The Catahoula Leopard Dog, also known as the Catahoula Hog Dog, Catahoula Cur, or Leopard Cur, has been in existence for centuries and they are recognized today for being faithful protectors and companions. They are very versatile dogs that are capable of performing many tasks.
The Catahoula Leopard is an excellent working dog, and a fine companion for anyone looking for a strong, sturdy pet. Though we have classified these dogs as relatively aggressive, the more accurate word is "assertive". These dogs rarely show aggression toward owners or family if they are properly trained. They are protective of whom and what they think that own, but know their place. If you have decide to obtain one of these dogs, make sure it goes through obedience school and learns the social skills it will need to interact with you and your family. They must be trained with consistency and love. If you have more than one pet, and the Catahoula Leopard is brought in to join them, make sure the dog is given ample time to adjust to its surroundings. Give the dog its own food bowl, so it can eat in peace. Conflicts will happen if it has to fight other animals for food from the same bowl. They are very sure of their territory and who their master is; they will protect you from anything, even if you don't want them to, so make sure you have a steady line of discipline and keep this dog in check. They have very versatile, ever-changing personalities that can range from utter show-offs, to gruff protectors, to happy child-friendly dogs. They will respond to discipline and are apparently easy to train. Catahoula Leopard Dogs tend to be one-person dogs. They are outdoor dogs, originally bred to help with hunting duties. They are still used today to round up cows and other livestock, due to their herding abilities. They are prized dogs among outdoor men for their individuality and strength. Catahoula Leopard Dogs are also good at "treeing", or scaring raccoons out of nearby trees. In fact, several owners report that their Catahoula Leopards climb trees regularly. Some even climb right over fences and this should be kept in mind when keeping them in fenced yards. Overall, this dog is excellent as a strong, independent pet that will need some training before entering your home.
The Catahoula Leopard's look is as distinct as its name. They are medium to large dogs that have ears that droop, and friendly yet sturdy faces with glass blue pupils, although due to extensive breeding they can have different eye colors. They also have long tails, slightly curved and always held low. The Leopard can be any color you can reasonably think of, and are popularly bred to have spots like a leopard, hence the name. They may also be distinguished by their webbed feet. There have been three sizes of Catahoulas listed, but for the most part, the medium sized dog seem to perform much better than the larger version, and enjoys a longer life. The three versions of the Catahoula are the Wright, McMillin, and Fairbanks lines. Mr. Preston Wright's line was the largest of the three, and represented the dogs originally produced by the dogs of DeSoto. His dogs ranged between 90 and 110 pounds. Mr. T. A. McMillin, who lived on Sandy Lake, raised mostly Blue Leopard dogs with glass eyes. These dogs ranged in weight between 50 and 60 pounds. Mr. Lovie Fairbanks' lines were the brindle to yellow colored dogs. His line was not as large as the Wright dogs, but larger than the McMillin line. They ranged in weight between 65 and 75 pounds. It is because of these three lines being crossed back and forth that there is so much variation in the Catahoula's appearance. These and similar lines are still strong today. There are some farmers that will only use dogs in the mid range, and some hog hunters prefer the larger versions. Today, the standard for the Catahoula is a medium sized dog with a muscular build. The Catahoula female should stand approximately 21 to 23 inches at the withers, with males standing approximately 23 to 25 inches at the withers. The average weight of the Catahoula female is 55 to 65 lbs., while males average 65-75 lbs.
Once called a "Catahoula Cur", the foundation of the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog came from the Red Wolf, which was in Louisiana in the 1500's, the Mastiff and Greyhound which were brought by DeSoto in 1541, and the Bas Rouge (Beauceron) brought by the French in the early 1700's. Together these four canines contributed in part to the inception of the Catahoula that we know today. The name was changed from Catahoula Cur to Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog when governor Edwin Edwards signed a bill establishing it as the State Dog in 1979. There have been references to Catahoula Indians by many people, but the truth is there were no tribes of Catahoula Indians. After the onslaught of the Indians by the white man, four tribes of Indians settled together in an area where the Red, Black, and Little Rivers join. These four tribes were the Avoyelle, Tunica, Ofo, and Choctaw. Because these four tribes remained in close proximity of each other, they were dubbed as the Catahoula Indians. Even the name Catahoula has been interpreted in many different ways.
There has been a great deal of speculation as to where the "Bob-tailed" Catahoula came into existence. Some have questioned whether or not it is truly a Catahoula. There are naturally bob-tailed Catahoulas. In some show arenas this is considered a fault. In others it is not. In some cases the dog is a natural bobtail specimen, and in others the tail is bobbed by an individual for whatever reason. The difference can be felt in the bone of the tail. If you have a bob-tailed Catahoula, you must verify with the officials of the show you attend as to whether or not this is considered a fault. The Catahoula may be registered by the National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas (NALC), American Research Foundation (ARF), States Kennel Club (SKC), National Kennel Club (NKC), United Kennel Club (UKC), Louisiana Catahoula Cur Association (LCCA), and Catahoula Cur Breeders Association (CCBA). In addition to these registries, there are organizations where you may show your dogs or have them perform in the working arena. One such place is the American Catahoula Association.
What makes the Catahoula so versatile? The answer is that these dogs were culled and lined so much that only the best of the best remained. Today we see it in the dogs we own. It is an unfortunate fact that a lot of good dogs were killed by this method, but it only improved the working and hunting line of dogs that remained. It may be hard to understand their reasoning behind some of the things that were done, but they did the best they could with what they had, and it worked for them at the time. If you ever get the opportunity to speak to an old Catahoula or Cur owner, you will hear stories that will help you to understand what they look for in a dog. It's not the pretty eyes, or the unique coat pattern, or even the color combinations. What they look for is a dog that works, or, as it is often said, "Worth his salt". They do not want to see the Catahoula end up as some of the other groups of hunting dogs have. Today, we know from studies that some of these traits are directly inherited. For example: Tracking is 46% inherited and Scenting is 39% inherited. If this factor had been known then, culling may not have been as harsh as it was. Since the gene is present for inheritance, it is not necessary to be a hunter or a rancher to produce dogs that will work or hunt. It is necessary to understand what the desirable traits are and to breed for those traits. Of course, this doesn't mean that any two dogs can be bred to produce the perfect specimen. It takes more than that. You must study the line background of each of the dogs you intend to breed. Know where they came from, and what six generations of ancestors were like - not just the colors, or eyes, but their temperament, abilities, conformation, etc. All of their traits must be considered, not just a few. Understand and accept the Probability, not the Possibility, of what may result from the breeding. It takes more than just two dogs to produce that great dog. It takes Time, Knowledge, and Planning.
You must be ready to teach and exercise a Catahoula. If not, it will often eat your house. The Catahoula will not let you forget that you own a dog. If you do not have the time and energy it takes to train and exercise these dogs, then the Catahoula is not the dog for you. To describe what a Catahoula is like is almost impossible. You really have to own one to understand these dogs. Once you own one, you will be amazed that this dog already knows what you want, and what you are going to do. He will out-think you, if given the chance.
The Catahoula is at home with children. If the two are allowed to grow together, you will not have to worry about your child. You will have a built in baby-sitter. As with any dog, you must be cautious when introducing new people to the dog. Catahoulas know what and whom they like. You will not be able to force this dog to like someone if he doesn't. His family comes first.
The Catahoula is not an aggressive dog, but it is assertive. This dog will not tolerate being mishandled, mistreated, or attacked. It will defend itself to whatever means. There are some breeders that refer to their dogs as aggressive dogs, but I have found that this is a reference to the manner in which they work. It is more likely meant that the dogs are very enthusiastic about doing their job.
A Catahoula requires a minimum of one hour of running exercise each day, rain or shine. If the dog is kept outdoors, this is not a problem, but, if he is an indoor dog, he must get this exercise. Daily walks or runs in a yard are sufficient, but necessary. Since this dog has the inherent nature to herd and track game, he needs the exercise to release some of that penned up energy.
One of the biggest genetic flaws in this breed is the presence of deafness. A Catahoula that is predominantly white, or a white faced dog with glass eyes, has an 80% chance of being bi-laterally deaf or unilaterally hearing. This means that the dog will either be deaf in both ears, or, have hearing in one of its ears. Unilateral hearing is often referred to as "directional deafness". Care should be taken when acquiring a Catahoula with these visible traits. Test the dog with noises and sounds before purchasing, or have the dog tested utilizing the Baer Test to ensure hearing. Your veterinarian can help you to locate a facility that employs this type of testing.
If you intend to become a breeder, and/or show these dogs in the Conformation or Obedience Ring, it is important to study the genetics of this breed. It is also important to keep the working abilities foremost in mind when breeding. By not keeping these traits alive in the breed, you will eventually end up with a lap-dog. One that is only enjoyable to look at without any of its best traits present. This dog has been allowed to evolve for over 400 years with very few changes.