A few years ago, we were surprised by a red flash flying by the window. As we jumped up to see what it was, we caught the rear end of the fastest dog we’ve ever seen bounding across the field.
We found out someone had abandoned her and another dog in our cove. Animal control quickly nabbed the other dog, but the red flash was too wily to be caught. She was scared, skinny, had some crazy scars that she still has today, limping (had ripped a claw out of her back foot and an air gun pellet in one hip), and didn’t trust anyone. Enter bacon. We offered her bacon, and she just couldn’t resist. We left out food and treats, and it still took 10 days to get her close enough to touch.
We started calling her Spirit because she would show up to eat then disappear into the trees. Soon she was sleeping on the patio furniture. After discussions with our landlord and the neighbors, including a vet who worked at the animal shelter and helped us ensure we weren’t taking a dog someone was looking for, we decided she could be part of the family if she wanted. We coaxed her inside the basement one night.
She was ours from then on. After a bath and a whole lotta lovin she settled into our family seamlessly. We changed her name to Clover, and she turned out to be as sweet as could be, even sitting in our laps if we sat on the floor. Most of the neighbors had 1-3 dogs who had been abandoned in that cove, but Clover was by far the prettiest. Not only that, we were seeing many Clover look-a-likes in the area, like someone was breeding dogs to look like her.
Beth knows a lot about dog breeds and had an inkling that Clover might be something called a Black Mouth Cur. I was skeptical, but the more links Beth showed me, the more I had to agree. She was the right size and color, relaxed, loyal, not a barker, great with people of all ages, super muscular, and had a black mask. From what we could tell, before we took her in, Clover had gotten by pretty well by hunting rodents in the woods. One night early on when we couldn’t get her to sleep inside, she barked at 2 a.m. to let us know she had an opossum for us in the driveway. Beth called her off of it, and she came up and fell asleep on the chair on the patio. When the opossum realized it wasn’t being watched anymore, it stopped playing dead and ambled back down the road.
Clover and her look-a-likes in the area have an underbite, which isn’t a Black Mouth Cur trait. It’s certainly possible she’s just a mix. A lot of people call mixes Black Mouth Curs. However, with the uniformity and great musculature of these dogs, it’s possible someone is breeding pit bull into a Cur line for stronger pig- and bear-hunting abilities. Whatever Clover is, she got us interested in Black Mouth Curs, and pretty soon we were thinking these brown dogs were the breed for us.
We’ve wanted a couple good farm dogs to help watch over the property, big dogs who are sweet with known guests and children but would scare off a sketchy trespasser. We wanted a breed that could keep up with our active lifestyle, hike 10-15 miles or go for a 3-5 mile run, while not being hyper or bouncing off the walls. A dog who’s active but back at home is lazy and laid up on the floor.
As with everything, we researched and researched. Besides Black Mouth Curs, we looked seriously at Boerboels and Rottweilers. The Boerboel was big, lazy, and protective but couldn’t hike or run with us. The Rottweiler has the capacity to be too aggressive and shed too much. Black Mouth Curs made the most sense for us.
A Historic Breed
Black Mouth Curs (BMCs) are named for the black around their gums and mouth that extends into their throat but not the tongue. If there were such a thing, they could be called a “heritage dog breed.” Originating in the Southeast and Appalachia, BMCs have been around for a long time. You probably know about at least one: Old Yeller is a BMC in the novel.
They’re bred as a versatile homestead dog who can guard livestock, herd cattle, and hunt every kind of animal you might want to hunt. One reason so many people label their mutts as BMCs is that even purebreds can look pretty different. Some have long muzzles. Others are “more houndy.” They range from 50-100 lb with short coats. While they’re normally various shades of brown with a black muzzle, several color variations are acceptable.
During our research, we learned there are different lineages of BMCs. Apparently the first documented BMCs came out of the Howard line in Alabama. Carnathan BMCs are supposed to be some of the largest. Foundation BMC out of Texas are supposed to be good cattle herders. Yellow Ladner BMCs out of Mississippi were the first to be registered with the National Kennel Club in 1964. The Weatherford Ben’s BMC is valued for its stock and hunting abilities.
A big disclaimer that, while we did a lot of research to make our decision, we don’t claim to be experts on the breed. We haven’t hunted or herded with our dogs and can’t speak to topics like which lines bay and tree the best. We value this breed because they’re athletic, confident, quiet, friendly, short-coated, and make good watch dogs.
Finding a Breeder
We liked the looks of the Howard/Ladner lineage and the size of the Carnathan line. The Howard/Ladner line has the broad muscular build, red coloring, thick chest, and short to medium muzzle. After much online research and many phone calls, I found Givens Black Mouth Curs in Monroe, GA. Shannon mixes the Howard/Ladner line with the Carnathan line to produce large, muscular BMCs that were exactly what we were looking for. She also breeds for temperament to make a great family dog. Her litters for the foreseeable future were already claimed and paid for. To me, this meant we had found the right person to talk to.
She offered to put me on her waiting list but knew of a breeder here in Tennessee who was using her dogs in their breeding program. She said they were expecting a litter in the coming year. She would be getting the female pick for her breeding program.
We contacted the breeder, Jessica, in January and asked if we could visit the farm and meet the stud and female for the upcoming litter. It was under 2 hours away, which was a bonus. We were willing to drive longer for a good puppy, but it was nice not to have to.
Their farm and dogs were awesome. The stud is a huge, muscular, short muzzled, red-colored BMC. He’s weary of strangers and guards their acreage at night but is loyal and good with their kids. He loves spending time with his people. The female was extra sweet and relaxed with a very Ladner look. They’d had another litter out of this pair, so we could see the beautiful dogs they produce. (Spoiler: our puppy is under her paw in this picture.)
Jessica said we could put a deposit down on their potential April litter for pick of the males. We did, and she kept us posted on the pregnancy through the winter. She called in April to say they had a big litter of six males and six females. We could come and pick out our boy in 6 weeks. Every pup was claimed. Others in the litter would be going to Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, even California. I can’t imagine how many texts she had to send, because she sent pictures and updates as they grew.
Our goal was to choose the biggest, calmest puppy so he would fit in with our flow. When we arrived at the farm to pick, they separated the 6 males for us to meet. We watched them play on the grass.
All the pups had good qualities, but one large, red boy stuck out. They said he was by far the calmest, and he clicked immediately with Beth. It was the first and only puppy she picked up, and as soon as she did, he calmed down and leaned on her. It was an easy choice. We went back 2 weeks later to bring him home.
Meet Fuller. We named him after the designer of the modern geodesic dome home, Buckminster Fuller. Our neighbor has already dubbed him Pupminster Fuller. The name seemed appropriate since we’ve started the dome build this summer!
He’s a smart, confident puppy who has been growing like crazy since we brought him home a few weeks ago. We think he’ll be around 90 lbs.
Between the time we put the deposit down at New Years and picking up Fuller in June, we rescued another probable BMC from a shelter in a nearby county. After calling her every name we could think of, she responded to Sara. Sara came to us trained in the basic commands and has all the qualities we wanted in a BMC.
Sara and Fuller have become thick as thieves, and it has helped having her around to show him the ropes.
Clover has been fighting a weird immune problem diagnosed as “coonhound syndrome” for over a year now. It’s a longer story than I’ll go into, but she had a run-in with a raccoon or some other toxin that caused her to lose the use of her legs. Her prognosis for a full recovery was initially good, but so much time has elapsed, with such slow improvements even after underwater-treadmill therapy and daily stretching and exercises, we’re not sure which way she’ll go. She’ll be with us as long as she’s happy and improving. She spends most days outside on the porch or the yard and guards the chickens…without chasing them. That’s a plus.
We’ll post future updates about our brown dogs and discuss training and socialization, because this active, independent breed could be a challenge for first-time dog owners or city dwellers.
For now, we’re just enjoying letting Fuller be a fat little pup.