The word Catahoula itself is a Choctaw Indian word meaning "sacred lake." The name Catahoula derives from the area in North Central Louisiana near Catahoula Lake, where the breed originated. The Catahoula Leopard dog is a descendent of the Native American dogs that the first settlers to northern Louisiana encountered in that area.
Although the American Kennel Club has designated the Catahoula Leopard Dog a herder, it was originally bred as a hunting dog used for hunting the wild boar indigenous to its area of origin. As working dogs, Catahoulas have been used to track and hunt all manner of woodland wildlife, including wild hogs, deer, mountain lions, black bears, raccoons, and squirrels.
However, their herding instincts are just as prominent. When used as herders (usually of cattle and hogs), Catahoulas use antagonization and intimidation to manage their herds, a technique that differs from the constant patrolling methods of other herders like Border Collies and sheepdogs. Whether they're used for hunting or herding, the true test of purity in a Catahoula is its working instinct.
The Catahoula is an intelligent, high-energy breed, and males are thought to be slightly more rambunctious and assertive than females. It is an even-tempered dog that does not tolerate isolation well, and thus requires ample daily interaction. As family dogs, Catahoulas are protective of children, and are excellent watchdogs. They will naturally alert the rest of their pack to anything unusual.
While Catahoulas can be good family member dogs with proper socialization and consistent training, the important thing to remember is that they are first and foremost, a working breed. As such, they require an owner who is willing to put in the time to keep his or her Catahoula well exercised and sufficiently stimulated.
Working dog breeds like Catahoula dogs and Bloodhounds need a job! The United Kennel Club (UKC) and other organizations have a lot of dog sports available, you simply need to register your dog with the UKC - enjoy!
READ MORE: How to Teach Your Kids to Interact with Dogs
The Catahoula coat color can range from merle to brindle with brown or tan, to solid colors, like white. One of the most discerning features of a Catahoula are its blue eyes! Health problems include hip dysplasia, like most big dogs, and they are prone to deafness when crossbreeding white or merle Catahoulas.
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The physical appearance of the Catahoula varies greatly from dog to dog, as Catahoulas have been bred primarily for working ability and temperament. Consequently, the American Kennel Club does not currently have a breed standard for the Catahoula Leopard Dog. On average, males stand 22-26 inches tall at the shoulder and females stand 20-24 inches tall at the shoulder. Weight ranges from 50-95 pounds and males are usually slightly larger than females.
The tail, which can be either long or bobbed are both naturally occurring, although bobtails are rare. It is not uncommon for long tails to be marked with a white tip.
The Cahoula's feet are prominently webbed, almost to the ends of the toes. This characteristic allows the Catahoula to swim well and operate efficiently in marshy terrain.
The Catahoula has a short to medium-length coat and comes in a wide variety of colors, including but not limited to: black, blue, blue merle, brindle, white merle, yellow, chocolate and red. They can be spotted, brindled, patchy, or solid. In terms of consistency, coats may be slick, coarse, or wooly; coat standards differ depending upon the organization of registry.
There is no standard for eye color in Catahoulas, and they may have blue, brown, amber, green, or gray eyes. Catahoulas can also have blue or blue-white “cracked glass” or heterochromatic eyes (also called “marbled glass” eyes), which occurs when glass portions and colored portions occur simultaneously in the eye.
Catahoulas are naturally assertive dogs. They are energetic and intelligent. Although they are working dogs above all, Catahoulas can also make a good family dogs since they are naturally protective.
Catahoulas are genetically prone to deafness; this applies particularly to individuals that are predominantly white. The deafness can be either bilateral or unilateral (referred to as “directional deafness”). They are also prone to orthopedic issues such as hip and elbow dysplasia.
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