The All-American Catahoula Leopard Dog Is Built to Work

Catahoula Leopard Dog

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The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a hardy, rustic breed that was developed in the American Deep South as an all-purpose farm and hunting dog. The breed is also known as the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog or simply Louisiana Catahoula, a nod to its place of origin in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana. In fact, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is the official state dog of Louisiana.

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a rare breed. The breed is recognized by the United Kennel Club (where it is known as the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog). It is also part of the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service, which is the first step in the process toward full breed recognition. 

Although Catahoula Leopard Dogs are very much working dogs, they are also devoted family companions. Most get along well with respectful children when raised with them. They may or may not get along with other pets. Some Catahoula Leopard Dogs do not get along with other dogs, especially with those of the same sex. Because the breed also has a high prey drive, Catahoula Leopard Dogs might chase or harm small animals, including the family cat. 

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are perhaps best known for their distinctive good looks. A good number of Catahoula Leopard Dogs have the trademark blue eyes and “leopard” patterned coat that’s called out in the breed name. However, there is much variation in the breed’s colors and coat patterns. Catahoulas come in an almost endless combination of patterns and colors, from brindle to patched to solid colored (any color other than solid white), and their eyes can be any color or combination of colors (even two different colors) . 

Breed Overview

  • Group: Herding
  • Height: About 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder
  • Weight: About 50 to 95 pounds
  • Coat and Color: Short to medium-length single coat that lies flat and close to the body; coat texture ranges from smooth to coarse. Almost any color or pattern, except solid white. Common patterns include leopard (a base color with contrasting spots of one or more other colors), solid (single coat color), brindle (light or dark base coat color with contrasting stripes) and patchwork (a solid color with one or more patches of different colors and shades).
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Catahoula Leopard Dog

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Low
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark High
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Catahoula Leopard Dog

Opinions vary on the exact history of the Catahoula Leopard Dog’s development. One working theory is domesticated dogs kept by Native Americans interbred with breeds brought to North America by Spanish explorers. Some possible breeds in the mix include bloodhounds, greyhounds and mastiffs. Later, the resulting dogs bred with the hounds that accompanied French immigrants arriving in the South. The Beauceron, a French herding breed, is also speculated to be part of the Catahoula Leopard Dog’s ancestry. 

Early Catahoula Leopard Dogs were valued as exceptional hunting dogs, about to scent, trail and tree small and big wild game, including bobcats, deer, wild hogs and bears. They were also used to herd, pen and catch wild cattle and hogs, making them prized working dogs. 

Catahoula Leopard Dog Care

The Catahoula Leopard Dog’s short to medium-length coat is wash and wear. Most Catahoulas need only occasional brushing, weekly nail trimming and baths when dirty. Frequently lift the ear flaps to check for redness and ear wax. Clean the ears with a pet-safe ear cleaner if they look dirty and consult with a veterinarian if they look inflamed or have a foul odor.

Many Catahoula Leopard Dogs can be protective and territorial. Early, intensive socialization and training is extremely important with this breed. Many breed experts believe the Catahoula Leopard Dog is not for everyone, particularly novice dog owners or pet-only homes with no appropriate outlets for the breed’s abundant energy and working instincts. 

Catahoula Leopard Dogs need both exercise and mental stimulation to be happy and well-behaved at home. The breed may become destructive when left to their own devices. The wise Catahoula owner will combine daily vigorous exercise in the form of running, hiking, swimming or fetch, with regular training for activities like hunting, herding, tracking, agility or obedience.

Common Health Problems

Most purebred dogs are susceptible to developing certain hereditary conditions. Although the Catahoula Leopard Dog is generally heathy, the breed is predisposed to a few health concerns, namely deafness and hip dysplasia. Reputable Catahoula breeders have their breeding dogs’ hips evaluated by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and obtain brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) testing for deafness. When buying a Catahoula puppy from a breeder, be sure to ask for documentation that these tests were performed on the parents. 

Diet and Nutrition

Feed your Catahoula Leopard Dog scheduled meals using a measuring cup or scale to weigh the food. Free feeding (leaving food out all day) can cause weight gain, which can exacerbate hip dysplasia, to which the Catahoula Leopard Dog is prone, and also contribute to other health conditions like diabetes. If you’re not sure the best type of food to feed your Catahoula Leopard Dog, or how much you should be feeding, ask your breeder or veterinarian for their advice.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

There’s no doubt about it, Catahoula Leopard Dog are gorgeous. Many people are drawn to the breed because of its unique appearance. However, as with all dog breeds, looks should not be the only motivating factor when choosing a dog to live with and love. Simply put, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is not the breed for everyone. It can be a challenging breed to train and live with. This breed does best with an experienced dog owner in a home with ample outdoor space. In the right home, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is loving, loyal and sometimes even clownish with its human pack members. 

If you like the Catahoula Leopard Dog, you might also like these breeds: 

Otherwise, check out all of our other dog breed articles to help you find the perfect dog for you and your family.