Curs and Catahoula Leopards, the Cow-Hog Dogs

There are a number of Curs such as the Black Mouth Cur, the Florida Cur, Catahoula Leopard Cur (the sometimes merle patterned cur) and the Yellow Black Mouth Cur. For the most part they are best described as Fred Gibson’s charming yellow bob-tailed dog in Old Yeller. Curs are rugged, muscular dogs with short, smooth coats and hanging ears.

Florida Curs working with John Payne, the One-Armed Bandit – Photo by Dudley Barker

Penning Longhorns on top of a trailer with the help of Florida Curs – Courtesy John Payne, the One Armed Bandit

Rough terrain and nearly wild livestock often presented difficult stock-handling conditions the in American South, requiring particularly tough men and dogs. Several types of lean, quick dogs with strong heading and hunting instincts were developed in the 19th century to track and gather wild cattle and hogs in dense brush country. Many strains of curs were bred by individual families or in a particular region; the Catahoula Leopard dog is an example of a type that has continued to this day. Another example is the dog Fred Gibson wrote about in his classic book, Old Yeller. It is believed Curs stem from a mix of hounds and herders. They can hunt, trail, drive, and corral wild cattle and hogs. they tend to work better in packs or pairs. Any strays will be worked back into the herd by the dogs. they have a way of getting cattle to follow by aggravating the cows.

Although a lot of these dogs are strong “catch” dogs, many are headers and “lead” dogs. Curs tease, bay, and run ahead to lead cattle rather than driving them. Lead dogs are especially effective for handling singles and hogs. the dogs aggravate the maverick by barking and snapping at the animal until it charges. Once the animal goes for the dog(s), the dog stays ahead of the charging animal and leads it. If the animal stops following, the dogs teases until it follows again. The dog then lures the animal towards the catch pens.

Handling wild cattle is different than handling other types of cattle. Feral cattle have survival instincts similar to deer or elk. An outlaw cow or bull that has run in the brush or swamps for several years is clever at maintaining its independent status. Cattle will hide in the brush and briar thickets and have even been known to lie down in the water with only a nose sticking out. It takes an experienced dog and cowboy to find such an animal let alone round it up.

john paynes dogs working buffalo 1

Courtesy John Payne, the One Armed Bandit

See Wild Hogs:

To learn more about herding breeds from around the world, their temperaments, working styles and how to train them please refer to the book Stockdog Savvy (Alpine Publications) by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor:

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