The Catahoula Leopard Dog – Curious? Get The Facts Here!

Catahoula Leopard Dog

From the Catahoula Lake area of Louisiana.

The Catahoula Leopard dog is a sturdy and strong farm dog. It gets it’s name from the Catahoula Lake area of Louisiana, and ‘catahoula’ is native American Choctaw language for ‘sacred lake’. This is the only dog breed to have originated in Louisiana, and they were used for hunting and herding swamp pig (hogs).

A Catahoula Leopard Dog sitting down on grass looking alert in sunshine
Catahoula Leopard Dog

Catahoula Leopard Dog –

This is a dog from a working background, with a strong herding instinct. This makes them an assertive breed, and they tend to be suspicious of strangers and they do not always tolerate other dogs well.

They have a high prey drive, and may chase and injure other small animals in the home, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, small dogs and cats.

This breed needs some space to move around in, at the very least a good-sized back yard, but at heart they are working dogs, and they are usually happiest in a rural environment. They are not really suited to apartment living.

However, the Catahoula Leopard gets on well with children, even those it has not met before, despite its suspicion of strange adults. Early socialization is very important in making this a family dog.

Catahoula Leopard Dog – Breed History

In the 1500’s there was only one domesticated animal in America – the Native American dog breed. When the Spanish arrived, they crossed the local dogs with the Mastiffs and Greyhounds that they brought with them. In North Louisiana, the Native American Indians referred to these new dogs as Wolf dogs.

Later, French immigrants arrived, bringing their hounds with them, (maybe including the Beauceron) and crossing them with the ‘Wolf dog’, resulting in the Catahoula Leopard dog that we know today. In Central Louisiana, they were used for tracking and herding the wild local swamp pigs (hogs) and cows.

The dogs developed their own style of herding for these tasks, which involved a number of dogs working together to surround a herd, creating a ‘wall’ around it, and then moving it as large unit. This style is unique to the Catahoula, and modern dogs must still show this trait to be regarded as ‘true to breed’.

The early settlers also wanted a dog that could protect the homestead, yet be good with children; these are innate characteristics of the modern-day breed.

A Catahoula Leopard Dog with a blue eye sitting down in an autumn wood
Catahoula Leopard Dog (Image courtesy AKC).

From the 1800s onwards, there were 3 basic breed lines, of differing size.

  •  The Wright line, at 90 lbs to 110 lbs
  •  The Fairbanks line, at 65 lbs to 75 lbs
  •  The McMillin line, at 50 lbs to 60 lbs.

These 3 breed lines were crossed with each other, and then crossed again backwards and forwards, giving us the modern-day breed. The Catahoula was recognized by the UKC in 1995 and by the AKC in 1996.

Catahoula Leopard Dog

Ease of Training

The Catahoula has an independent nature, and can be territorial, wanting to defend what it perceives as it’s ‘home ground’. For this reason, early and thorough socialization as a puppy is very important. They need to be introduced to new sights, sounds, smells and above all to strange humans and other animals.

That said, this is an intelligent breed, and with the right approach they will learn quickly. They  enjoy learning new skills, and are happiest when they have a job to do.

We have a good page on this website about the best 7 dog training books. You can read about our recommendations here.

Vital Statistics

Height; 22 inches to 24 inches

Weight;  50 lbs to 95 lbs

Life span;  12 years to 14 years


Black,  Blue,  Blue Merle,  Brindle,  Chocolate,  Red,  Red Merle,  White Merle,  Yellow,  yellow Merle.


The Catahoula Leopard dog is alert and vigilant, from it’s early breeding to protect the homesteads of early settlers. This makes them good watchdogs, and they will alert their owners quickly to anything unusual in the vicinity.

With the bravery and physical presence needed to herd reluctant wild hogs and cattle, the Catahoula is also brave and determined. This dog is a good guard dog, and will try to intimidate an unwanted intruder in no uncertain terms. While maybe not as big a deterrent as a Belgian Malinois or Doberman, they will give any unwanted visitor a fright, and will see off all but the most aggressive.


The Catahoula Leopard dog has a short, dense coat that tends to repel dirt and mud, and the coat is not oily. This makes grooming relatively easy, and they only need a good brushing once a week and an occasional bath, unless they have discovered a muddy puddle, or start to get a ‘doggy’ smell.

Their nails tend to grow quite quickly, and need regular clipping to prevent cracking and splitting, every few weeks. Their ears should be checked at least every week for any signs of redness, swelling or infection, foreign objects, or a bad smell. The teeth should be brushed every day with a dedicated dog toothpaste, not a human toothpaste.

Health Considerations

The Catahoula is basically a healthy breed, but there are a couple of issues that can crop up, partly due to the very variable coat and eye color possible. Deafness is the most common problem, and is associated with the lighter coat colors. For example, a Catahoula that is predominantly white has an 80% chance of being deaf in one or both ears.

Hip dysplasia is the other health consideration, and approximately 20% of dogs of this breed will develop hip dysplasia.

Famous Catahoula Leopard Dogs

Although several well-known personalities have owned Catahoula Leopard dogs, such as hunter Jim Bowie and Theodore Roosevelt, I have not been able to find an individual dog that was famous in its own right. If you know of one please let me know, using the Contact Me link. Thank you!

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