Known for their exceptionally hard-working nature, agility and constant desire to keep busy, the Catahoula Leopard dog breed is so much more than the official canine of Louisiana. They’re tough, hardy and incredibly loyal to their owner, although they also need a lot of work. Luckily, you have us and our complete guide to this amazing breed.
Interested in learning more about the Catahoula Leopard dog puppy, or want to discover if there’s an ideal Catahoula Leopard dog mix out there for you? Read on and discover everything there is to know about this incredible breed and all they have to offer as your new family member.
History Of the Catahoula Dog
The history of the Catahoula dog is not entirely known, beyond a few basic facts and general knowledge. However, what is clear is that they were initially bred at around the same time that the first settlers arrived in America. For a long time, it was believed that these dogs were originally bred from Red Wolves (which, in itself, is said to have derived from both coyote and wolf lineage), although this has recently been disproven through DNA tests. Find out more about DNA tests for dogs here.
Other lineages which have been suggested hold their roots in multiple breeds, such as the molossers, Greyhounds and Beauceron dogs. However, the only thing that has been discerned from analysis is that the Catahoula Leopard dog has it’s roots in European and Asian domestic dog ancestry. Thus, it is very likely that these dogs emigrated with the Native Americans, when they migrated across the world from Asia to America.
The American Kennel Club have stated that this breed was certainly around when Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto arrived in America and began his expedition. While the writings are vague, it is suggested that the breed hails from the Native American breed which “looked like a wolf but barked like a dog” and was bred with Spanish and French dogs, thus creating what we now know as the Catahoula Leopard Dog.
No matter their initial origins, however, what we do know is that the Catahoula has nearly always been used for herding. Because of this, and their popularity exploding in the 1800’s, this dog has thrived in the US. Their adaptability lead to a quick growth in numbers during a short period, particularly in the boggy marshlands of the South East America.
Here, they were put to work rounding up hogs for local farmers. This tough work has therefore led to a tough dog, which is both intelligent yet hardy – perfect for long days running in both the fields and swampy areas. Because of this, these dogs have multiple traits which make them suitable for running, chasing, hunting, herding and generally working all day long.
Their name hails from two Choctaw words, “okhata” meaning “lake” and “hullo” to mean “beloved” or “sacred”, which were the name of the Parish in which these dogs were particularly popular. You can still see this parish today, as it is based in Northern Louisiana.
Despite being around for such a long time, it wasn’t until 1979 that the previously-known Catahoula cur was officially given the title of State Dog of Louisiana, thanks to their close roots to the area. However, they were still not recognized by the United Kennel Club until 1995 and, while the AKC has accepted them into the Foundation Stock Service, the club has yet to recognize the breed.
These days, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is still used as a working dog, and can be found helping out their humans with everything from sledding to herding. While they may not be the dog you envisage pulling along a sled in the snow, many sledders and drivers have noted their drive and power is ideal for mushing. Meanwhile, these dogs are used across both North and South America as herding dogs, most recently in Venezuela, where they help to gather wild Brahman cattle on the ranches.
Because of their unique lineage, these dogs can come in a range of colors and sizes, as breeders have often favored their ability to work over their looks. For this reason, you can find many types in red, merle, brindle and even solid colors (without their leopard spots). They are also bred with both a short and medium coat, with many pets having a mixture of the two, although shorter coats are more common.
One of the most unique aspects of the Catahoula Leopard is their unique eye color. These dogs can come with a range of different color combinations, all of which can be striking. One of the most popular looks with these dogs is their light-colored eyes (often referred to as “glass eyes” due to their very light coloring) and many have a “cracked” eye. The latter of which refers to eyes which have multiple colorings in one, also known as heterochromia.
Want to brush up on your general knowledge, or simply want the know the key information about the Catahoula Hog Dog? Check out our quick facts, to get a brief overview of everything this breed has to offer.
- They are not a registered American Kennel Club (AKC) breed, but have been placed under the Foundation Stock group.
- In 1979 the Catahoula Leopard Dog became the State Dog of Louisiana.
- Named after the Catahoula Parish, whose name derives from Choctaw Indian, of the Muskogean language group. The original meaning of which is “sacred or beloved lake”.
- You can find the namesake parish of the Catahoula Leopard in Northern Louisiana.
- The “Leopard” part of their name comes from their markings, which aren’t dissimilar to leopards.
- Their feet are slightly webbed, in order to help them move across boggy lands.
- They are also referred to as the Catahoula Hound, Catahoula Hog Dog and the Catahoula Cur.
- They were initially bred as hunting dogs.
- They excel in agility and are known for competing in agility courses.
- These dogs require lots of training and can become bored, easily.
- Canada has recently started using these pups as sled dogs.
- Catahoula Leopard Dogs were originally bred to hunt hogs
- There are three main lines of the Catahoula Hound – the Wright line is the largest, followed by the Lovie Fairbanks and, finally, the smallest is the McMillan line.
- Because of the three lines the answer to “how big does a Catahoula Leopard Dog get?” is actually quite difficult to predict. However, many can reach up to 24 inches tall and up to 95 pounds.
- Common Catahoula Leopard dog mix breeds include the Labrahoula and Catahoula hound.
Things you Should Know
Every dog will have their own individual differences, but learning as much as possible about the breed you’re interested in can help you to decide whether they’re the right pet for you. Catahoula Leopard dogs are no different, and reading up as much as you can, can help you to adjust to life with your new family member. Check out our general guide to all things Catahoula Leopard Dog to find out whether this breed will be a good fit in your household, below.
Catahoula dogs are extremely clever and will thrive in an environment where they are regularly trained. They learn very quickly – although this can also lead to them becoming bored quickly, too. These intelligent dogs will become fantastic dogs if they are trained to a high standard – and they are known for excellent in agility. For more options, check out our detailed review of dog agility tunnels.
If you can, start their training from as young as possible, as they can quickly become troublesome if they are unsure of their place in the pack. Never smack your dog or shout at them after they have done something naughty – they are very sensitive dogs and can even retort quickly if they are scared or stressed. Always look for a way in which to reward good behavior, rather than punish them for their bad behavior – and you’ll soon find yourself with an incredibly loyal and well-behaved dog.
We also recommend socializing your Catahoula from a young age. This will help them learn from other dogs and also help with their naturally wary behaviors, as these dogs do not warm up to strangers, quickly.
Due to their energetic nature, the Catahoula Leopard dog needs a diet that provides ample nutrition – particularly protein, which they will use up almost endlessly. A well-balanced and nutritious diet is absolutely fundamental to tissue growth and to maintain a healthy physique, so high quality foods are definitely recommended here.
You may also like our article on High Protein Dog Food.
This is a breed that requires very little in terms of grooming, as they are short-to-medium coated and have very little feathering. That said, grooming your dog is still a great way to bond with your new pet – and most Catahoula dogs will love the attention they get from being groomed.
As with all dogs, you’ll also need to keep an eye on their teeth, paws and ears. These dogs tend to have “floppy” ears, which are therefore more prone to infections, so do keep an eye on these and try to keep them clean. At the same time, be aware that your Catahoula is likely to have webbed feet, and owners should be careful not to tear the delicate skin found here when washing and grooming their pet.
Overall, the Catahoula is generally a very healthy dog. Although, as with all larger breeds, they may suffer from hip dysplasia due to their bone structure. This is common with many purebred dogs and a good breeder should always run suitable checks in order to minimize the risk of this happening to their litter.
The Catahoula Leopard dog may also suffer from deafness, particularly as they age. While this is rare, it is still something that your breeder should know of and be able to help with. They should also be able to screen out breeding dogs who may struggle with this. Be aware that this is more common in any breed with Merle coloring, as the genes appear to be linked and do ask your breeder or local vet for more information, if you are concerned at any time.
A common trait with all larger dogs can also be found in the Catahoula, especially if they aren’t being exercised as much as they would if they were working. Obesity is a growing problem in domesticated dogs, and this can easily come down to overfeeding your pet. If you do think your dog is getting a little heavier (you can easily spot this around the waist – you should be able to feel your dogs ribs while stroking them but not be able to see them), then try cutting down on their or taking them for another short walk during the day. Head over to our review of dog food for weight loss for more alternatives.
The Catahoula Leopard temperament is generally very loving and affectionate, although they are also very strong and independent creatures. That said, they will always want to be by the side of their favorite human, and being alone for long periods of time is definitely not suited to this breed. They are also extremely energetic, as they were initially bred as herding dogs, so will need to be kept busy.
A Catahoula dog that is not kept busy and is left alone will likely become very destructive, and you’ll soon find your furniture strewn across your house if they become bored. For this reason, they are not suited to families who have never owned a dog before, or for those who are unfamiliar with the breed and the extra energy and effort that owning one will entail.
However, for those with an active lifestyle, or those who are able to give their dog plenty of physical and mental stimulation, these dogs are an absolute joy to be around. Once they have tired themselves out through working, they will happily sit with you and the family, and can be a welcome addition to any busy household.
Be aware that these dogs will work until they drop, and this excess energy can be a little troublesome around young children. Despite being gentle-natured creatures, their boisterous energy can also cause them to cause accidents, such as banging into people – and this can be troublesome with toddlers around.