The name Cútar appears to have been derived from the Arabic “Cautzar”, meaning “fountain of paradise ".
Archaeological remains found in the town point to human settlements here between the end of the Neolithic period and the beginning of the Bronze Age. The town sprang up as a result of the Arabic fortress that once stood in the area. The only remaining trace of its Muslim past is the small construction that houses the Aina Alcaria fountain. Many researchers believe Cútar to have been the scene of the Battle of the Axarquîa, which ended in a heavy defeat for the Christians.
The "Legend of the Bird of Death" dates back to these times. Popular tradition has it that when the fields that surrounded the town became the scene of strange deaths, it was a hunter who succeeded in resolving the mystery. One night, this hunter was confronted by a bird-like apparition which then turned into a woman and carried him off to a glass palace inside a cave in the depths of a ravine. Once inside, the hunter discovered the bodies of the victims who had vanished in such strange circumstances. In order to escape, he told the woman that he wanted to see the stars; once outside, he used his dagger as a cross and escaped from his ordeal alive.
Cútar’s boundaries enclose three clearly-distinguishable areas, marked out by the Málaga Mountains and River de la Cueva. So, in the north of the town we find La Loma de León and La Peña de Hierro, an area devoted almost exclusively to agriculture (cereals and olive and almond trees) but where examples of fine craftsmanship, particularly articles made from esparto grass, can also be found. This is the oldest part of Cútar, in which the impressive Peña del Hierro rock can be seen for miles around, and it is here that the area’s prehistoric remains are concentrated. As we descend along the course of the river, we come to the second inhabited area, comprising the districts of La Zubia, Salto del Negro and La Molina. Here, tropical crops are cultivated on the river bank, though traditional cakes such as roscos de anîs and tortas de almendras are still made here, too. Finally, at the centre stands Cútar itself, whose economy is primarily based on raisins and tropical produce.