A “cur,” as a rule, isn’t a specific breed, and in the United States, it’s usually thought of as a type of dog acknowledged by the job it performs. The Black Mouth Cur, however, is most decidedly a breed and was recognized in 1998 as a member of the Herding Group by the United Kennel Club, its original job to herd livestock (and hunt game).
The Black Mouth Cur’s exact ancestry is subject to speculation, but what is know with certainty is that the breed was developed in the southern US as a general purpose farm dog sometime in the 19th century, if not earlier. There are several lines within the breed, most named for the kennel or the family that developed them. The best known of the lines is the Ladner yellow Black Mouth Cur line named for the Ladner family of Southern Mississippi which has been breeding Black Mouth Curs for over 100 years (and still do to this day). The Alabama Black Mouth Cur and the Florida Black Mouth Cur are two other lines known for their red and yellow coloration respectively.
If you read Fred Gipson’s novel, “Old Yeller,” you’ve already met a Black Mouth Cur, though to our knowledge, the dog used in the movie was a Lab/Mastiff cross (still, many have suspected that the dog did, in fact, have had some Black Mouth Cur blood).
Needless to say, the name “blackmouth” refers to the dark pigmentation in the dog’s lips that extends to the roof of the mouth, to the gums and inner cheeks. Except for the tongue, the interior of the dog’s mouth is darkly pigmented.
Black Mouth Cur Characteristics and Temperament
The Black Mouth Cur is a strong and dynamic dog originating from the southeastern US region. It’s a reliable working dog known for its strength and endurance and often works as a herding dog. It’s named after the black coloring around its muzzle.
Like Old Yeller, Black Mouth Curs are known to be very protective and loyal. They also have strong intuition and become very good at reading their owners and becoming in-tune with their emotions.
One day Frank Weatherwax’s wife, Connie, was reading The Saturday Evening Post when she came upon serialized story called “Old Yeller” by Frank Gipson (it later became a book). She loved the story, and the description of the dog made her think of Spike.
Spike almost didn’t get the part in the movie about Old Yeller because everyone thought he was too much of a sweetheart.
Spike also appeared in other movies. He was in A Dog of Flanders, and The She-Creature as well as The Silent Call. On television he made appearances on The Mickey Mouse Club and The Westerner with Brian Keith.
When Spike arrived at the studio, the Disney people saw a flop-eared, very friendly, goofy dog with huge feet…. How was this going to be the Protector Dog who saves the Texas family from all types of threats? Spike had been raised around children and loved people of all ages. The dog just didn’t look vicious.
Though Spike was in several other films and appeared on television, he will always be remembered for his part in Old Yeller, one of the best boy-and-his-dog films as well as a film with one of the saddest endings.
A fictional canine hero, Old Yeller is a stray dog who “adopts” a rural Texas family during the late 1860s and is infected with rabies while defending them. The Newbery Honor-winning novel “Old Yeller,” written by Fred Gipson, came out in 1956. The following year, Disney released a film with Spike in the title role. He was part yellow lab, making him a distant relative of golden retrievers. The dog he portrayed, however, was likely a yellow black mouth cur.
Spike, who played Old Yeller in the film, was a yellow lab and mastiff mix, although some sources, such as Turner Movie Classics, claim he was a yellow black mouth cur. The Weatherwax family, who owned and trained Spike, adopted him from an animal shelter, and one of their relatives confirmed his lab and mastiff ancestry.
Gipson doesn’t identify Old Yeller’s breed, but he says many of the family’s neighbors have cur dogs. Based on Old Yeller’s appearance and behavior, he most likely was a yellow black mouth cur, and authoritative websites — including Internet Movie Database — state this as fact. Yellow black mouth curs exhibit many characteristics similar to Old Yeller’s. These hunting dogs tackle bears, as well as deer and boar; Old Yeller fights both a bear and a wolf. These dogs are loyal and fiercely protective of people they love, a characteristic that matches Old Yeller’s devotion to his family.
How many dogs did they use in Old Yeller?
Was Old Yeller a yellow lab?
What killed Old Yeller?
How old was Old Yeller dog when he died?