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Catahoula Leopard Dog

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The Catahoula Leopard Dog is an American dog breed named after Catahoula Parish, Louisiana, United States. Also known as the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, the Louisiana Catahoula, or the Catahoula Cur, and simply the Catahoula for short, it became the state dog of Louisiana in 1979. The breed is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the "Catahoula hound" or "Catahoula Leopard hound" because of its spots; it is not actually a hound but a cur. Another informal term is Catahoula hog dog, reflecting its traditional use in hunting feral boars.

Catahoula Leopard Dog
Other namesLouisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog,
Catahoula Cur,
Leopard Dog,
Louisiana Catahoula;
Catahoula hog dog
Catahoula hound
OriginUnited States
Weight 40–95 lb (18–43 kg)
Male 45–110 lb (20–50 kg)
Female 40–90 lb (18–41 kg)
Height 22-26
Male 22–26 in (56–66 cm)
Female 20–24 in (51–61 cm)
Coat Short to medium
Color Varied
Litter size 4-12
Classification / standards
AKC Preliminary acceptance (FSS) standard
The AKC Foundation Stock Service (FSS) is an optional recording service for purebred dogs that are not yet eligible for AKC registration.
UKC Herding group standard
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)


Both the Catahoula lineage and the origins of the name Catahoula are uncertain, and there are competing explanations.

One hypothesis posits that the Catahoula is the result of Native Americans having bred their own dogs with molossers and greyhounds brought to Louisiana by Hernando de Soto in the 16th century. As for the aforementioned Native American dog breeds, for a time it was believed that they were bred with or from red wolves, but this idea is not supported by modern DNA analysis. Several recent studies[1] have looked at the remains of prehistoric dogs from American archaeological sites and each has indicated that the genetics of prehistoric American dogs are similar to European and Asian domestic dogs rather than wild New World canids. In fact, these studies indicate that Native Americans brought several lines (breeds) of already domesticated dogs with them on their journeys from Asia to North America.[2]

Another hypothesis suggests that the breed originated three centuries later, some time in the 19th century, after French settlers introduced the Beauceron to North America. The French told of strange-looking dogs with haunting glass eyes that were used by the Indians to hunt game in the swamp;[3] the idea is that the Beauceron and the red wolf/war dog[clarification needed] were interbred to produce the Catahoula.[citation needed]

There are also at least two views about the origin of the name Catahoula. One is that it is a combination of two Choctaw words, okhata meaning 'lake', and hullo meaning 'beloved'. Another possibility is that the name is a French transformation of the Choctaw word for their own nation, Couthaougoula, pronounced approximately IPA: [kuːt.hauː.guːla] (/koot-how-goo-lah/).[3].

At the suggestion of a senator,[who?] the Catahoula Cur was renamed the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog by one registry, the United Kennel Club, though the American Kennel Club has retained the shorter name Catahoula Leopard Dog. In 1979, Governor Edwin Edwards signed a bill making it the official state dog of Louisiana, in recognition of its importance in the history of the region.[4][5]


An adult merle Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dog.

As a working dog, Catahoulas have been bred primarily for temperament and ability rather than for appearance. As a result, the physical characteristics of Catahoulas are somewhat varied.


Catahoulas may range greatly in size, though males average slightly larger than females. Typical height ranges from 20–26 inches (51–66 cm) and weight from 40–112 pounds (18–51 kg).


Red merle leopard Catahoula with litter showing a wide variety of coat colors including double-merle[6]
A "blue leopard"-colored Catahoula Leopard dog

Catahoulas come in many different colors including blue merle, red merle, brindle, and solid colors. Often, solid coat Catahoulas have small splashes of other colors such as white on their face, legs or chest. The leopard-like coat of most Catahoulas is the result of the merle gene. The merle gene does not normally affect the entire coat of the dog, but dilutes the color only in areas that randomly present the characteristic of the gene. Deeper colors are preferred; predominantly white coats are discouraged. Since Catahoula is a working dog, coat color is not a primary consideration.[7][8][9]

  • Red leopard: These are various shades of brown and tan, may also have white. Known as "red merle" in other breeds.
  • Blue leopard: These are various shades of dark grey, often with black, and some may also have white (generally on the feet and chest). Known as "blue merle" in other breeds.
  • Black or black leopard: These are leopards least affected by the merle gene, and will display smaller patches of blue or gray.
  • Gray or silver leopard: Blue leopards where the black color has been diluted to gray. Known as "slate merle" in other breeds.
  • Tri-color: Have three distinct visible colors, usually white, black, and gray.
  • Quad-color and five-color: Have varying body coloration and trim colors. Gray Catahoulas may be considered quad-color when white and tan trim are included. Such a dog could display black, gray, white (usually around the neck, face, feet, and tail) and tan (which may also appear around the face and feet).
  • Patchwork: Predominantly white dogs with small amounts of solid and/or merle patches appearing throughout the coat. The colored patches may be black or brown. Dilution may affect those colored patches and produce gray, blue, red, or liver coloration within them.


A Catahoula's coat should be short or medium length. It can be smooth or coarse.[7][10]


The breed may have "cracked glass" or "marbled glass" eyes (heterochromia) and occurs when both colored and glass portions are present in the same eye. Cracked glass or marbled glass eyes are blue or blue-white in color. Catahoulas with two cracked glass or marble glass eyes are often referred to as having double glass eyes. In some cases, a glass eye will have darker colored sections in it, and vice versa. Cracked glass eyes may be half of one color and half of another. They may just have a streak or spot of another color. Gray eyes are usually cracked glass eyes, made of blue and green, giving them their grayish appearance. The eyes may be of the same color or each of a different color. Eye color can also be ice blue, brown, green, gray, or amber. No particular eye color is typical of Catahoulas. Some have been known to have half of one eye marbled.


The tail of the Catahoula may be long and whip-like, reaching past the hocks of the back legs, or else bobtail, which is a tail that ranges from one vertebra shorter than full length to only one vertebra in total length. The question mark tail is a common tail trait, often with a white tip. The bobtail is a rare but natural part of the Catahoula heritage.


Though most dogs have webbing between the toes, Catahoulas' feet have more prominent webbing which extends almost to the ends of the toes. This foot gives the Catahoula the ability to work marshy areas and gives them great swimming ability.


Catahoulas are highly intelligent and energetic. They are assertive dogs, but can also have issues with interdog aggression and intolerance to strangers. Their original purpose of hunting hogs, controlling cattle, etc. has bred in a high prey drive; small animals including cats and chickens may be injured by a Catahoula, even when raised with them. Some do not always make a good family dog, and are better suited to a working or active performance home. Aggression, destructive behavior, and undesirable behaviors all begin when inadequate mental and physical exercise is provided. Most Catahoulas are good with children, and will protect them against aggressors, (though some are prone to mistake aggression for other emotions). Most are also good with unknown children and their contact with the dog's "pack"/family, but they are wary of unknown adults. Socialization and training from a young age may help lessen some undesirable behaviors, but may not completely eliminate them. The majority of Catahoulas are even tempered.[11]



These dogs are outstanding bay dogs, or tracking and hunting dogs. They have been known to track animals from miles away, and have been used for hunting feral pigs, squirrel, deer, raccoon, mountain lion, and black bear.[citation needed] They often track silently and only begin to make their distinctive baying bark, eye to eye with the prey, once it is stopped, and hold it in position without touching the animal; using only posture, eye contact, and lateral shifts.

Catahoulas have been introduced in the Northern Territory of Australia where they have been found to be a superior hunting dog for pigs by breeders. They have been introduced in New Zealand as well as Australia, but the number of Catahoulas there is unclear.[citation needed]


They are used primarily for herding cattle, and pigs by a method of antagonizing and intimidation of herd animals as opposed to the method of all-day boundary patrol and restricting the animals being herded from entering or leaving the designated area.[12] They are good with reindeer. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Catahoulas exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in cow/hog dog trials.[13]

The breed is recognized by the United Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club under the "herding dog" breed group.[7][14]

Health issuesEdit


Deafness is one of the major genetic faults common in Catahoulas and is associated with individuals that are excessively white in color and deafness attributed to a lack of melanocytes.[15] A Catahoula that is predominantly white has an 80% chance of being bi-laterally deaf or uni-laterally hearing.[16] Hearing in one ear is referred to as "directional deafness". Breeders are often unwilling to allow deaf Catahoulas to leave their premises and will generally euthanize deaf pups. Puppies born from a litter where both parents have the merle color pattern have a 25% chance of turning out to be blind, deaf, or blind and deaf. These puppies are often referred to as "double merles". A double merle can come from any breed, or breed mix. As long as both parents are merle, each puppy has a chance of inheriting these traits.

Hip dysplasiaEdit

A concern with many breeds, hip dysplasia is dependent on the gene pool and good breeders. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and PennHIP can help determine whether a specific individual is prone to hip dysplasia through radiographs. According to the OFA, roughly 20% of Catahoulas develop hip dysplasia.

Catahoula linesEdit

There are three lines of early foundation stock for the Catahoula breed:

  • The Wright line: The largest, at 90–110 pounds (40–50 kg). Developed by Preston Wright. This line allegedly represented dogs originally produced from Hernando de Soto's dogs.
  • The Fairbanks line: Next-largest in size, at 65–75 pounds (30–35 kg). Developed by Lovie Fairbanks. They were brindle to yellow in color.
  • The McMillin line: The smallest in size, at 50–60 pounds (about 25 kg). Developed by T. A. McMillin of Sandy Lake, Louisiana. These were "blue" (grey) dogs with the glassy eye trait.[17]

These three lines were crossed back and forth and created the variations of Catahoulas seen today.[5]

Notable references to Catahoulas in historyEdit



  1. ^ Leonard, Jennifer A.; Wayne, Robert K.; Wheeler, Jane; Valadez, Raúl; Guillén, Sonia; Vilà, Carles (November 22, 2002). "Ancient DNA evidence for Old World origin of New World dogs". Science. 298 (5598): 1613–1616. doi:10.1126/science.1076980. PMID 12446908 – via PubMed.
  2. ^ Rozell, Ned (March 6, 2003). "Old Dogs in a New World". University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute.
  3. ^ a b Abney, Don (July 1, 1998). The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog. Doral Publishing. ISBN 0944875440.
  4. ^ Laney, Ruth (August 24, 2015). "The Catahoula Connection". Country Roads Magazine.
  5. ^ a b "Catahoula Leopard". Archived from the original on 2006-06-17. Retrieved 2006-08-29.
  6. ^ "Double-Merle". Dog Coat Color Genetics.
  7. ^ a b c "Breed Standards : Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog". United Kennel Club (UKC).
  8. ^ "Coat Colors". National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  9. ^ "Catahoula Information » Catahoula Issues » Coat". Abney Catahoulas. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  10. ^ "National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas, Inc. Breed Standard".
  11. ^ Abney, Don. "Catahoula Questions, Frequently Asked Catahoula Questions". Abney Catahoulas.
  12. ^ "Dog Owner's Guide: Herding dogs".
  13. ^ Hartnagle-Taylor, Jeanne Joy; Taylor, Ty (2010). Stockdog Savvy. Alpine Publications. ISBN 978-1-57779-106-5.
  14. ^ "Catahoula Leopard Dog Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club.
  15. ^ Young, Linda (May 18, 2010). "Catahoula Leopard Dogs Breed Information". 2Gals Farm. Archived from the original on January 14, 2012.
  16. ^ Abney, Don. "Catahoula Information". Abney Catahoulas.
  17. ^ Abney, Don. "Catahoula History: A Factual Account of the Louisiana Catahoula Origin". Self-published.
  18. ^ a b c "History of the Catahoula". Cracker Catahoulas. Archived from the original on 2009-06-23. Retrieved 2018-12-08.
  19. ^ "Centenary College Unveils New Mascot". Centenary College of Louisiana. December 7, 2007. Retrieved August 13, 2019.

External linksEdit