Catahoula Leopard Dog: Rare Louisiana Herding Dogs

Catahoula Leopard Dogs

Do you want a versatile breed of dog that can herd cattle, hunt, and serve as a loyal family companion? If so, then the Catahoula Leopard Dog Louisiana may be the right breed for you!

“Catahoula” originates from Choctaw and means “sacred lake.” The Catahoula Leopard Dog is an American breed named after Catahoula Parish in Louisiana. It became the state dog of Louisiana in 1979.

Catahoulas are muscular dogs with rectangular-shaped bodies. They have large heads with drop ears and strong, slightly tapered muzzles. Their necks are thick and muscular and have long, curved tails. Catahoulas come in many colors and have medium/short hair. They are intelligent, active, and serious while working, making them excellent hunting, tracking, or protection dogs.

In this article, we will discuss the history of the Catahoula Leopard Dog, its physical traits, its temperament, and finally, what it is like to live with one of these special animals. So, Let’s dive in to explore more about this lovely creature!

History of the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog

The Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto landed in Florida in 1539, kicked off his expedition through the southeastern U.S., and his scribes made an important observation:

The only domestic animal present in North America was the Native American dog. These four-legged companions looked like wolves but had a bark similar to your average dog today. Eventually, these Native American dogs were crossed with “bloodhounds, mastiffs, and greyhounds” brought over by Spanish explorers.

Catahoula hog dog

The Native Americans in Northern Louisiana named these new dogs “Wolf Dogs.” Eventually, the French arrived with their hounds and crossbred them again, which is how we got today’s Catahoula Leopard Dog, otherwise known as the Catahoula hog dog. The Catahoula Leopard Dog became the official state dog of Louisiana later on.

Catahoula Leopard Dog in the snow
Catahoula Leopard Dog in the snow

Other Names of Breed

Other names for the Catahoula breed are;

  • Catahoula Hog Dog
  • Catahoula Cur
  • Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog
  • Catahoula Hound
  • Leopard Dog

Physical Characteristics

1. Appearance

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a large, short-coated dog with a muscular build. They have a long head with drop ears and a slightly tapered muzzle. Their necks are thick and muscular and have long, curved tails. The skull is broad and flat, while the legs are solid and strong-boned. The deep chest provides good heart and lung capacity.

Side profile of the head of a Catahoula Leopard Dog
Side profile of the head of a Catahoula Leopard Dog

2. Coat Colors

The Catahoula Leopard Dog has a short, dense coat that can be either smooth or rough. They come in many colors: blue, brindle, black, red, cream, chocolate, white, red, and yellow. The most common coat color is leopard coat color. Some Catahoulas have coats that are completely solid in color, while others have coats that are mottled or patched.

3. Weight, Height, and Life Span

  • The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a medium-large breed. The average weight of the breed range from 50-95 pounds (22.7kg – 43.1kg).
  • The breed’s average height is 22-24 inches (55.8cm – 60.9cm). The dog’s weight should be commensurate with its height.
  • The life expectancy of a Catahoula Leopard Dog is 10-14 years.

4. Temperament

The Catahoula leopard dog from Louisiana requires a handler who can provide firm guidance, as early socialization is key for this breed. They can be independent and protective by nature, so it’s important not to mistreat them. If they feel like they are being threatened in any way, they will defend themselves.

The Catahoula Hog Dog is an affectionate, loyal, and gentle breed. They are used as stock dogs, bay dogs, tree dogs, watchdogs, guard dogs, and loyal companions. Once they know their place in the family unit, they make excellent pets.

5. Shedding and Drolling Level

The Catahoula Leopard Dog breed is a moderate shedder with low drooling. This breed doesn’t require a lot of grooming, but you may find yourself vacuuming more often during shedding season. Additionally, you may want to invest in a lint roller to keep your clothes fur-free.

When it comes to drooling, the Catahoula is relatively tidy. They don’t tend to slobber or drool excessively, but they may drool more when they’re excited or anticipating a meal. Be sure to have a towel on hand to wipe up any messes.

Needs of the Breed

1. Grooming Needs

For Catahoulas, grooming is a breeze. You only have to brush its short coat once a week to get rid of any loose fur or dirt and to help distribute skin oils evenly. They generally only require a bath once monthly, depending on how dirty they manage to get.

To keep your Catahoula in tip-top shape, check their nails monthly and trim them as needed – this breed’s nails grow quickly.

Additionally, inspect their ears weekly for wax buildup or abnormalities, and dry them well after baths and swimming. Furthermore, brush their teeth daily.

2. Exercise Needs

The Catahoula Leopard Dog breed is high-energy, needs plenty of space to run around, and is not an apartment dog. They also need a job or purpose, such as being a working dog on a farm. Without the proper exercise and attention, they will start causing trouble, like digging holes and chewing things up.

Some options for exercise include playing in the backyard or taking walks multiple times a day. Outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, and retrieving balls or flying discs can also provide a good outlet for expanding energy. He is an excellent swimmer! Training for dog sports like agility, and obedience, also be a great exercise for your dog.

3. Training Needs

Without consistent training and mental stimulation, the Catahoula can become destructive in the home. Because he is independent and territorial by nature, it’s very important for him to be socialized early to be a gentle and affectionate companion in the home.

Catahoulas mature early, oftentimes beginning to work like an adult by ten months old. But they’re not considered fully mature until two years of age. For this reason, it’s critical that all work and exercises are fun to avoid burnout during the Catahoula puppy age.

4. Nutrition & Diet

The Catahoula Leopard Dog should have a diet that consists of high-quality dog food, whether it’s store-bought or made at home, under the guidance and approval of your veterinarian.

There are different diets for each stage of a dog’s life (puppyhood, adulthood, seniority), so consult your vet about which is best for your dog. Some dogs gain weight easily, so keep an eye on calorie intake and bathroom scales.

Although treats are great tools to use when training, it’s essential not to overindulge your dog, as that can result in obesity. Be sure you know which human foods are safe for dogs to consume and which ones aren’t.

If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s weight or diet, consult your veterinarian. Always keep clean, fresh water available for your dog to drink.

Common Health Problems

Although Catahoula leopard dogs are relatively healthy (like feral hogs), they may still inherit some health problems from their parents. Some of the more common issues found in Catahoulas include:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Deafness
  • Eye Issues

Hip Dysplasia

Most mammals, including dogs, cats, and humans, have hip joints that are ball-and-socket joints. These types of joints have two primary components:

  • The femoral head: a ball-shaped formation located at the top of the thigh bone
  • The acetabulum: a rounded socket in the pelvic bones

The femoral head is located in the acetabulum, and cartilage & joint fluid allow for smooth movement. The joint is then held together with ligaments.

Hip dysplasia in dogs occurs when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly. The femoral head fits poorly or not into the acetabulum, and there is laxity, meaning looseness, leading to instability in the hip joint. Excess friction from movement leads to further deformity over time and wears down the cartilage in the joint involved.


The indicators of hip dysplasia can develop slowly and differ based on the disease’s severity. But most of the symptoms are:

  • Lameness or limping
  • Hip pain
  • Difficulty rising or jumping
  • Shifting weight to the front legs
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Muscle loss in rear limbs


If you think your dog may have hip dysplasia, it’s important to seek out treatment from a veterinarian as a priority. The earlier the diagnosis and intervention, the better the outcome for your dog. Some of the conservative management include:

  • Physical therapy not only helps dogs build muscle mass, but it also improves strength and range of motion.
  • Low-impact exercise regularly can help your dog maintain muscle mass and become more flexible.
  • If your dog carries extra weight, then losing the excess will likely alleviate symptoms.

Therefore, gentle exercise and dietary changes are essential for any canine weight loss plan.


The Catahoula ear is a complex system of soft tissues, nerves, cartilage, and tiny bones that work together with the brain to collect, transform, conduct and interpret sound. Damage to or dysfunction of one or more of these sensitive areas can cause partial or complete loss of hearing.

Causes of Deafness

The following can result in temporary or permanent deafness:

  • Severe ear infections
  • Tumors
  • Parasitic infections
  • Drug toxicity
  • Traumatic injury to the tympanum (eardrum) or inner/middle ear.

Deafness can also be caused by brain disease that damages the parts of the central nervous system involved with hearing, such as a tumor or stroke. The most common cause of hearing loss seen is old age.

How to live with a deaf dog?

Dogs communicate through their body language, so it’s important to learn to “speak dog” if you live with a deaf canine companion.

  • Hand signals are a great way to do this. You can use American Sign Language (ASL) or make up your system of hand signals that you both understand.
  • Another thing to remember is that deaf dogs startle easily, so it’s important to approach them calmly and avoid sudden movements.
  • Be sure to let your dog see you before you touch him, and tap him on the shoulder to get his attention before petting him.

Eye Issues

The Catahoula Leopard dog’s eyes are one of its most distinctive features. The breed standard calls for “eyes of any color,” which is true since Catahoulas can have blue eyes, one blue and one brown eye (heterochromia), or even green eyes, unlike any other dogs.

While the unique eyes are certainly pretty, they can also pose health problems for the breed. Here are some of the most common eye issues seen in Catahoulas:


Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens and can cause vision problems. It is most common in old age dogs. They can be caused by genetics, diabetes, or injury. Surgery is the only way to remove cataracts and improve vision.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

PRA is an eye disease that leads to the degeneration of the retina. PRA progressively destroys a dog’s vision by killing the rods and cones in its retina. It eventually causes blindness. There is no treatment or cure for PRA, but dogs can be bred to avoid the genetic mutation that causes it.

Eye Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA)

Color-dilution alopecia is a hereditary skin disease that affects “blue” and other color-diluted dogs. This syndrome occurs because of a color-dilution gene.b It results in hair loss and bald spots on the dog’s body. The good news is that it is not painful or itchy for the dog. CDA is a cosmetic condition and does not affect the dog’s vision or health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Catahoula Leopard Dogs Rare?

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are one of the relatively rare dog breeds. They can be easily found in the Louisiana and Gulf Coast areas, but they are much more difficult to come across in other parts of the United States. They are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and have United Kennel Club (UKC) recognition, like many other dog breeds.

Are Catahoulas Pit Bulls?

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are not the same as Pit Bulls, even though they might look physically similar. They come from different ancestry altogether. The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog was specifically bred by crossing the Red Wolf, Alano Mastiff, Greyhound, and Beauceron breeds. While some people have sought to cross Catahoulas with Pit Bulls to create a “better” dog, the true Catahoula comprises only the dogs listed.

Are Catahoula Leopard Dogs Good Family Dogs?

Though Catahoula Leopard Dogs make for loving and loyal companions, they might not be the best fit for every family. If you have small children or other pets in your home, a Catahoula Leopard Dog may try to herd them since they can be territorial. To ensure your dog knows how to properly interact with others from an early age, socialize and train them often.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think the Catahoula Leopard Dog is a great dog breed. They are amazing creatures bred for a specific purpose – working cattle and hog hunting. And they excel at it! They are loyal and protective and make great family pets.

If you’re considering adding one to your family, be sure to research the breed first so you know what you’re getting into. And always be sure to provide plenty of exercise and training. Thanks for reading!

Simon Wilson

Simon Wilson

I'm Simon Wilson, and I love beagles. I've been living with and owning beagles for over 15 years now, and during that time I've learned a lot about myself and the beagles. I love to write about my beagle experiences, and I hope that by sharing my experiences, others may find use in my learnings and experiences. Read more about Simon Wilson