Catahoula Cur

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Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog
Other namesCatahoula leopard dog
Catahoula hog dog
Catahoula Cur
Catahoula hound
Leopard Dogs
Leopard Cur
Country of originUnited States
NotesState dog of Louisiana
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
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Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog
Other namesCatahoula leopard dog
Catahoula hog dog
Catahoula Cur
Catahoula hound
Leopard Dogs
Leopard Cur
Country of originUnited States
NotesState dog of Louisiana
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Catahoula Cur is an American dog breed named after Catahoula Parish, in the state of Louisiana, in the United States. After becoming the state dog of Louisiana in 1979, its name was officially changed to Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog. The breed is sometimes referred to as the "Catahoula Hound" or "Catahoula Leopard Hound", although it is not a true hound, but a cur. It is also called the "Catahoula Hog Dog", reflecting its traditional use in hunting wild boar.


The history of the Catahoula dog breed extends from prehistory through modern times, in the early 21st century. Both the Catahoula lineage and the origins of the name "Catahoula" are uncertain, however there are various theories.

One theory posits that the Catahoula is the result of Native Americans having bred their own dogs with molossers and greyhounds brought to Louisiana by Hernando de Soto in the 16th century. As for the aforementioned Native American dog breeds, for a time it was believed that they were bred with or from red wolves, but this idea is not supported by modern DNA analysis. Several recent studies[1] have looked at the remains of prehistoric dogs from American archaeological sites and each has indicated that the genetics of prehistoric American dogs are similar to European and Asian domestic dogs rather than wild New World canids. In fact, these studies indicate that Native Americans brought several lines (breeds) of already domesticated dogs with them on their journeys from Asia to North America.[2]

Another theory suggests that the breed originated three centuries later, some time in the 19th century, after French settlers introduced the Beauceron to the North American continent. The French told of strange-looking dogs with haunting glass eyes that were used by the Indians to hunt game in the swamp.,[3] and the theory states that the Beauceron and the Red Wolf/war dog were interbred to produce the Catahoula.

There are two theories regarding the origin of the word 'Catahoula.' One theory is that the word is a combination of two Choctaw words 'okhata', meaning lake, and 'hullo', meaning beloved. Another possibility is that the word is a French transformation of the Choctaw Indian word for their own nation, 'Couthaougoula' pronounced 'Coot-ha-oo-goo-la'.(Don Abney)

In 1979, Governor Edwin Edwards signed a bill making the Catahoula the official state dog of Louisiana in recognition of their importance in the history of the region.[4]


As a working dog, Catahoulas have been bred primarily for temperament and ability rather than for appearance. As a result, the physical characteristics of the Catahoula are somewhat varied.


Catahoulas may range greatly in size with males averaging slightly larger than females. Typical height ranges from 20–26" and weight between 40 and 90 lbs.


Catahoulas come in many different colors including blue merle, red merle, brindle, and solid colors. Often, solid coat Catahoulas have small splashes of other colors such as white on their face, legs or chest. The leopard-like coat of most Catahoulas is the result of the merle gene. The merle gene does not normally affect the entire coat of the dog, but dilutes the color only in areas that randomly present the characteristic of the gene. Visually, white coats seem unaffected.

Cur Brown catahoula
Blue Leopard Catahoula with brindled tan markings


The texture of a Catahoula's coat may show some variance, being slick/painted-on, coarse, or woolly/shaggy. However, while other coat types may not be penalized, several registering bodies that recognize the Catahoula specify a short or slick-coated dog. [6] [7] Others, including the Animal Research Foundation, will accept short-to-medium haired dogs, but may list long fur or feathering of the fur as uncommon or a flaw.[8]

Red Leopard Catahoula


The breed may have "cracked glass" or "marbled glass" eyes (heterochromia) and occurs when both colored and glass portions are present in the same eye. Cracked or marbled eyes are blue or blue-white in color. Catahoulas with two cracked or marble glass eyes are often referred to as having double glass eyes. In some cases, a glass eye will have darker colored sections in it, and vice versa. Cracked eyes may be half of one color and half of another. They may just have a streak or spot of another color. Gray eyes are usually cracked eyes, made of blue and green, giving them their grayish appearance. The eyes may be of the same color or each of a different color. Eye color can also be ice blue, brown, green, gray, or amber. No particular eye color is typical of Catahoulas.


The tail of the Catahoula may be long and whip-like, reaching past the hocks of the back legs, or else bobtail, which is a tail that ranges from one vertebra shorter than full length to only one vertebra in total length. The question mark tail is a common tail trait, often with a white tip. The bobtail is a rare but natural part of the Catahoula heritage.


Though most dogs have webbing between the toes, Catahoulas' feet have more prominent webbing which extends almost to the ends of the toes. This foot gives the Catahoula the ability to work marshy areas and gives them great swimming ability.


Catahoulas are highly intelligent and energetic. They are assertive but not aggressive by nature. Catahoulas in general are very even tempered. Males tend to be more obnoxious than females, but Catahoulas are very serious about their job if they are working dogs. They make a good family dog but will not tolerate being isolated, so interaction with the dog is a daily requirement. When a Catahoula is raised with children, the dog believes that it is his or her responsibility to look after and protect those children. Many owners will say that the Catahoula owns them and they can be insistent when it's time to eat or do other activities. Catahoulas are protective and a natural alarm dog. They will alert one to anything out of the ordinary.[9]

Blue Leopard Female



These dogs are outstanding bay dogs, or tracking and hunting dogs. They have been known to track animals from miles away, and have been used for hunting feral pigs, squirrel, deer, raccoon, mountain lion, and black bear. They often track silently and only begin to make their distinctive baying bark, eye to eye with the prey, once it is stopped, and hold it in position without touching the animal; using only posture, eyecontact, and lateral shifts.

Catahoulas have been introduced in the Northern Territory of Australia where they have been found to be a superior hunting dog for pigs by breeders.[10] They have been introduced in New Zealand as well as Australia, but the number of Catahoulas there is unclear.

Red Solid with litter of leopard Catahoulas; showing wide variety of coat colors


They are used primarily for herding cattle, and pigs by a method of antagonizing and intimidation of herd animals as opposed to the method of all day boundary patrol and restricting the animals being herded from entering or leaving the designated area.[11] Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Catahoulas exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in cow/hog dog trials.[12]

The breed is recognized by the United Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club under the "herding dog" breed group.[13][14][15]

Health issues[edit]


Deafness is one of the major genetic flaws in Catahoulas and associated with individuals that are excessively white in color and deafness attributed to a lack of melanocytes.[16] A Catahoula that is predominantly white, has an 80% chance of being bi-laterally deaf or uni-laterally hearing.[17] Hearing in one ear is referred to as "directional deafness". Breeders are not readily willing to allow deaf Catahoulas to leave their premises and will generally euthanize the deaf pups (there are groups setting out to rescue deaf pups).

Hip dysplasia[edit]

A concern with many breeds, hip dysplasia is dependent on the gene pool and good breeders. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and PennHIP can help determine whether a specific individual is prone to hip dysplasia through radiographs. Catahoulas are no more apt to have this orthopedic problem than other breeds.

Catahoula lines[edit]

There are three versions of the Catahoula Cur:

These three lines were crossed back and forth and created the variations of Catahoulas seen today.[19]

Notable references to Catahoulas in history and pop culture[edit]

During the early 1900s, Teddy Roosevelt used the Catahoula when hunting.[20]

Jim Bowie and his brother Rezin Bowie, who spent much of their youth in Catahoula Parish are reported to have owned a pair of Catahoulas. They were said to sleep with a Catahoula at their feet.[21]

Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long had an interest in the breed and collected them. This interest was recognized by an annual competition known as Uncle Earl's Hog Dog Trials.[21]

In 2007, the Catahoula was voted to be the school mascot for Centenary College of Louisiana.[22] In the television series Veronica Mars, episode 15 titled "Ruskie Business", Veronica needs to track down a Catahoula leopard dog named "Steve" to find his owner, so she can bring the owner back together with his runaway bride.

In The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, Sookie Stackhouse's friend Terry Bellefleur has had a series of Catahoulas as his prized pets.

The Bellamy Brothers included the Cajun-influenced song Catahoula on their 1997 album Over the Line. The song has also been released as a music video.

In the novel Cry Wolf by Tami Hoag (copyright 1993), the lead male character Jack Boudreaux is purported to be the owner of a Catahoula named Huey.

In Adam Johnson's novel, The Orphan Master's Son (2012), the protagonist is presented with a Catahoula puppy, which he sends to a prominent North Korean film star. The dog serves an important role in the story, and its breed's behavioral traits are featured in its interactions with the human characters.

In Bones, Season 8, episode 21 "The Maiden in the Mushrooms", the murder of a court TV show producer was over a "leopard dog", or Catahoula.

In the Discovery Channel TV show, Alaska: The Last Frontier, Eivin Kiltcher owns a Catahoula.

In the "No Looking Back" CD, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown performs the song "Alligator Eating Dog" about a Catahoula Hound. The song was written by John Loudermilk.


External links[edit]

Media related to Catahoula Leopard Dog at Wikimedia Commons