Did you know that the hard-working Catahoula leopard dog is the official dog of Louisiana? It was bred to catch wild hogs and herd livestock. When off-duty, the Catahoula makes an excellent family dog. It’s protective and loving. But let’s learn more:

The breed is suitable for people who want a dog that will work and hunt hard. And if you prefer a dog who’s strictly a family companion, you’ll also get along fine. 

So is this the right breed for you? There’s only one way to find out — keep reading. 

What Is a Catahoula Leopard Dog?

Catahoulas are among the best multi-purpose utility breeds worldwide. They come from the Catahoula Lake region in Southeastern Louisiana. These dogs have an instinct to hunt and herd since they were primarily used by the Indians to stock hogs and gather food for them. Besides its keen-working drive, this unique breed can be a devoted companion to its loved ones. 

It’s impossible not to acknowledge the extraordinary Catahoula appearance and its intriguing leopard pattern. Keep reading to find out more about this marvelous breed. Let’s start with its origin. 

The History & Origin of Catahoula Dog

No one can tell you much about the Catahoula origins. One of its predecessors is most likely the breed adopted for hunting by Native Americans, characterized as “wolf-like dogs” by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. 

The dogs were probably crossbred with the ones that Spanish explorers took to the New World, like Mastiffs and Greyhounds. When French immigrants brought Beauceron dogs to Louisiana, they crossbred them again.

Historically, Indians used these dogs for hunting and transporting animals. They aren’t overbred since the breed is unique. Catahoulas have the same instincts the Indians trained and nurtured them for. 

Catahoula Leopard Hound Name Origin 

Sources suggest that the name originates from the Choctaw people, Native Americans from today’s Southeastern US, and means “holy lake.”

You’ll frequently meet these dogs with merle in leopard coat pattern, hence their “leopard” nickname. Other breed names include Louisiana Leopard dog, Catahoula hog dog, and Catahoula cur.

State Dog of Louisiana 

The Catahoula is the only dog breed with a Louisiana origin. It’s no wonder why many local people mention it as their favorite dog. Also, in 1976, Catahoula officially became the state dog of Louisiana.

The NALC (National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas) was started in October of 1977. The aim was to perpetuate the pure-bred Catahoula by keeping the breed’s pedigree and tracking all the Catahoula dogs within the registry. 

Catahoula Leopard Dog Size & Colors

It’s a robust dog with an athletic, rectangular physique. The usual height is between 22–26 inches, while the weight is about 65–90 pounds. Females are naturally slightly smaller than males, ranging from 20–24 inches and weighing 50–65 pounds. 

Catahoulas have smooth, short coats or coarse, medium-length coats. They’re most recognized for their distinctive merle, leopard-like coloring. It’s among the breeds with the highest prevalence of the merle gene, also responsible for their blue eyes. But you might meet these dogs in nearly every solid coat and eye color. 

Since the Catahoula cur originates from the Louisiana swamps, its webbed feet allow it to run through mud and muck. It also helps it walk effortlessly in snow or dessert. 

Catahoula Leopard Dog Temperament

Catahoulas are excellent companions for energetic folks who enjoy long walks, jogs, or adventurous hikes. They’re active, joyful, fun, and devoted companions to their owners. Even though they may be suspicious and cautious of strangers, they won’t get aggressive unless there’s a compelling reason to do so. 

Catahoulas are kind to older children, but you should never leave a dog unattended around a very small child. 

These dogs aren’t good for inexperienced owners because of their inherent protective instincts, independent brains, and mighty bodies. They’re more suitable for someone who can properly socialize and teach the dog from puppyhood. 

Catahoula’s Natural Instinct to Hoard

The Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog is an excellent working pet. As the early settlers of Central Louisiana needed to drive wild hogs and cows off the land, they used the dogs to pen and catch the rampant animals in the area. 

Catahoulas have a unique method of herding. They create a live dog fence around the animals and drive them anywhere the owner requires. Even now, these dogs have a strong work ethic. They serve as devoted defenders, hunters, watchdogs, and devoted friends. 

Catahoula Leopard Dog Hunting Instincts 

Catahoulas make exceptional hunters. They have a strong work ethic and are independent yet intelligent. Also, they’re experts at problem-solving, while their bodies are powerful but nimble. Catahoulas are also one of the few breeds that can detect both air and ground trail smell.

Because they’re outstanding and efficient hunters, Catahoulas are often bay and tree dogs. They would find, follow, and capture the victim before howling or baying to notify the hunter. Catahoulas hunt anything from raccoons and squirrels to deer, boars, and bears.

leopard dog sleeping on the floor

Catahoula Leopard Dog Nutritional Needs

Catahoulas are very active dogs that need high-quality, protein-rich meals to support their busy lifestyle. Here’s the suggested amount of nutrients for the breed:

  • 22–25% protein per day for strong muscles
  • 8% fat for a healthy coat
  • 1,400 calories per day for developing dogs
  • 1,000 calories for adults
  • 700 calories for senior dogs

Check with your vet on the type of food that’s best for your Catahoula. Here are also a few suggestions from us:

It’s normal to reward your dog with treats during training sessions. But be cautious about the amount as it shouldn’t be more than 10% of your pet’s diet. 

Catahoula Leopard Dog Training & Exercise 

There are many ways to keep Catahoulas active — from swimming and hiking to long-distance walking and bicycling. As long as they’re out in the open and are mentally stimulated, they’ll be happy. 

Because these dogs are clever and eager to please their owners, they’re easy to train. The breed masters every activity involving a lot of movement. They’re also excellent at guarding and protection, even though their real love is to hunt, chase, and herd.

Catahoulas are excellent research and rescue dogs due to their sense of smell, persistence, and high intellect. But be wary because these dogs tend to get aggressive and destructive if you don’t provide enough physical activity. That’s why we don’t recommend the Catahoula leopard hound for apartment living.

Every dog likes to go to dog parks, but they’re not the best place for Catahoulas. Many people don’t know how to handle their dogs, so at the very least, you should be prepared with a harness for a large dog if a pooch approaches your Catahoula in a slightly aggressive way.

Common Health Issues & Lifespan

Bad breeding is the leading cause of health problems in this breed. When two merle dogs mate, you get a dog with two merle genes. These dogs commonly get deafness, blindness, and hip dysplasia.

Even though you can’t change genetics yet, you can try to prolong your Catahoula leopard dog’s hearing by: 

  • Avoiding loud, repeated noises
  • Protecting your pet from fireworks, explosive devices, sirens, hammering, jackhammers, loud music, and gunfires
  • Including omega 3 fatty acids in their meals to reduce plaque build-up
  • Giving vitamin C and E, which help to prevent cell damage by inflammation
  • Adding curcumin to the food prevents brain plaque, which causes Alzheimer’s disease and hearing loss.

As for blindness, we recommend going on regular veterinary checkups. If your vet notices something problematic, it’s better to treat it right away than end with complete blindness. 

The most common Catahoula leopard dog traits for hip dysplasia are stiff rear legs or trouble getting up. Make sure you provide an orthopedic dog bed to reduce the pain. We also recommend a dog house heater, as it can be pain-soothing and relieve joint stiffness. 

Allergy sufferers don’t get along with Catahoulas. Most people are allergic to dander or saliva rather than dog hair, so coat type isn’t usually an issue. Aside from that, regular merle Catahoulas or solid colored ones are generally healthy, with an average lifetime of 11–13 years. 

Grooming

Don’t have the time, experience, or budget for high-maintenance dogs? Don’t worry. The Catahoula leopard dog is among the easiest breeds to take care of. All you need to do is brush them once a week to keep the coat clean, shiny, and in the best possible condition.

These dogs shed little, so brushing them regularly will help keep the shedding to a minimum. Apart from seasonal flea treatment, you won’t have any other obligations. Like all dogs, you should maintain their ears, eyes, nails, teeth and clean their paws with a dog paw cleaner after a long walk.

Catahoula Leopard Dog Price & Where to Get One?

Breeders are the most expensive, from $600 to $900. After all, they invest a significant amount of time and money in their puppies.

You can also find Catahoulas on Craigslist or a similar website. They’re sometimes sold for as little as $50 per puppy. Still, most of these dogs come from puppy mills or a backyard breeder. While the latter has good intentions, they frequently fail to properly health test or socialize the dogs.

Animal shelters and rescues sometimes also have Catahoulas, yet adults are more frequent than pups. Nevertheless, adopting is more expensive than rescuing one, with a price range from $50 to $300. 

Final Thoughts: Catahoula Leopard Dog Puppies Are Outstanding

Catahoulas sure love their families. If you like to run, mountain bike, skateboard, they can be the best pets for you. Plus, they also make excellent service dogs. 

Keep in mind that the right environment for a Catahoula would have plenty of room for the dog to run and exercise. These dogs also need to feel like a part of the family. If you put a Catahoula leopard dog in the backyard and expect it to be happy and satisfied, you’re barking up the wrong tree. The dog wants to be with you all the time, so you better satisfy its needs.

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Avatar for Monika Lazarevska
Nothing can stop Monika from petting a fluffy cat, even if it's in the middle of the street. She has experience with all kinds of pets — dogs, chickens, parrots, fish, bunnies, and even wolf cubs! Apart from her unconditional love for animals, she’s a creative individual that can easily lose track of time while painting. After getting a degree in English Language and Literature, Monika looked for a way to share her inspiration with others and found one in content writing.