Catahoula Leopard Dog

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Catahoula Leopard Dog
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Other namesLouisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog,
Catahoula Cur,
Catahoula hog dog
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
Life span 10-14 years
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)

The Catahoula Leopard Dog (also Catahoula Cur) is an American dog breed named after Catahoula Parish, Louisiana. it became the state dog of Louisiana in 1979. The breed is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a cur, “Catahoula hound”, or “leopard hound” because of its spots. The dog is none of these, and has been recognized as an official breed by the United Kennel Club (UKC) under the name Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, and Catahoula Leopard Dog in the American Kennel Club (AKC) Foundation Stock Service. Both registries have assigned the breed a Herding group designation. Another name occasionally used is Catahoula hog dog, which reflects its traditional use in hunting feral boars.



The Catahoula lineage is unknown. One suggestion is that it is the result of Native Americans breeding their dogs with molossers[dubious ] and greyhounds brought to Louisiana in the 16th century by Hernando de Soto.[citation needed] For a time it was believed that Native American dogs were bred with or from red wolves, but this is not supported by modern DNA analysis.[citation needed] A recent study examined the remains of prehistoric dogs from American archaeological sites indicating a similarity in the genetics of prehistoric American dogs to European and Asian domestic dogs rather than wild New World canids.[1] Studies further indicate that Native Americans brought several lines of domesticated dogs when they migrated from Asia to North America.[2]

Another theory suggests the breed originated in the mid-1700s when French settlers emigrated to what became Louisiana with Beauceron dogs. The settlers crossbreed their dogs with well-adapted swamp hunting wolf dogs owned by Native Americans in an effort to develop a better working dog. In the 1800s, breeding intensified in an effort to develop a family dog that was well-suited to work, hunt, and guard yet good with children.[3]

Breed Recognition[edit]

On July, 9, 1979, in recognition of the historic significance of the Catahoula cur to the State of Louisiana, Governor Edwin Edwards signed House Bill #75 officially naming the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog as the state dog.[4][5] On January 1, 1995, the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog was recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC).[6] In 1996, the AKC added the Catahoula Leopard Dog into their Foundation Stock Service (FFS).[7]


The Catahoula was initially used for hunting. Native Americans tended to use the dog for hunting large game. European settlers used the dog for hunting and herding livestock. The first white settlers in Louisiana are believed to have used the dog to hunt feral pigs in the swamps of Louisiana.[8]


There are at least two theories 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 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/).[9].


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).

Physical Description[edit]

Though physical characteristics are varied Catahoulas are usually muscular dogs with a rectangular-shaped body. They tend to have a large head with drop ears and a strong, slightly tapered muzzle.[10] They tend to have a thick muscular neck and a long curved tail. They come in many colors and have medium/short hair[11]


Red merle leopard Catahoula with litter showing a wide variety of coat colors including double-merle[12]
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.[6][13][14]

  • 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.


The Catahoula has a single smooth short or coarse medium coat.[15][6] The short looks almost painted.[16] The medium can have extended "feathering" on the hind legs, tail, and chest.[17]


The breed may have any eye color or combination of colors including blue, brown, green, or amber[18]. Catahoula's are known for having (heterochromia) which could result in a number of different eye variations:

  • Glass eyes - very light, almost white in color
  • cracked glass or marbled glass eyes - when both colored and glass portions are present in the same eye usually blue with brown.
  • Double Glass eyes - Catahoulas with two cracked glass or marble glass eyes
  • Spots - Spots of "glass" in the eye or color in the eye. Spots usually occur in brown eyes with glass spots or blue eyes with brown spots.
  • Gray eyes - usually cracked glass eyes, made of blue and green, giving them their grayish appearance.


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.[19]



Catahoulas are used as bay dogs, tree dogs, and for hunting a variety of wild game, including small game such as raccoons and squirrels, as well as big game such as deer, mountain lions and bear.[20] They are also used for scent trailing game, and as a search and rescue dog.[21][7][6]


Catahoulas have a natural herding instinct and a unique way of working a herd. AKC describes it as creating a “canine fence” around the herd which allows the dog's master to work the herd within that circle.[7] Herding ability and a natural working instinct are a top priority to Catahoula breeders, over and above a dog's appearance.[7][6] 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.[22]

Health issues[edit]


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.[23] A Catahoula that is predominantly white has an 80% chance of being bi-laterally deaf or uni-laterally hearing.[24] 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. Double Merle Catahoula's only have a 25% chance of being deaf in one or both ears due to their heavy pigmentation. Deaf and blindness from double merle in Catahoula's are more rare than other dog breeds[25]

Hip dysplasia[edit]

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.


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.[citation needed]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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.[26]

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

In popular culture[edit]



  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. Bibcode:2002Sci...298.1613L. doi:10.1126/science.1076980. PMID 12446908.
  2. ^ Rozell, Ned (March 6, 2003). "Old Dogs in a New World". University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute.
  3. ^ Abney, D. (2011). The complete Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. Pg. 9
  4. ^ Laney, Ruth (August 24, 2015). "The Catahoula Connection". Country Roads Magazine.
  5. ^ "Catahoula Leopard Dog". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Breed Standards : Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog". United Kennel Club (UKC).
  7. ^ a b c d "Catahoula Leopard Dog Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club.
  8. ^ Mehus-Roe, K. (2005). The original dog bible (p. 206). Irvine, CA: BowTie Press.
  9. ^ Abney, Don (July 1, 1998). The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog. Doral Publishing. ISBN 0944875440.
  10. ^ Mehus-Roe, K. (2005). The original Dog Bible. Irvine, CA: BowTie Press. p. 206.
  11. ^ Mehus-Roe, K. (2005). The original Dog Bible. Irvine, CA: BowTie Press. p. 206.
  12. ^ "Double-Merle". Dog Coat Color Genetics.
  13. ^ "Coat Colors". National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  14. ^ "Catahoula Information » Catahoula Issues » Coat". Abney Catahoulas. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  15. ^ "National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas, Inc. Breed Standard".
  16. ^ {{cite web|url= Issues Coat
  17. ^ {{cite web|url= Issues Coat
  18. ^ "Eye Color Examples". National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas, Inc. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  19. ^ Abney, Don. "Catahoula Questions, Frequently Asked Catahoula Questions". Abney Catahoulas.
  20. ^ "The Best Hunting Dogs for Retrieving, Pointing, Flushing or Scent". Outdoor Life. 2019-10-30. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  21. ^ "Working dog Catahoula". EALC. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  22. ^ Hartnagle-Taylor, Jeanne Joy; Taylor, Ty (2010). Stockdog Savvy. Alpine Publications. ISBN 978-1-57779-106-5.
  23. ^ Young, Linda (May 18, 2010). "Catahoula Leopard Dogs Breed Information". 2Gals Farm. Archived from the original on January 14, 2012.
  24. ^ Abney, Don. "Catahoula Information". Abney Catahoulas.
  25. ^ Strain, G. N.D. Deafness and the Merle Gene. Louisiana State University.
  26. ^ Abney, Don. "Catahoula History: A Factual Account of the Louisiana Catahoula Origin". Self-published.
  27. ^ a b c "History of the Catahoula". Cracker Catahoulas. Archived from the original on 2009-06-23. Retrieved 2018-12-08.
  28. ^ "Centenary College Unveils New Mascot". Centenary College of Louisiana. December 7, 2007. Retrieved August 13, 2019.

External links[edit]

Media related to Catahoula Leopard Dog at Wikimedia Commons