The Catahoula Leopard Dog's roots date back over 400 years,
to the period of Spanish Exploration of the New World
On these expeditions the Spaniards were accompanied by "war dogs", believed to have been the Mastiff and Greyhound. These dogs would assist in hunting, guarding the camps, and battle. Some of these dogs were wounded or left behind and were captured by the Native Americans of the region. It is believed by historians that these dogs may have bred with the red wolf, a species native to that area. These wolf-like dogs became the companions and protectors of the Native Americans.
About a century later the French, during expeditions along the mouth of the Mississippi River, became intrigued with these strange-looking dogs with haunting light eyes. The French found that the wolf-like dogs had the ability to successfully hunt game in the swamp because of several characteristics including a keen sense of smell and webbed feet. The dogs could also easily retrieve cattle which had wandered into marshy areas. The French had brought with them their own dogs, known today as the Beauceron.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog is the descendant of that crossing. A Catahoula is a loyal friend and protector, as well as being an incredibly versatile working dog. While not overtly aggressive, one would be unwise to enter their domain in the absence of their owner.
Once called a "Catahoula Cur," the foundation of the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog came into existence through chance breeding and from some planned breeding. The Indians in and around Louisiana used the Red Wolf, which then roamed Louisiana during this period, to locate game, much in the same manner as hunters use their dogs today.
Most of the stories surrounding the Catahoula begin around 1850's to date. Those stories tell of what a great hunting and companion dog the Catahoula was. What is told here is how the Catahoula has become the versatile dog that it is, and why those older breeders and hunters (commonly referred to as "Old Timers") took such a hard stand about their dogs. Their stand was so firm, that the only way you could acquire a Catahoula was to have someone give one to you. Catahoulas were not sold back then, and were only used by those that needed them for hunting or work. 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/working dogs have. And, those of us that love this breed want to keep these traits alive and thriving.
Catahoulas can be aggressive toward other dogs, and proper socialization is especially important when raising a pup in a multi-pet environment. They are very protective of their food, and a separate food bowl is suggested to alleviate potential conflict with other pets.
The Catahoula can be stubborn or hard-headed. A combination of love, praise, perserverence and a no-nonsense attitude is required when training a Catahoula. Given an inch these dogs will happily take a mile. The owner must assert his/her dominance from day one & continue to re-enforce that dominance when tested, or trouble will follow. While some will always argue an exception to the rule, the Catahoula is not a city dog. Unless allowed to run for a minimum of an hour per day (a walk on the leash or a romp in the park doesn't begin to suffice) they will find other outlets for their energy, including unwelcome and sometimes destructive behavior.
Their conformation is that of a rugged yet agile athlete. They are "headers" rather than "heelers". They gather or "bay-up" cattle and keep them bunched together so the cowboy can move the herd. They will prevent a cow from breaking away and circle the herd as the herd moves.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION The Catahoula is a medium-large dog. Typically, females are 20"-24" tall and males are 22"-26" tall at the withers. Weight generally ranges from 50 to 95 lbs. The Catahoula has a very short, smooth coat which comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Common Catahoula colors include blue leopard, red leopard, patchwork, black, red, yellow, and brindle. Various amounts of tan, brindle, and/or white trim may also be present. The eyes may be any color or combination of colors.
The Catahoula is highly intelligent and very energetic. They need a lot of mental and physical stimulation in order to be happy. Catahoulas generally do not fare well in an urban setting. Catahoulas make excellent working dogs, excelling in herding, hunting, protection, and police work. They tend to be protective and territorial, guarding their home and family. For this reason, Catahoulas make excellent watch dogs. As a general rule, Catahoulas are not well-suited to novice owners. Experience with Catahoulas or other large and/or assertive breeds is a plus for prospective Catahoula owners
Blue Leopard - Refers to the blue merle color pattern. Blue leopards are black dogs with the merle pattern. Blue leopards are some shade of grey with black patches scattered throughout the coat. Blue leopards may range from mostly grey to mostly black. Sometimes the terms "grey leopard" or "black leopard" are used.
Glass eyes - Refers to eyes which are blue or blue-white in color. Dogs with two glass eyes are often referred to as having "double glass eyes". Sometimes a glass eye will have colored sections in it and vice versa. When both colored and glass portions are present in the same eye, the eye is usually called "cracked glass" or "marbled glass".
Leopard - Refers to the merle color pattern. The merle pattern breaks up the dog's color, so that some hairs lack pigment. The overall effect is a dilution of color, with some unaffected patches of dense color scattered throughout the coat.
Patchwork - Refers to leopards with patches of several different colors in their coats. The patches are often large and scattered in such a way as to give a more blotchy appearance than that of a typical leopard. Patchworks may be blue/black based or red based.
Red Leopard - Refers to the red merle color pattern. Red leopards are red/liver/chocolate dogs with the merle pattern. Red leopards are some shade of light reddish-brown with darker red or brown patches scattered throughout the coat. Sometimes the terms "brown leopard" or "chocolate leopard" are used.
White - Usually, when a Catahoula is referred to as being "white", it means that the dog is primarily white with some areas of leopard coloration. White dogs often have hearing or vision problems.