If you ever heard in an old Western genre movie someone being called a cur, it meant that they were bastard children or a mangy, undignified person. Dem’s were fightin’ words, and usually it ended up in some kind of gunfight. Knowing about the treeing cur will help you understand how that word came about, and also how valuable they were – and still are – to hunters around the world.
1. They are in a class by themselves.
One of the ironic characteristics about the treeing cur is that while they were originally maligned because they are not the product of human intervention breeding, they have been bred specifically to chase animals up trees to make it easier for their hunter-masters to find. Not every cur is a treeing cur, so despite what is considered to be common knowledge, the treeing cur has a very specific purpose.
2. There are two classes of treeing curs.
There is the general class of curs, who have not been bred for treeing purposes, and two other classes. You can think of it as being super-sized, as the smaller version of treeing curs are known as Feists, while the larger, mainly North American curs are known as the true treeing curs. The smaller variety will pursue smaller game, though some of the breeds have very aggressive tendencies and may be brave enough to pursue much larger game.
3. Treeing cur’s ancestry was originally used to keep unwanted cattle from wandering into their master’s herd.
At first this might seem to be a bit odd, but it actually makes sense. Farmer made their living from the quality of their food, and allowing wandering cattle to breed with the farmer’s could set off a genetic disaster not seen until a couple of generations down the road. Curs were found to be great at noticing the presence of intruders and driving them off by biting at their ankles.
4. More than half of the Treeing Cur breed are Coonhounds.
If you see the name of the dog end with “coonhound” there is a greater than 50-50 chance you have a treeing dog. Though it sounds like a name that has its origins from people who live in hilly country, coonhounds aptly are named as raccoons are about the right size of game (or vermin) treeing curs of any size can successfully run up a tree.
5. They are superior to British hunting dogs.
This is what the colonists had learned as they first used the recommended British hunting dog breeds. It didn’t take long for the colonists to realize that the recommended breeds would either lose track of the game or would become bored and stop tracking game that would jump up into a tree. The treeing cur was soon discovered, and the rest is history.
6. They are not to be confused with mutts or mongrels.
This may be a finer point to many people, but mutts and mongrels were specifically bred to perform a specific duty. Humans would mix breeds with a specific purpose for the mutt or mongrel. Treeing curs, or curs in general, were the result of a hands-off breeding approach, letting nature take its course, so to speak.
7. The treeing Cur is among 9 cur breeds officially recognized by the National Kennel Club. The other 8 are listed here:
- Bavarian Cur
- Black Mouth Cur
- Canadian Cur
- Catahoula Leopard Dog
- Mountain Cur
- Southern Black Mouth Cur
- Stephens Cur
- Yellow Black Mouth Cur
The basic argument against the cur breed was that because they were so mixed they didn’t meet the standards to be considered for inclusion into the club. But breeders made their case that there are specific personality and physical characteristics that distinguish them from other breeds. However, these may be the only cur breeds accepted in the foreseeable future.
8. They are very noisy dogs.
It may be obvious to many people, but the fact that the treeing cur is used to find and corner game means that by nature they will bark their heads off until their master arrives. Bringing one into your home means that you will have a four legged alarm every time they see or hear something – until you go and turn the alarm off.
9. Bloodhounds were intentionally introduced into the treeing cur breeding lines.
The Bloodhound is renowned for its ability to sniff out just about anything. One problem with the British hunting breeds is that it would lose the scent of the game once it scurried up the tree. Since there were no restrictions on the genetic purity of curs, bloodhounds could be introduced to create a breed with a keener sense of smell.
10. You’re barking up the wrong tree.
This common saying came directly from the treeing cur as a hunter. While we would all like to think that there is a 100% success rate with the curs finding their prey, the reality is different. So, when dogs would be incessantly barking up a tree where the game wasn’t (or had jumped to another tree) it was clear they had been barking up the wrong tree.