About the Breed

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a multi-purpose working dog that is well-muscled and powerful, but with a sense of agility and endurance. They are serious while working and playful at home. The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a medium-large, short-coated dog, known for its many varied coat and eye colors and patterns. The word is of Choctaw origin and is translated to mean “sacred lake.” Catahoulas are the only breed of dog to have historically originated in the state of Louisiana. The breed requires firm guidance and early socialization, as they can be independent, territorial, and protective. For the same reasons, they do not allow mistreatment and will assert themselves in self-defense. Once they know their place in the family unit, they are affectionate, loyal, and gentle. Also called the Catahoula Hog Dog, they are used as stock dogs, bay dogs, tree dogs, watchdogs, guard dogs, and of course as loyal companions.

Breed Overview

The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, shortened to “Catahoula” or just “Cat” by enthusiasts, is a unique working breed with a striking appearance. Originating in Louisiana in the south of the United States, the multi-purpose Catahoula is trim yet also tough, well-muscled and powerful, possessing both agility and great endurance. He is a medium to medium-large dog who reaches a height of 51 to 71 cm and a weight of 25 to 40 kg.

One of the Catahoula’s notable features is his short to medium length coat with its many varied colours and patterns that give him a spotty and blotchy appearance. Apart from the popular leopard pattern, with a base colour and contrasting spots of one or more other colours, his coat may be solid, brindle, merle, or patched in many colours. Solid coat colours include black, blue, chocolate, red and yellow. Tan markings and a white or coloured trim may be found on the chest, cheeks, legs, underbody, above the eyes or under the tail. Another notable feature are his eyes, which may be blue, green, brown or amber, or he may have eyes that are each a different colour or have two different colours within the same eye.

Bred to be an intense and uncompromising worker, he may adapt poorly to life as a companion animal unless he is provided with large expanses of land and/or a very large amount of exercise. Because of these needs, he is not suited for city living or a small house or apartment. The ideal home for him is one with a very large fenced yard and opportunities to perform his natural work of tracking and herding.

Options for exercise include walks several times a day, long hikes and play time in the backyard, retrieving balls or flying discs. Swimming is another good exercise – he has webbed feet, which enable him to swim well and to work in soft, marshy areas. Training for dog sports like agility, obedience and rally are also good outlets for him.

Despite being a working dog who needs to spend plenty of time outdoors, the Catahoula should not be left to live outside on his own. Without the proper amount of physical and mental stimulation, he will be bored and lonely, and become destructive in his attempts to entertain himself – for example, digging holes and chewing things to shreds. Unfortunately, because of the many behavioural problems that can occur, this breed is over-represented in animal shelters and rescue centres across southern America.