The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog evolved in the swamps of central Louisiana around the Catahoula Lakes. Legends trace their ancestry to the Native American bred red wolf found in the area and Spanish war dogs, known as Mastiffs, brought by the Spaniards to be used in battle. In the 1800s,
as French settlers arrived in Louisiana they told of strange looking dogs with haunting
glass eyes that were used by the Indians to hunt game in the swamp. With its mottled spots and white eyes they called them catahoula meaning "beautiful clear water". The dogs were used for hunting deer, bobcat, and wild hogs. The settlers learned to appreciate the dogs technique of trailing by wind, baying, and herding and soon had the dogs working cattle. The Catahoula is believed to have occupied North America
the longest, aside from the dogs descended from Native American-created breeds.
As a working dog, Catahoulas have been bred more for temperament and ability than for appearance. As a result, the physical characteristics of the Catahoula are somewhat varied.
Catahoulas have a single, short, dense coat in a variety of colors. The term "Leopard" refers to merles which may be blue, gray, black, red. Patchwork dogs are predominantly white with any color patches. Solid colors are black, red, chocolate, yellow, and brindle.
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 bobtail is a rare but 'Natural' part of the Catahoula Heritage.
Though most dogs have webbing between the toes, Catahoula feet are webbed very similar to that of a duck with 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, energetic and are quick. They are very loving and gentle with children they know and their family. They are inquisitive and have a strong independent streak. The Catahoula temperament is not well suited for everyone; these dogs are very protective of their territory and family. These traits, combined with their independence, high energy levels, and physical strength can make a Catahoula "too much dog" for inexperienced owners. A Catahoula must have an outlet for its energy. They need plenty of space to expend their energy. A Catahoula needs a job to do or it may expend its energy in a destructive manner such as digging and chewing-- everywhere and anything. They are very versatile and have been used in search and rescue, hunting, herding and agility.
The Catahoula is seen on farms and ranches across North America. These dogs are outstanding tracking and hunting dogs, commonly used for hunting feral pigs, squirrel, deer, raccoon, mountain lion and black bear. They usually track silently and only begin to make their distinctive baying bark when eye to eye with the prey. For large game it is not uncommon for a pack of three or four dogs to work together.
They are used for herding cattle, sheep, and pigs by a method of antagonizing and intimidation of herd animals as opposed to the method of all day boundary patrol and restricting the animals being herded from entering or leaving the designated area. The breed is recognized by the United Kennel Club under the "herding dog" group.
As a breed, Catahoulas are relatively free of a lot of diseases. Catahoulas can have hip dysplasia, ear and eye problems.
Activity level:Moderate to high
Learning rate:Very high
Guard dog ability:Very high
Watch-dog ability:Very high
Life span: 10-14 years