Also known as the Louisiana Catahoula, the Catahoula Leopard Dog (pronounced "Kat-ah-HOO-la") is a medium-large sized breed that was found in abundance around the Catahoula Parish of Louisiana and saw work as cattle herders throughout the area. The name catahoula is of Choctaw origin and translates to "sacred lake." It is believed that they descended from domesticated Asian dogs that were brought to the Americas over 10,000 years ago then were crossed with Bloodhounds, Greyhounds, Mastiffs, and various sheepdogs brought by the Spanish and French in the mid-1500s. The unique merle, or leopard-spotted, coat of the Catahoula Leopard Dog is thought to have come from the incorporation of the Beauceron, a French sheepdog, during the 19th century. The breed became the official state dog of Louisiana in 1979 and is still used today as hunting partners, guardians, and household companions.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog breed is powerful and well-muscled, yet not bulky, to show off their agility and endurance. Although known for their interesting "leopard-like" appearance, their short-to-medium length coat comes in a few solid colors including black, yellow, red, and chocolate. The eyes of the Louisiana Catahoula, in addition to their coat, can also come in various colors besides the common "glass-blue" to complement the coat color. They have a broad head, medium-length ears, and a strong muzzle with a nose that matches the color of the coat. The breed's moderate-to-long length tail is thick at the base then tapers to the end.
Although known for being an independent, protective, and territorial breed, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is also quite affectionate towards their families. Their natural wariness of strangers can make these attentive hounds a great watchdog, always alerting of unfamiliar people or animals on the property. Proper socialization with an introduction to new smells and people from an early age is very important for the Catahoula to become more accepting of new individuals and pets. Even though they can be a wonderful guardian, these lovable hounds bond strongly with their families and need to be around their humans for plenty of affection and attention, not to be left outside and forgotten. With high intelligence and a pack mentality, they take well to training and can learn many disciplines as long as they have direction from a firm authority figure that can handle this assertive breed. The high-energy, athletic Catahoula Leopard Dog is better suited for a family with older children since a puppy may be too rambunctious with toddlers, requiring large amounts of supervision. Since the breed was bred to herd large cattle, they are recommended for owners who can provide them with proper outlets for exercise throughout the day, both mentally and physically; a stroll in the park just isn't enough for the average Catahoula. Whether you are looking for a responsive cattle dog or a loyal companion, the Louisiana Catahoula may be the choice for you!