Catahoula Leopard Dog

If you love a good old American dog with a unique looking coat and boat loads of energy, the Catahoula Leopard Dog checks off every box.

However, chances are you probably haven’t heard of the breed until now. 

These pig chasers are exactly the dog you want when you need to manage your livestock. Known in the south as the “hog dog,” the Catahoula Leopard Dog is a serious hunter, yet a loving companion.

So what makes this bay dog such a great choice for a family in need of a versatile breed?

Here is what you need to know about the Catahoula Leopard Dog.

History

Even though the exact origins and ancestry of this breed remains a mystery; there are historians who point to the 16th century. Moreover, it appears that Spanish conquistador, Hernando de Soto, wrote about this breed in his scribes. As de Soto began to explore the southern United States, a certain dog caught his eye. Furthermore, the dogs did belong to the Indians and many believe they were “Red Wolves.” 

There’s one theory suggesting that de Soto began crossing his hounds and mastiffs with the Native Indian’s Red Wolf. 

Mix breeding did occur and would result in the breed as we know today. According to some writers, the breed is a mix between Bloodhound, Greyhound, Mastiff and Red Wolf.

Regardless, the Catahoula Leopard Dog began working as a bay dog, where the breed would track and chase feral pigs. After finding the feral hogs, the Hog Dog would bark until his master came for the shot. Some people use bay dogs in groups, where they collectively maul the feral pigs. There’s no evidence suggesting this is how the Catahoula Leopard Dog operated.

Yet, this wasn’t the only task given to the Hog Dog. In fact, there hound bloodlines would allow for this breed to scent, track, tree coons, and thrive in other hunting excursions. The hunters would bring this breed with them to hunt bears, bobcats and deer. It was their incredible smell and tracking skills that made this dog so useful in the southern region of Louisiana.

In 1977,  a non profit would start up with the goal of supporting the Hog Dog, and maintain a quality breed standard and to bring further awareness to its excellent hunting and herding skills. The organization, National Association of Louisiana’s Catahoulas Inc formed and began an agenda in getting the breed recognition.

Although the Catahoula hasn’t seen official recognition by the American Kennel Club, the breed has been a part of the club’s “foundation stock service” since 1996. They were also given designation to the herding group by the American Kennel Club.

In 1995, a year before the AKC’s move, the United Kennel Club made the decision to give the Catahoula official recognition into their “herding group” class.

Today, the breed serves as a bay dog, hunting and herding breed, that is a wonderful companion to those with experience and consistency to own a high energy breed like the Catahoula. 

Size

The American Kennel Club claims that the Catahoula Leopard Dog is a medium to large breed

Both males and females can be of the same height and weight.

The standard height for this breed should be between 22 to 24 inches, while owning a weight between 50 to 95 pounds.

Personality/Temperament

While the Catahoula Leopard Dog is rather simple to care for, they’re a highly energetic breed that needs an active home. In fact, they are most suitable for a farming family, or for a family that enjoys an active life outdoors. However, make no mistake, this is an indoor dog, that should receive plenty of attention from its family. 

Expect this dog to get out and work off its energy. They should get about 45 to 60 minutes of daily exercise. This is a breed that loves the outdoors. If you enjoy hikes, long walks, adventurous drives, then the Catahoula Leopard Dog is your breed.

This is a protective breed, and they can become fairly territorial, especially if the breed senses a threat or danger. That makes them sort of aloof to strangers. It will take some time to get them to open up as most Catahoulas don’t mature until two years of age.

You’ll never worry about loyalty or dedication from this breed. Expect a somewhat stubborn dog during training, but at the end of the day, they do aim to please.

The breed does tolerate both cold and hot weather, but obviously as a breed from the south, they would much prefer a warm climate. 

Although a novice may have luck with this breed, this is a dog better left with someone who has the experience. Someone who can be consistent and firm. At first, the Catahoula Leopard Dog will challenge the master until they know who the boss is of the pack. Early socialization and training usually handles that.

Finally, this is a leader, as most herding dogs tend to be, and you shouldn’t expect much less. They will do just fine with other dogs and children if they’re brought up with both. At home, expect a calm and loving dog who is looking for affection. When the whistle sounds, and the trail is in sight, this is a serious hunting and herding breed, that won’t rest until the job is done.

Health

Some breeds aren’t popular or known enough to come up with a compiling list of health complications to worry about. That said, this is a breed that many consider to be hardy and healthy. They can live on average a life between 10 to 14 years. 

When you buy a Catahoula Leopard Dog, it’s best to purchase from credible and reputable breeders. Breeders should have no issue supply you with documents pertaining to the necessary health clearances you’ll need for ownership. With that in mind, there are precautionary methods you can take, such as routine visits to the veterinarian that’ll enhance the chances of good health.

The biggest issue affecting this breed is a high occurrence rate of Hip Dysplasia. In fact, the breed has a 20% occurrence rate, which ranks them 27th from over a hundred breeds, according to the findings from the Orthopedic Foundation of Animals.

Hip Dysplasia is painful, leading to discomfort, and at times, this conditions results in osteoarthritis. Hip Dysplasia is a malformation of the ball socket and joint. Over time, this causes the joint to rub and grind, which can impact your dog’s running and other important activity. 

Along with the Dalmatian, Aussie Cattle Dog, Bull Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Dogo Argentino and the Boston Terrier; the Catahoula Leopard Dog has some of the highest rates of total deafness. Moreover, the chances are higher in dogs with all white coats than other solid color coats. According to findings by Louisiana State University, the Catahoula has a 41.7 total deafness rate, which is incredibly high and puts them on the board among the worst.

This breed may experience issues with their eyes such as Cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Be on the lookout for Elbow Dysplasia as well. This can cause a great deal of pain, discomfort and other lingering effects to this orthopedic disease.

Finally, you should be aware of their diet and keep them from becoming obese. The Catahoula  Leopard Dog is an active breed, and shouldn’t be left to their own devices.

Care

If you have an active dog, especially with the Catahoula Leopard Dog, you’ll need to do some visual inspection. Expect to check their ears of bacterial infection or debris collecting inside their ears. The ears can be a great place for bacteria and parasites. You’ll need to trim their nails and protect them from overgrowth, which can lead to splitting or a complete break. It can also lead to damaging your floors. You’ll want to bathe your Catahoula Leopard Dog when you believe necessary. Brushing their teeth regularly helps prevent from oral hygiene issues such as tartar building, bacteria, and bad breath.

The biggest thing about this breed is good leadership. They need a firm and consistent Captain. Someone who is fair, will shake things up during training so the breed never bores easy. This can lead to destruction, especially when the dog is left alone for long periods of time.  Early socialization as a puppy will help integrate them and lead the Catahoula Leopard Dog into a future of being social and friendly. Patience with this breed is another big one, as they do tend to mature best around two years of age.

This is a breed that needs a job to do. A task or regular exercise will give the Catahoula Leopard Dog a purpose. Again, they do require companionship. You should show them plenty of attention, keep this breed indoors, and make sure the dog is part of the family on a regular basis. Apartment living isn’t a good idea.

At the end of the day, even though it’s best they are kept as herding and hunting dog, you can succeed with this breed as a family dog for as long as they have plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation.

Feeding

How much a dog eats isn’t universal, in which factors like; age, metabolism, activity rate, can all play a part in how much your dog consumes. 

For any dog, if you feed them dry food, you’ll want to give them a high quality option. Make sure you pay attention to what your veterinarian encourages and read the labels as far as amounts and appropriate grades. For a large breed dog, it would make no sense feeding a small dog and vice versa.

A Catahoula Leopard Dog should eat between 3 to 5 cups of high quality dry food per day. The best practice is to break up those meals two or three times per day. This will help your Catahoula Leopard Dog avoid obesity and Bloat.

Meat should be your dog’s first ingredient. Choices like lean chicken, turkey, salmon and lamb are all decent candidates. Keep in mind, this is a dog that has a high energy rate, and will need plenty of calorie replenishment to compensate for exerting them off.

As always, you should provide your Catahoula Leopard Dog with fresh drinking water.

Coat

One of the main attractions of this breed is the wide array of coat choices. Moreover, the patterns of leopard, brindle and patchwork give you a lot of choice in picking out the right fit for your taste.

This is a breed that can have either a smooth or coarse coat. The coat can be medium to short in length but the coat should run close to the body. Coats with 70 percent or more white in it isn’t up to standard, according to the United Kennel Club.

The following are colors for the Catahoula Leopard Dog coat: Silver, tan, chocolate, brindle, dark red, red, gray leopard, blue leopard, dark leopard, white with light leopard.

You will need to brush or groom them at least once a week.

Fun Catahoula Leopard Dog Facts

  • Catahoulas are excellent swimmers.
  • The Catahoula Leopard Dog has web toes, which helps the breed work and walk along the swamplands and other rough terrain.
  • Some Catahoulas have 2 to 5 different colors on their coats.
  • In 1979, the Governor of Louisiana, Edwin Edwards, officially changed the Catahoula Cur to the Catahoula Leopard Dog. Edwards also made the breed the state’s official dog.
  • This breed once had three types: Wright Line, a large breed ranging from 90 to 110 pounds. Mcmillan Line, the smallest line with glassy eyes and the Fairbanks Line, which had brindle and yellow color coats.
  • Other names: Catahoula Hound, Catahoula Cur, Hog Dog.

Closing Words

There isn’t a boat load of information pertaining to this breed. They were never near extinction, just as the breeds has never become a household favorite or a top ten popular breed. What does that mean? 

Absolutely nothing!

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is still relevant in the south, and has enjoyed a quiet under the radar life as a faithful and devout herding dog and an incredible companion for the right family.