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A young Mountain Cur.

Cur refers to a mutt, a dog of mixed ancestry, typically characterized as one who tends to growl frequently rather than maintain calm.

It is also a derogatory term in American slang to insult someone by calling them a dog. Particularly, a mixed-breed dog.



The derivation of the word "cur" is uncertain.

According to the Dictionary of True Etymologies,[1] "cur" is a Germanic word, possibly from Old Norse meaning to growl. If so, then the word is onomatopoeic, and a cur is a dog that goes "Grrr." The early English cur-dogge suggests this interpretation: 'growling dog'.

A more plausible explanation is that the word is a derivation of "cu", the Gaelic word for "hound". [2]

However, cur is also a Romanian word meaning 'buttocks', which keeps in line with usage as a derogatory term. Romanian cur is an historical reflex of Latin culus (v. also French cul, Italian and Spanish culo 'anus'), however, thus the semantic link is weak at best, and given minimal contact between Romanian and English, there is no reason to assume any relationship between Romanian cur and English cur.

Cur is also another name for a hairpiece (usually slang for wig).

Early Usage

Historically, the words cur and feist were used in England to refer to small hunting dogs, where "feists" were the smaller dogs and "curs" were 30 lbs or larger. The Elizabethans may have used the word "cur" to denote "terrier".

The word cur appears to be colloquial in nature. In 1790, Thomas Bewick wrote:[3]

The Cur Dog is a trusty and useful servant to the farmer and grazier; and, although it is not taken notice of by naturalists as a distinct race, yet it is now so generally used, especially in the North of England, and such great attention is paid in breeding it, that we cannot help considering it as a permanent kind. They are chiefly employed in driving cattle; in which way they are extremely useful. They are larger, stronger, and fiercer than the Shepherd's Dog; and their hair is smoother and shorter. They are mostly black and white colour. Their ears are half-pricked; and many of them are whelped with short tails, which seem as if they had been cut: These are called Self-tailed Dogs. They bite very keenly; and as they always make their attack at the heels, the cattle have no defence against them: In this way they are more than a match for a Bull, which they quickly compel to run. Their sagacity is uncommonly great. They know their master's fields, and are singularly attentive to the cattle that are in them: A good Dog watches, goes his rounds; and, if any strange cattle should happen to appear amongst the herd, although unbidden, he quickly flies at them, and with keen bites obliges them to depart.

Cur also appeared in the Scottish periodical, Blackwood's Magazine in 1819. The article, Species and Historic lineage of Canine derivations,penned by Sir P. Sean Lacey of London (1776 - 1842) cites "separating the miscreants and cur breeds from those of honorable standing".

Also known as a "worthless dog" (early Websters Dictionary Definition). A decendant of Wolves or a mixed breed with wolves.

In popular culture

Old Yeller was a cur, and his intelligence and utility are typical.

Cur is also used by Angel Dumott Schunard in the musical Rent to refer to a barking dog that "won't shut up". The phrase is used in an historically correct sense, although as the dog in question was a pure-bred Akita, at odds with modern usage as mixed-breed.

In the movie Tombstone (1993), Wyatt Earp used the term cur on several occasions when referring to the Clantons.

In the video game 'Two Worlds' the hero often yells "Die Cur" at attackers. Presumably belittling his adversaries by calling them the derogatory term for dog. The word cur is also used in the video games 'The elder scrolls III:Morrowind', 'The elder scrolls IV: Oblivion' mostly by dark elves, referring to the character as a 'filthy cur'.

Curs and Cur Breeds

Cur is also a type of hunting dog and all-purpose dog developed in rural areas of the United States. Cur is used to describe this type of dog, although it does not describe a specific breed. Breeds of cur are usually not recognized by major show registries, and selection for certain looks has never been a real factor in their development. They were selected mainly for hunting or work ability, although some breeds of cur are also known for herding ability. As a result, in most of the cur breeds the appearance standard is extremely flexible, enough so that a complete breed appearance standard is difficult to create. The resultant diversity in appearance and selection for physical ability result in breeds that tend to be genetically sound and healthy.

They are descended from European dogs brought over by immigrants, possibly mixed with native American dogs. Unlike the true mutt which is random-bred with no human involvement, the curs' breeding is intentionally planned by people.

A related variety of breeds are the feists,small terrier-like dogs bred in the same areas of the United States for hunting small animals and keeping vermin out of farms. The feist breeds are slightly more unified in appearance than the curs, but they were also developed solely for working purposes.


Several lesser-known kennel clubs register various cur breeds based on their ancestry (bloodlines), and several lines are recognized within each breed. The National Kennel Club has registered these breeds for decades and is famous for their organized hunting competitions.

Today the United Kennel Club has an active registration program and competition hunting program for these dogs.


See also

All pages with titles containing "curr"


  1. ^ Room, Adrian, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London and New York, 1986
  2. ^ see
  3. ^ A General History of Quadrupeds by Thomas Bewick, Newcastle, 1790, p.286-287


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