Information about the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog
The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog or Catahoula Cur is an American dog breed. It is named after Catahoula Parish in the state of Louisiana in the United States. The Catahoula is believed to have occupied North America the next longest after the dogs descended from Native American-created breeds. The breed is sometimes referred to as the “Catahoula Hound” or “Catahoula Leopard Hound”, although it is not a true hound, but a cur. It is also called the “Catahoula Hog Dog”, reflecting its traditional use in hunting wild boar.
Very little is known about the actual origins of the Catahoula. One theory 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 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.
Blue Leopard Puppy
Another theory suggests that the breed originated three centuries later, some time in the 19th century, after French settlers introduced the Beauceron to the North American continent. The French told of strange looking dogs with haunting glass eyes that were used by the Indians to hunt game in the swamp, and the theory states that the Beauceron and the Red Wolf/war dog were interbred to produce the Catahoula.
There are two theories regarding the origin of the word ‘Catahoula.’ One theory is that the word is a combination of two Choctaw words ‘okhata’, meaning lake, and ‘hullo’, meaning beloved. Another possibility is that the word is a French transformation of the Choctaw Indian word for their own nation, ‘Couthaougoula’ pronounced ‘Coot-ha-oo-goo-la’.(Don Abney)
Jim Bowie and his brother Rezin Bowie, who spent much of their youth in Catahoula Parish are reported to have owned a pair of Catahoulas. It was said that they would sleep with a Catahoula at their feet. During the early 1900s, Teddy Roosevelt used the Catahoula when hunting. Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long had an interest in the breed and collected them. This interest was recognized by an annual competition known as Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials.
In 1979, Governor Edwin Edwards signed a bill making the Catahoula the official state dog of Louisiana in recognition of their importance in the history of the region.
In 2007, the Catahoula was voted to be the school mascot for Centenary College of Louisiana.
As a working dog, Catahoulas have been bred primarily for temperament and ability rather than for appearance. As a result, the physical characteristics of the Catahoula are somewhat varied.
Catahoulas may range greatly in size with males averaging slightly larger than females. Typical height ranges from 20-26″ and weight between 40 and 90 lbs.
Catahoulas come in many different colors including blue merle, red merle, brindle, and solid colors. Often times, 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. Visually, white coats seem unaffected.
- Red Leopard: These are Various shades of brown and tan, may also have white.
- Blue Leopard: These are Various shades of dark greys, black and some may also have white (generally on the feet & chest)
- Black: Or “Black Leopard” These are leopards least affected by the merle gene but will display smaller patches of blue or gray.
- Gray: Or “Silver Leopard” Gray leopards are black where the coat has been diluted to appear gray.
- Tri-color: Catahoulas with three distinct visible colors, usually white, black, and gray.
- Quad-color: These are Catahoulas with the varying body colorations and trim colors that help to designate the number of colors present on the dogs. Gray Catahoulas may be considered a Quad-color when White and Tan trim are included. This dog would display Black, Gray, White, usually around the neck, face, feet, and tail, and Tan, which may also appear around the face and feet. Most Five-colored dogs are misnamed Quad-colored dogs.
- Patchwork: These Catahoulas are 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 texture of a Catahoula leopard coat can be as varied as the colors and can be coarse, slick/painted-on, or woolly/shaggy. (Don Abney)
Coarse coat: This coat is a little longer and fuller than others. They do not require that much maintenance; however, these dogs are not quick to dry when wet. These coats will often display “feathers” seen on the rear legs, tail, and underbelly. Also they can be considered “fluffy”.
Slick coat: A slick, painted-on coat is so slick and smooth that it appears as if the coat were painted on the dog and not hair at all. The hair is very short and lies very close to the body. These coats dry very rapidly, and because of this, the dog can be cleaned and ready in a matter of minutes. It is often referred to as a “Wash n’ Wear” coat.
Woolly coat: Woolly, shaggy, and double coats are undesirable but still appear in some litters. At about 3 weeks of age, the coat will be longer and fuller and appear woolly. Most puppies will shed this for a coarse coat; however, some will become double-coats. Some coats will maintain a length similar to that of a German Shepherd while others will maintain their shaggy appearance.
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 or marbled eyes are blue or blue-white in color. Catahoulas with two cracked 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 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 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.
The tail of the Catahoula may be long and whip-like reaching past the hocks of the back legs or bobtail which is a tail that is 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.
“You must be ready to teach and exercise a Catahoula. If not, he will eat your house. The Catahoula will not let you forget that you own a dog.” –Don Abney
Catahoulas are highly intelligent and energetic. They are assertive but not aggressive by nature. They have a need to take charge of their pack whether other dogs or humans. Catahoulas in general are very even tempered. Males tend to be more obnoxious than females, but Catahoulas are very serious about their job if they are working dogs. They make a good family dog but will not tolerate being isolated, so interaction with the dog is a daily requirement. When a Catahoula is raised with children, the dog believes that it is his or her responsibility to look after and protect those children. Many owners will say that the Catahoula owns them and they can be insistent when its time to eat or do other activities. Catahoulas are protective and a natural alarm dog. They will alert one to anything out of the ordinary.