Catahoula Leopard Dog – The Official State Dog of Louisiana

As someone who appreciates working dogs, the energetic and loyal Catahoula Leopard Dog ticks all my boxes.

This dog breed is also known as Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, Louisiana Catahoula Cur, Catahoula Cur, Catahoula Hog Dog, Catahoula Hound, Leopard Dogs, Catahoulas, State Dog of Louisiana, and Louisiana’s Hog Dog.

a Catahoula Leopard dog with a puppy
A bi-eye Catahoula Leopard Dog mom with a puppy laying on fall leaves

There are many interesting facts to know about this exciting breed, so keep reading for the Catahoula Leopard Dog 101.

Catahoula Leopard Dog Origins – The Spirit of Native America

This rare breed’s exact lineage is not fully known, but their Native American ancestry is certain. The Catahoulas’ history starts after the arrival of Spanish settlers to Louisiana in the 16th century.

Led by Hernando de Soto, Spanish explorers arrived in Florida in 1539 and moved their way to the Deep South.

In Louisiana, the settlers met Native American dogs that looked like wolves. These dogs mixed with various breeds brought by the settlers, such as Mastiffs, Greyhounds, and Bloodhounds.

With French immigrants’ arrival to the state, the dogs mixed with the Beauceron to make the Catahoula Leopard Dog.

The Native American ancestry of the Catahoula Hound is also evident in the breed’s name. Catahoula means “sacred lake” in the language used by the Native American Choctaw tribe.

The breed probably originated near Catahoula Lake, in Catahoula Parish in northern Louisiana.

The Catahoulas are appreciated for their working instincts. They were bred for many purposes and used as stock dogs, tree dogs, bay dogs, watchdogs, and guard dogs.

However, their main job was to scent, track, and hunt wild hogs, hence Catahoula Hog Dog. They also hunted bobcats, bears, and deer, and worked as herding dogs for cattle and feral hogs.

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is the only dog that originated in Louisiana, so it was officially named Louisiana’s state dog in 1979.

Colonel James “Jim” Bowie of the Alamo owned the Catahoulas, while Theodore Roosevelt used them for hunting.

The United Kennel Club (UKC) was the first dog registry to recognize the Catahoula Leopard Dog in 1995 as a part of the Herding Group.

While the American Kennel Club (AKC) doesn’t officially recognize the Catahoulas, they are included in the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service that maintains records of rare breeds and helps the fanciers. 

There are a few other organizations and dog registries that recognize the Catahoula Leopard Dog as an official breed:

  • States Kennel Club (SKC)
  • American Canine Association Inc. (ACA)
  • American Canine Registry (ACR)
  • American Rare Breed Association (ARBA)
  • American Pet Registry, Inc. (APRI)
  • Dog Registry of America, Inc. (DRA)
  • North American Purebred Registry, Inc. (NARP)
  • Animal Research Foundation (ARF)
  • National Association of Louisiana Catahoula (NALC)

What does a Catahoula Leopard Dog look like?

The Catahoula Hound has a powerful build, including a broad but non-exaggerated head. The skull and muzzle are similar in length.

The muzzle is moderate in width, deep, and strong. The nose can be any color or mix of colors. The ears are triangular and moderate in size.

This breed is well-known for having a blue eye color. However, the Catahoulas can have various eye colors, such as blue, brown, green, amber, and others.

They can also have odd eyes (each eye a different color) or cracked eyes, usually two-colored and glassy. The Catahoulas’ eyes are medium in size and a bit rounded.

Louisiana Catahoula Cur standing on a tree trunk while wearing a blue coat
Meet Lily, an adventurous Louisiana Catahoula Cur – Image source

The neck of the Catahoula Leopard Dog is muscular and widens from the nape to blend into the shoulders. The forequarters, including forelegs, are also quite muscular but not overdone.

Catahoulas have wide, flat, and long shoulder blades. The breed’s back is broad and muscled, while the chest is deep with an apparent tuck-up.

This breed has powerful, muscled hindquarters. The tail of the Catahoulas is thickest at the base and thinnest at the tip. It is usually carried upright, and the top will curve forward if the dog is alert or moving.

Perhaps the most impressive parts of the Catahoulas’ anatomy are their feet. They are oval, with long, well-arched toes.

These dogs also have webbed feet, which allowed them to move through marshlands and forests with ease.

Catahoula Curs have dewclaws on their feet – hence their impressive climbing ability. Rear dewclaws are possible but not so common.

Size: How big do Catahoula Leopard Dogs get?

Catahoula Leopard Dog is a medium-to-large breed. Males can reach a height between 22 and 26 inches (56 to 66 centimeters), while females are usually between 20 to 24 inches tall (51 to 61 centimeters).

Both males and females can weigh from 50 to 90 pounds (23 to 51 kilograms), but females are usually lighter than males on average. 

Due to their size and energy levels, Catahoula Hounds are not suitable for apartments. Catahoula owners should provide them with ample space, including a large backyard.

If you plan to get a crate for your Catahoula Leopard Dog, go for a crate size of around 48 inches.

Catahoula Leopard Dog puppies may do well in an apartment, but keep in mind that the Catahoula puppy will grow quickly.

Although Catahoulas can keep growing for 18 months to 2 years, they will outgrow any apartment space by the time they’re ten months old.

Coat Type and Color – Do Catahoula Leopard Dogs Really Look Like Leopards?

three Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dogs with different coat colors
Three Louisiana Catahoula Leopards with different coats enjoying the beach

Catahoula Leopard Dogs can have a short coat or a medium coat, ranging from smooth to coarse in texture. The Catahoulas’ coat will lie close and flat to their body and won’t require much grooming.

While many Catahoulas have a coat with the leopard pattern, this breed is known for different patterns and colors: 

  • Solid – One coat color all around
  • White Trim – A small amount of white color on the chest, tail, or toes
  • Tan Markings – Coat with small, pale brown (tan) markings. They usually appear above the dog’s eyes, on the nose, cheeks, neck, chest, legs, paws, and part of the tail
  • Leopard Pattern – Base color with spots of different, contrasting color(s)
  • Patchwork – A solid color with patches of different colors or shades
  • Brindle – Dark or light base color with contrasting stripes

Catahoulas can be black, blue, gray, red, yellow, chocolate, blue merle, red merle, white merle, yellow merle, and others. The only coat pattern and color that Catahoula Hounds don’t come in is solid white.

If you want to learn more about the Catahoula’s looks, you can see the complete breed standard for the Catahoula Leopard Dog at the United Kennel Club’s website.

Temperament: Are Catahoulas good family dogs?

Although they’re not the most kid-friendly dogs around, Catahoula Curs are loving family pets, especially with children.

It can also mean that they can be extremely protective of their humans. So be cautious and supervise your pet whenever he’s interacting with little ones to avoid anyone from getting hurt.

We also want to clarify that an affectionate dog always means they’re big on cuddling, and this fido is a great example.

Catahoulas are independent canines that form strong bonds with their owners.

Getting this breed means you know how to establish respect between the two of you because of any mistreatment or physical abuse, this doggo won’t stand for any of it.

They’re not inherently aggressive but don’t expect them to be friendly with people they don’t know.

They’re wary of strangers, but you may witness this purebred’s aggression toward other dogs, especially males.

And sure, they can get along with other pets like cats, but Catahoula Leopard Dogs have a strong prey drive that some of them have no control over it, so never allow your pup to go on off-leash adventures when outside your securely-fenced backyard.

As with any pooch, proper training and early socialization can help your fur buddy be well-behaved regardless of where he is and who’s around him.

Do Catahoula Leopard Dogs bark a lot?

Other than being wary of strangers, one of the characteristics of an excellent watchdog is being alert.

If your Catahoula feels like something’s amiss, someone unfamiliar is approaching or is feeling threatened, consider it’s barking a warning.

There are experienced dog owners who know how to train such dogs into minimizing this habit while still being outstanding with their watching and guarding skills. But you shouldn’t expect this specific breed to be silent.

Catahoulas are vocal canines, which is more evident when communicating with their owner. Watch this video of Luna, trying to talk to its paw parents in her own Catahoula way:

That’s just so smart, right? That’s because this is an intelligent dog breed. Don’t be too happy, though. Cleverness also means stubbornness.

Let your Catahoula Leopard Dog know that you’re the alpha of the pack the moment you bring him home.

Waiting until they’re older is just setting yourself up for a hard time dealing with a headstrong housemate.

On the good side, a bright dog also means they’re fast learners. Just be consistent with your rules and be firm, and your Leopard Dog will follow your guidance.

Crate training is also necessary because Catahoulas tend to be clingy, which leads to separation anxiety. That includes not leaving your doggo in isolation, whether or not you’re at home.

Your Catahoula Hound will thrive if it’s always included in family activities, even when you’re just doing errands.

Bring him along when the fam decides to cool off at the beach. Catahoula Hog Dogs love the water and are great swimmers.

Since we’re on that subject, you can show off your fur baby by letting him join various dog sports like dock diving, tracking, and agility trials.

They also excel at hunting. A grown Catahoula Cur has high endurance and will have no trouble wandering through any terrain, which includes climbing trees with confidence.

How to Take Care of Your Catahoula Leopard Dog

Since they hail from Louisiana, Catahoula Leopard Dogs can tolerate various weather conditions. They don’t have a problem with moderate heat or cold, but they can struggle in extreme conditions.

Make sure that your pooch always has fresh water and a shaded area when it’s hot. If it’s too cold, you may want to consider a dog sweater or a dog vest.

Grooming: Do Catahoula Leopard Dogs shed?

One of the main advantages of owning a Catahoula Leopard Dog is its low maintenance. Catahoulas are not hypoallergenic but they don’t shed much.

They shed lightly to moderately throughout the year. Brushing their coat once a week will reduce shedding and keep it clean and shiny. 

Additionally, these dogs don’t need to be bathed often; 3-4 times per year is enough. Of course, if your Catahoula likes to get dirty or if you notice an unpleasant smell, an impromptu bath is a good idea.

When it comes to dental hygiene, it is important to brush your dog’s teeth at least 2-3 times per week to remove any tartar buildup and bacteria.

If possible, brushing the Catahoula’s teeth every day is much better. Catahoula Curs are not prone to drooling. However, you may encounter this issue occasionally, when your dog sees something delicious.

You should also focus on the Catahoula’s nails. Trim your dog’s nails once or twice per month or when you notice that he needs a trim. You’ll know that the nails are too long if you can hear them clicking on the floor.

Check the Catahoula’s ears every week and clean them if you notice any debris. You can use a cotton ball to wipe the outer edges of the ear canal but be careful not to go too deep into the ear.

If you notice any redness or inflammation, get in touch with your vet to receive instructions on how to proceed.

Exercising Your Catahoula Leopard Dog

A canine with high energy levels requires constant physical and mental stimulation.

Owning a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dogs means you can take him to have at least an hour of intensive exercise daily.

They’re used to being busy with different jobs and tasks, and letting this breed to sit around can make them unhappy and bored.

When boredom strikes for a dog, it often ends up in destructive behavior such as chewing and digging.

Fetching tennis balls and catching flying discs in the backyard is fun, but keep your Catahoula entertained by doing different activities like hiking and running.

If you have a spacious farm with roaming livestock, let your pup help by herding them.

a running Catahoula Leopard Dog biting a red ball
Meet Ruby, a Catahoula Leopard Dog enjoying the sun while biting a red ball – Image source

Catahoula Leopard Dog Diet and Feeding Tips

Catahoulas should eat between 3½ to 5 cups of dog food per day, divided into two meals to prevent bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).

To further minimize the risk, avoid giving your dog water and food for at least an hour after a strenuous exercise.

Catahoula Leopard Dog puppies should be fed more often, in smaller amounts. Feed puppies between eight and twelve weeks of age four times per day.

Puppies between three and six months should be fed three times per day. After that, you can start the regular diet and feed your Catahoula twice a day.

Feed your Catahoula Leopard Dog puppy high-quality puppy food until the pup is about 90% of his adult weight.

Once the dog is almost fully grown, you can switch to adult dog food that should be high in protein due to the breed’s high energy expenditure.

Of course, the best food for each particular Catahoula Dog depends on many factors, including the dog’s age, weight, metabolism, and activity level.

Most importantly, it depends on the dog’s health – some Catahoula Dogs can be allergic or sensitive to certain ingredients.

What health problems do Catahoula Leopard Dogs have?

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are pretty healthy overall, but they are prone to a few health conditions. We’ve mentioned the risk of bloat and obesity, which can be minimized by proper feeding and exercise.

Obesity can increase the already high risk of hip dysplasia, a common concern for Catahoulas.

Deafness is another health issue that Catahoula Hounds are especially prone to, along with certain eye problems like tunnel vision, abnormal pupil dilation, and problems with opening their eyes.

Catahoulas that have a white coat or face are more likely to suffer from a glass eye.

Cancer in old age is also a known issue, but it is not as common as the rest of the problems.

However, it is the most serious condition and the most likely cause of death for Catahoula Leopard Dogs, whose average lifespan is 10 to 14 years.

Occasional tests and health screenings are recommended once a year to ensure your dog’s health.

This includes the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) test for hips, Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) test for eyes, and Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test for hearing.

How much does a Catahoula Leopard Dog puppy cost?

Catahoula Hound puppy laying on a blanket on the grass
Image source

Catahoula Leopard Dog puppies cost $400 to $900 each. Depending on different factors, like the parents’ lineage can make the price go up to as much as $4,000.

You also have to consider the breeder’s popularity and location, the puppy’s gender, and coat color, and how many available pups are there.

Female Catahoula Curs can give birth to a litter with 4 to 12 puppies. But if the puppy seller has a lot of buyers, prepare to pay more and to be placed on a waiting list.

Keep in mind that there are additional costs of owning a Catahoula Leopard Dog, such as food, veterinary expenses, and check-ups, toys, collars and leashes, crate, bedding, and other necessary supplies.

Catahoula Leopard Dog Breeders

If you decide to buy a Catahoula puppy, it is crucial to find a reputable breeder. Avoid pet stores since they often get their dogs from puppy mills or puppy farms.

Instead, look for a reputable breeder directly, meet with them to see the dog’s living conditions, and ask for the parents’ medical tests (OFA, CERF, BAER) to make sure they’re healthy.

A great place to start your search for reputable Catahoula Leopard Dog breeders in the USA is the Catahoula Owners, Breeders and Research Association (COBRA).

On this website, you will find breeders who adhere to COBRA’s ethics code. Another good source of ethical breeders is the National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas, Inc.

If you live in Europe, you can visit the European Association of Louisiana Catahoulas and check out their list of reputable Catahoula breeders.

Adopting a Catahoula Leopard Dog

Even though the Catahoula Leopard Dog is purebred, it is possible to find these dogs in your local shelters and rescue groups.

Try the Adopt-a-Pet website first since they have great information on all dog breeds up for adoption in your area.

And since we always recommend going the adoption route, here are a few additional resources to help you find your new friend:

Is the Catahoula Leopard Dog the Right Pet for Me?

Catahoula Cur wearing a dog coat standing on a forest
Image source

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is not a good choice for first-time owners. This breed is highly energetic, alert towards strangers, and needs a firm hand in training.

If you have experience with dogs and have enough space in your backyard, Catahoulas are great companions and hard-working partners for many jobs.

What is your experience with Catahoula Leopard Dogs? Share your impressions about this breed in the comments.

Further Reading: Other Breeds to Explore

  • Mountain Cur
  • Braque du Bourbonnais
  • Treeing Tennessee Brindle

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