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Harper Jefcoat

The Catahoula Leopard Dog - All About the Breed

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16 min read

catahoula leopard dog

On This Page

  • Catahoula Leopard Dog History - How did the Breed Originate?
  • Size, Structure, and General Appearance of the Catahoula Leopard Dog
  • Catahoula Leopard Dog Temperament and Personality Traits
  • Catahoula Leopard Dog Health Issues and Common Diseases
  • Catahoula Leopard Dog Care and Grooming
  • Feeding - What is the Recommended Feeding for a Catahoula Leopard Dog?
  • Catahoula Leopard Dog Rescue Groups for Adoption

Catahoula Leopard Dog is a multi-purpose dog that is known for its strong and striking personality and great work ethic. The breed is also known as Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog and ‘hog dog’. Moreover, it is a rare but purebred dog.

These dogs are very affectionate with their human family and owners and this makes them good pets and emotional support animals. Besides these dogs, there are a number of dog breeds that make great house animals. They have a powerfully built body that speaks of endurance and agility.

They have high exercise needs. They were initially bred to track and work with wild hogs and livestock. They are tough and are quite resolute in what they do. Having herding and driving dogs ancestry, these canines do not like strangers but are very protective of their human owners and families.

Know more about this rare and opinionated breed in the blog.

Catahoula Leopard Dog History - How did the Breed Originate?

The actual origins of the breed are still unknown but it is anticipated that the breed is a result of the breedings between local breeds, Mastiffs, sighthounds, red wolves, and Greyhounds. These parent breeds are believed to be brought by the Spanish explorers.

The Louisiana settlers noticed how the forests of the respective state were swamped with wild hogs.

To tackle and control the situation, they bred the native American dogs with the herding dogs, resulting in a much agile and savvy dog breed. These dogs were capable of hunting and taking down the feral hogs and other fierce and wild kinds of cattle and livestock.

It is believed that Beauceron, another herding breed, was also used to breed these dogs.

The breed was appreciated and valued for its ability to hunt a wide variety of wild animals and games. These include deer, bobcat, bear, and boars. Besides, they are also known for their strong working instincts for treeing, trailing, and scenting wild hogs and other animals.

The dog became the official state dog of Louisiana in 1979 and was officially recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1995. It was the first national dog registry to recognize the breed officially.

However, it is not recognized by the American Kennel Club but is a member of the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service in 1996.

The service keeps the records for rare dog breeds. It is a unique and rare dog breed that has an interesting heritage and notable work capability. Since these dogs are pure working dogs, they would do better on a farm or ranch instead of living with families.

This does not mean that they would not make good house animals. They will need ample and early socialization to adjust to the family life and even then they should not be left unsupervised for long.

To support and represent the breed, the Louisiana Catahoula Cur Association was created in 1976, and the National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas in 1977. Besides, the Catahoula Cur Breeders Association and the American Catahoula Association work to register and promote the breed’s conformation.

Size, Structure, and General Appearance of the Catahoula Leopard Dog

The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog is a medium to large sized dog that has a short coat, a broad head, medium to small ears, and undocked tail. These dogs are quite muscled and powerful but not overly bulky. This gives an impression of agility and high endurance.

Their body is slightly longer than tall and their body’s length from the elbow to the ground is equal to 50 to 60 percent of the canine’s height from the withers to the ground. These dogs have unusual coat colors and markings and crystal eyes that make them unique and rare.

As per the United Kennel Club, below is the standard structure of a Catahoula Leopard Dog.

Head - The head has a powerful build and structure and when viewed from the side, the length of the muzzle and skull is equal in length and the cheeks are well developed. The planes of the top of the skull and the bridge of the muzzle are slightly parallel.

Muzzle - It is deep and strong and when viewed from above, it is slightly tapered and wide. The lips would be tight and may have some color pigmentation.

Teeth - They have an evenly spaced set and white set of teeth. It should have a scissors bite but a level bite is also sufficient to satisfy the recognized and required breed standard. The teeth should be full and well set but broken and worn teeth are also acceptable.

Nose - The nose could have the pigmentation of any color, and a combination of colors.

Eyes - Moderately set, medium, and rounded. The eyes could have a variation of colors and the eye rims are tightly set and could have different eye colors.

Ears - The ears are medium in length and in a drop fashion. They are set at the base, tapered, and have rounded tips. Ideally, they should be triangular in shape and fold over easily.

The top fold of the ear should be leveled or a bit lower than the top line of the skull. When the dog is in an attentive position, the inner edge of the ears stays close to the cheek.

Neck - The neck is wide, muscular, and long. The width of the neck is wide from the nape and it blends smoothly with the shoulders.

Forequarters - Strong and has smooth muscles with wide, long, flat, and laid-back shoulder blades. The upper arm is equal to the shoulder blade and it joins at an angle that ensures that the feet are under the withers. The elbows lie close to the body.

Forelegs - Straight and have medium-length bones that denote strength. They are solid without any excessive thickness and have strong pasterns. The length is equal to about 50 to 60 percent of the height of the withers.

Body - Properly structured and proportioned, and a bit longer than tall. The top of the body is a bit inclined with a broad and well-structured back. The loin is short, a bit arched, and strongly built.

The chest is deep and reaches to the elbow, with medium breadth. The tuck-up is slightly prominent and the croup could be medium to long and with a slight slope.

The rear is a bit pronounced.

Hindquarters - Strong, adequately muscled, and smooth. The width and angles of the hindquarters are well-balanced, according to the forequarters.

Hind Legs - The stifles are bent properly and the hocks are well structured. When in a standing position, the strong rear pasterns are in a perpendicular position and parallel to each other.

Feet - Well proportioned, strong, webbed, and properly structured feet are important and necessary for a working dog. They are oval in shape and the toes are webbed and arched with thick and hard pads.

The nails are strong and the dewclaws could be removed.

Tail - The tail is in a straight line of the topline of the body and it is thick at the base with a tapered tip. These canines could have natural bobtails that could be of any length.

In the case of a full-length tail, it should be upright with a softly curving tip.

Coat - They have a single coat that is short to medium in length. It lies flat and close to the body and the texture either be coarse or smooth.

Color and Coat Variations - These dogs come in several color and pattern combinations. They have leopard pattern as the base pattern and they could have some color on their cheeks, legs, eyes, and chest.

Those having a solid color coat have a single color and the brindle dogs have a single-colored base coat with contrasting and different colored stripes.

The dogs having a patchwork design may have different sized and shaded patches. Dark and rich colors are considered better than lighter tones.

Gait - The gait is smooth and effortless. The top of the body remains straight and flat and the legs and feet are properly proportioned. With the increase of speed, the feet remain in the center of the line and are balanced.

The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog is a powerfully built dog that has agile and supple movements and a patched coat. Due to their strength and endurance, they are also one of the best guard dogs that are ideal to protect your house and other property.

Catahoula Leopard Dog Temperament and Personality Traits

A properly bred Catahoula dog is very affectionate, loving, and protective with the family members. These dogs do not like to be around strangers but, generally, it is not an aggressive dog. However, the male dogs could be aggressive towards other dogs.

Since they were bred to hunt and herd wayward and difficult to handle cattle, they are quite aggressive in their work. Herding, tracking, and hunting are their basic instincts and when not having any such work, they need another outlet to let out all that energy.

Catahoulas make excellent watchdogs and could alert the owners in case someone breaks into the house. Since they are very headstrong, they need a firm but fair and gentle handler. Their temperament is affected by a number of factors like training, heredity, and socialization.

The puppies are very playful and like to mingle with people. When choosing one, choose an even-tempered puppy; the one who neither beats up other puppies nor hides in corners. Before making the final purchase, it is better that you meet at least one of the parents, preferably the mother, to anticipate the temperament of your dog.

However, like other dogs, Catahoulas also need early and proper socialization and diverse exposure to grow into a well-rounded dog. To make it happen more smoothly, it is better that you enroll your puppy into a puppy kindergarten class to help him socialize better.

Catahoula Leopard Dog Health Issues and Common Diseases

‘What are the common health issues of Catahoula dogs?’

Catahoula is a generally healthy breed but they could be prone to several health issues. Knowing about these possible health concerns is important if you are planning to bring one of these canines home.

To make sure that you get a healthy puppy, buy yours from a reputed and ethical breeder who could show you the health clearance certificates of the parents and the puppies. These certificates serve as proof that the parent dogs and puppies are healthy and free from any heredity disorders.

Some health issues are not visible until the dog is 2 years old. Therefore, look for a breeder who breeds his dogs after they are 2 or more years old. When buying a Catahoula puppy, check health clearances issued from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation and Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to make sure that the puppy is healthy.

Below are some common health issues found in this breed.

Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) - It is a heritable health condition in which the thigh bone does not fit properly into the hip joint. This causes arthritis and lameness and the condition could be diagnosed through an X-ray.

The screening is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP).

Dogs having this condition should not be bred.

Deafness - Since these dogs have a gene for merle coat variation, they are prone to deafness. Merle coloration is associated with deafness and it could happen on either one or both sides.

To see if the puppy has this condition, stand behind it and make an unexpected sound or noise and see if he responds.

Besides, you can also get the dog tested at a BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) facility.

Blindness - These dogs may also have a number of eyes and sight-related issues like cataracts, coloboma, persistent pupillary membrane, and progressive retinal atrophy.

To make sure that you get a healthy dog, get your puppy from a reputed breeder, meet the mother, and check the parents’ and puppies’ health clearance certificates.

Catahoula Leopard Dog Care and Grooming

‘How to care for a Catahoula Leopard Dog?’

If you are looking for a canine that you could tie and forget then a Catahoula is not a suitable breed for you. These dogs need ample socialization and companionship to be happy and healthy.

They need to know everything about you, the family members, and your house, inside out. They are very protective and due to this, they could be territorial and unaccepting of strangers.

As per dog experts, this is not a breed for everyone and especially for inexperienced dog owners.

They need ample physical and mental stimulation and exercise to be happy, peaceful, and healthy. Because they need constant companionship, they could be destructive if left alone for long. It is said that a tired dog is a happy dog and this could not be truer for a Catahoula dog.

Provide multiple forms of vigorous exercises like swimming, running, hiking, and fetch. These exercises will keep the dog sharp, alert, and physically healthy.

Since it is a strong dog, it needs an equally strong and confident handler that could train him gently and with positive reinforcement. Do not be harsh as it could destroy the dog’s personality and confidence.

With consistent and timely housetraining, the Catahoula dog could be trained easily. This includes crate training also and your dog could retreat to it every time he feels tired, overwhelmed, or in need of some peaceful sleep.

Besides, leash training is also important and because these dogs are strong pullers, you need to have a strong and comfortable dog collar. Try using a martingale collar for it. These collars are flexible and do not hurt your canine’s neck in the process.

However, do not allow your dog to walk off-leash as he could encounter and chase other dogs and animals. If you have a fence in your backyard then you should know how to train your dog to stay in the yard.

Grooming - How to Groom a Catahoula Leopard Dog?

Grooming is important for your dog but, luckily, your Catahoula dog does not need extensive grooming like many other breeds. Also, they do not shed a lot, and have naturally shiny and wash and wear coats. They do not need frequent bathing also and only when they are very dirty.

To groom your dog, follow the below steps.

  • Run your hand in your dog’s coat and check if the skin has any swollen or dry patches, redness, and pain points.
  • Brush him weekly and thoroughly to remove loose hair and dead skin.
  • Brush your dog's teeth at least two to three times a week to remove tartar buildup and prevent dental issues.
  • Check and trim your canine’s nails and use a good quality dog nail clipper for it.
  • Check the eyes and snake sure that they are clean and shiny and do not show any signs of swelling, puffiness, and redness.
  • Lift and check the ears and make sure that it is clean with no odor. In case of any smelly discharge or redness, take your dog to the vet.

Use high-quality dog products to groom your dog. Some of the key essentials for grooming your dog include dog shampoo and conditioner, grooming brushes, nail clippers, and flea treatment medication to keep your dog free from fleas.

In case your dog gets fleas, choose from the best flea treatment for dogs that includes chewable pills, collars, shampoos, and lotions.

Feeding - What is the Recommended Feeding for a Catahoula Leopard Dog?

The recommended amount of food for a Catahoula dog is between 3 - 3/8th to 5 - 1/8th cups of high-quality dry dog food. To prevent bloat and gastric dilation, divide the food into two meals a day and do not feed him until an hour after the exercise.

The amount of food depends on other factors also like the size and activity level of your dog. An active dog will need more food than a less active dog. Besides, the quality of food also matters a lot and high-quality dog food will be more nutritious and filling than low-quality food.

Below are the top 10 dog food choices for 2021.

  1. Orijen Original Dry Dog Food
  2. Acana Singles Range Dry Dog Food
  3. Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Dry Dog Food
  4. Pupford Freeze-Dried Training Treats
  5. Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels
  6. Orijen Puppy Large Dry Dog Food
  7. Orijen Senior Dry Dog Food
  8. Merrick Dry Dog Food Recipes
  9. Stella & Chewy’s Dinner Patties
  10. Acana Light & Fit Dry Dog Food

To be sure that you got high-quality and suitable food for your dog, it is better to talk to the vet about it and get vet recommended dog food for your canine.

Catahoula Leopard Dog Rescue Groups for Adoption

‘Where to adopt a Catahoula dog from?’

Since it is a rare breed many people acquire it without a complete understanding of the breed. These dogs are very strong-willed and independent and once the puppies mature, they become too much for the owners to handle.

This is why many of them are abandoned and left at rescue groups. If you do not want to start from the puppy stage and need a strong breed then check with the following Catahoula dog rescue groups.

All of these rescue groups have Catahoula dogs and puppies and you can choose from them easily.

A Catahoula Leopard Dog makes excellent pets and emotional support animals. They have a very loving and caring nature and due to their strong protective streak, they make great guard dogs also.

Fill the questionnaire to see if you qualify to get a Catahoula ESA.

Liked the Catahoula dog? Check other breeds also.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Catahoulas make good family dogs?

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Yes, Catahoulas make excellent family dogs if they are socialized and trained properly. Instinctively, they are working dogs and this is why even when trained, they should not be left unsupervised around toddlers and other kids.

What is the cost of a Catahoula Leopard Dog?

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Between $400 to $900. It is a rare breed and the [rice depends on the reputation of the breeder also. Other factors affecting the price include bloodline, temperament, the occurrence of the coat, and the need for socialization.

What is the life expectancy of a Catahoula?

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Generally, they have an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years. The life expectancy also depends on the dog’s health and lifestyle.

Do these dogs bark a lot?

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If they are bored then yes, these dogs could bark a hell of a storm. Since these are working dogs, they need work to spend off their energy. If bored or left alone for long, they could destroy your house and yard with chewing.

The best way of keeping them busy and tired is to provide ample socialization and exercise.

Are these dogs dangerous?

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No, these dogs are not any more dangerous than other dogs. They are very strong and sometimes, they could be forceful also but generally, they are not aggressive and do well with families.

Is this breed rare?

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Yes, the Catahoula Leopard Dog breed is quite rare. It is recognized by the United Kennel Club but not by the American Kennel Club, AKC.

Is it easy to train a Catahoula dog?

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No, since these dogs are independent, training them could be quite difficult. However, once you show them who is in charge, they will learn the tricks easily.

Can these dogs climb trees?

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Yes, these are amazing tree climbers. They got their name, Catahoula Leopard Dog, from their ability to climb trees when tracking and chasing the prey.

Are these dogs intelligent?

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They are the most versatile of the breed and quite intelligent also. They can assess a situation quickly and due to their strong work ethic and determination, they are ideal for hunting and herding cattle and livestock.

What is the speed of a Catahoula dog?

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45 miles per hour. Due to their speed, these dogs have been nicknamed the ‘45-mph couch potato’. They got the name due to their immense bursts of speed when tracking and overcoming prey and their love for lounging peacefully.


Harper Jefcoat


Harper Jefcoat

Harper Jefcoat is a dedicated pet enthusiast and expert author at the RealESALetter.com. With a deep-seated passion for animals, Harper brings a wealth of knowledge and personal experience to his writings. Specializing in canine behavior and wellness, he aims to help pet owners understand and care for their furry friends better.

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