Cur 

The Black Mouth Cur is protective and loyal. It bonds well with its family and is very protective of children in the home.The Cur can be a very territorial dog. Socializing them well is essential to avoid aggressive stand-offs over food, people, or property.
The Cur is hardworking and can be relied upon for watchdog duties, herding, and hunting as necessary.Because of their energy, athleticism, and prey drive, Black Mouth Curs have been known to escape yards, large and small, while chasing critters.
Intelligent and eager to please, the Black Mouth Cur can be a valuable addition to farms and large homesteads.Because of its intelligence and work ethic, the Cur can be challenging to train. They respond best to firm yet positive treatment.

The Best Dog Food for Black Mouth Curs

Black mouth curs are always on the move (or should be). Consequently, they need a high-protein diet. A-Z Animals recommends Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain Free Dry Dog Food. Please consult your vet to match your dog’s activity level with its diet.

Best for Large Dogs
Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

•Nutritional, high protein food for large breed dogs

•Real protein as #1 ingredient

•Fruits & superfoods for vitamins & minerals

•Antioxidants, omega fatty acids, prebiotics

Check Chewy Check Amazon

Size and Weight

The black mouth cur varies quite a bit in size from region to region and breeder to breeder. Consequently, this breed has a wide range of weights and heights. Male Curs stand between 18 and 25 inches at the shoulder and weigh anywhere from 40 to 95 pounds. Females are slightly smaller, standing 16 to 23 inches tall and weighing 35 to 85 pounds.

Height (Male):18 to 25 inches
Height (Female):40 to 95 pounds
Weight (Male):16 to 23 inches
Weight (Female):35 to 85 pounds

Common Health Issues

Due to its mixed and varied lineage, the black mouth cur is a rugged, healthy dog. Like many dogs, it can be susceptible to joint-related issues, such as elbow and hip dysplasia. Curs need a great deal of exercise and are prey-driven, so they may be prone to obesity if not active enough. Many can also develop allergies which can cause skin and ear irritations. Finally, some have been diagnosed with epilepsy, so if you notice your dog shaking, vomiting, or having balance issues, contact your vet immediately.

Black Mouth Cur Temperament

This dog is affectionate, loyal, and hardworking. They have a high energy level that has them constantly looking for something to do. While they bond well with families and children, their need for activity, exercise, and engagement makes them more appropriate as farm or hunting dogs. Their rambunctious and playful personality can make them a hit with kids but can also lead to collisions, bumps, and bruises with smaller children.

How To Take Care of a Black Mouth Cur  

Maintenance and Grooming

Grooming this breed is not a difficult chore. The Cur is a rugged dog with a short wash-and-wear coat. If the coat gets dirty, wipe it down. Brush it every week or so; otherwise, the dog can be bathed whenever it smells bit doggy. If the dog is not working, clip its nails every few weeks. Check its skin and ears for irritation and debris, wiping down folds in the skin if necessary. Finally, brush the dog’s teeth a few times a week.


Intelligent and independent, this dog can be challenging to train. Keep sessions short, energetic, and interesting. The Cur responds best to a firm but positive approach; it does not respond well to harsh treatment or speech.


The black mouth cur is a highly energetic dog that requires at least an hour of intense activity if not two. A hardworking dog, the Cur is bred for herding, hunting, and guarding; it is not a dog for lying around the house. Even though a large enclosed yard is good for exercise purposes, it’s best not to leave the dog in the yard unattended as it will chase anything that runs and can escape.


black mouth cur puppy

Black mouth curs can be territorial and rambunctious; you must socialize them well from a young age.

©Jennifer Kramer/

Socialization should begin as soon as the puppy arrives home. Take it with you to new places and introduce the little pup to new people and other dogs. This breed can be territorial and rambunctious; you must socialize the dog well from a young age. Puppy kindergarten is a good idea as soon as it has been fully vaccinated. Introduce your Cur to your children and other dogs. Bringing a black mouth cur into a home with cats or other small pets is not a good idea because the cur will treat them as prey.

Black Mouth Curs and Children

These dogs and children get along well, and curs have been known to be highly protective of children. Curs have even been known to step in when children are disciplined, so that’s something to be aware of. Socialize the dog early with children to get them to bond with one another. Also, teach the children how to interact with a dog, so they do not poke, prod, and pull at it. They play rough, so they are probably not a good match for small children. Finally, children should never be left unsupervised with an untrained dog, and small children should never be left alone with any dog, trained or otherwise.

Dogs Similar to the Black Mouth Cur

Mountain cur: The mountain cur is similar to the black mouth cur, though it tends to be slightly taller and lighter and has a longer lifespan. It lacks the distinctive black muzzle.

Famous Black Mouth Curs

In the book Old Yeller, the dog’s description matches that of a cur, though a yellow lab was chosen to play the dog on screen.

Popular Names

  • Yeller
  • Ace
  • Rocky
  • Scout
  • Wyatt
  • Sadie
  • Meadow
  • Roxy
  • Stella
  • Shiloh

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Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?


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About the Author

Rob Amend is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily covering meteorology, geology, geography, and animal oddities. He attained a Master's Degree in Library Science in 2000 and served as reference librarian in an urban public library for 22 years. Rob lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, photography, woodworking, listening to classic rock, and watching classic films—his favorite animal is a six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey.

Black Mouth Cur FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is the black mouth cur a good family dog?

This breed is an affectionate and loyal dog. Its suitability for family life is dependent on the family. An active family with someone who is always home is best for the cur. Ideally, the dog will have work to do and plenty of space to do it in; the black mouth cur was bred by farmers for farm, hunting, and ranch life. It’s known to be difficult to train, so this breed is not recommended for novice owners.

Is a black mouth cur the same as a pit bull?

The black mouth cur and the pit bull are distinct breeds, though the two have been bred as a popular mix. Though they are similarly sized, the cur has a slightly lighter frame than the pit bull.

What is a black mouth cur used for?

Black mouth curs were bred by settlers in the American south as all-purpose working dogs. They can serve as guard dogs, herding dogs, and hunting dogs and can bring large game to bay while treeing smaller game.

What breeds make up the black mouth cur?

The history of the black mouth cur is murky. The cur was bred in the American south from European stock from various dogs. Because the breeding was designed with function in mind, people in the south weren’t as concerned about breeds as they were with useful traits. Most were initially assumed to be a mixture of hound and terrier, with some herding dogs mixed in.

Do black mouth cur bark a lot?

Black mouth curs are known to be vocal and somewhat territorial, so they tend to bark a lot. This is another reason why they are better on a farm than in an urban or suburban home.

Is Scooby-Doo a black mouth cur?

Scooby-Doo is actually a great Dane.

Why doesn't the AKC recognize the Black Mouth Cur?

The ancestry of the black mouth cur is too uncertain for AKC evaluation. Because of its uncertain lineage, physical characteristics vary wildly, making it difficult to judge whether or not the breed conforms to a set of standards.

Are black mouth curs easy to train?

Due to their intelligence, independence, prey-drive, and their capacity to work large properties, the black mouth cur has been known to be difficult to train.

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