As dog breeds develop and evolve over the years, their differences and distinct histories can become somewhat confusing. Both hounds and curs originally developed as hunting dogs, but remain very distinct in type and personality. Their differences began long ago, when both strains of hunting dogs were created.
The term "cur" is a rather general title for a group or type of dogs developed by Americans in the southern United States who needed healthy, reliable, energetic all-purpose dogs to help track down game on hunts and guard the family farm. Curs are mentioned in historical record as early as the 1700s. These dogs were originally a blend of hound, terrier and feist breeds that immigrated from Europe. Often, regional climates and farmers' individual needs dictated the specific breed combinations that created the modern day cur type.
Cur Temperament and Size
Curs range in size, but most are medium-sized dogs with short drop ears and a close-cropped coat that repels dirt and water. Some of the more common cur types include the Black Mouth Cur, Canadian Cur, Leopard Cur, Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, Mountain Cur, Stephens' Cur, and Treeing Cur. Each strain is extremely strong, intelligent but independent-minded, game and tenacious. These dogs have a "can-do" attitude that makes them valuable to hunters to this day. They make lively companions, but need strenuous daily exercise to remain content and healthy.
The general hound category can be split into two distinct groups: sight hounds and scent hounds. Sight hound history originated in ancient Egypt, where greyhound-like sight hounds were owned by royalty and hunted small game. These dogs eventually found their way to Europe and surrounding areas where they continued to develop as speedy chasers of prey that varied greatly in size.
Scent hounds have their history in large mastiff type breeds that humans found to be exceptionally talented at scent tracking. Canine historians believe that these tracking mastiffs may have been crossed with sight hounds, to produce the often long-legged, droopy-faced scent hounds of today who track and tree game. Scent hounds were also cultivated in disparate regions, which resulted in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Hound Temperament and Size
Sight hounds in general are lean, long-legged, and somewhat mild and reserved in temperament. They range in size and coat type from the shaggy Irish Wolfhound, who stands 32 inches at the shoulder, to the sleek, thin-skinned whippet, who stands 20 inches at the shoulder. Sight hounds are independent and as some breeders say, "cat-like" in their laid back, nonchalant personalities.
Scent hounds are typically thicker in build with pendulous ears and dewlaps on their muzzles. Beagles and basset hounds inhabit the shorter side of the spectrum under 20 inches tall, while the Bloodhound and Black and Tan Coonhounds stand tall at about 27 inches at the shoulder. Scent hounds tend to be a bit messy, as many drool and track in dirt. They are often loud, learning their trademark "baying" at early ages. Scent hounds are also independent, and owners joke that "when the nose goes down to track, the brain shuts off."
What curs and both sight and scent hounds have in common is that all these types are very work-driven and intent on accomplishing the task at hand. Breeds of these types need to be closely watched outside, and should generally never be let off leash, because they will give chase to moving objects they perceive as prey. Most will not even stop chasing if they come to a busy road or highway. All hound and cur types are independent thinkers, since they were bred to work in accordance with their instinct, and to not depend too much on human direction. When properly exercised and trained, both curs and hounds can make wonderful family dogs, as they are eager to interact with their pack and are very affectionate by nature.
Olivia Kight is an experienced online and print writer and editor. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 2012, and has worked on education, family life and counseling publications. She also gained valuable knowledge shadowing a zoo veterinarian and grooming and socialize show dogs, and now spends her time writing and training her spunky young labradoodle, Booker.