Catahoula Information

I am owned by two catahoula leopard dogs, both of whom work for me as my service dogs.  I get asked all of the time what kind of dog they are whenever I'm out and about.  The reply catahoulas, usually results in a blank stare, and sometimes in a "catta-whata"?  My stock reply to this is that they are the state dog of Louisiana, due to a lack of a more creative reply on my part.


The history of the catahoula is still debated amongst the experts, but the story most often told is that they are descended from the war dogs the Spanish brought to the U.S. in the 16th century (great danes, mastiff, greyhounds) a French herding dog called the beauceron and red wolves.  The word 'Catahoula' is actually a combination of two Choctaw Indian words 'okhata', meaning lake, and 'hullo', meaning beloved... or a French transformation of the Choctaw word for their own nation, 'Couthaougoula' pronounced 'Coot-ha-oo-goo-la'.(Don Abney)  Today in Louisiana, there is a parish (county) called Catahoula which also claims to be the origin of the breed name.

Some well known folks who have owned catahoulas are:

Jim Bowie and his brother Rezin Bowie, who spent a large portion of their childhood in Catahoula Parish, are reported to have owned a pair of Catahoulas. The story goes that they would each sleep with a Catahoula at their feet. In the early 1900s, Teddy Roosevelt used the Catahoula when hunting. Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long had an interest in the breed and collected them.

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.

Well known actors, Paul Newman and Sylvester Stallone have both owned catahoulas.

Breed Characteristics

The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog  is a medium to medium-large sized dog that is well muscled, very intelligent and is capable of performing a wide variety of tasks. A female should stand 20-24 inches at the withers, and weigh between 50 and 65 lbs. Males should stand 22-26 inches at the withers and weigh between 65 and 90 lbs.

The feet of the Catahoula are webbed. Most dogs have a webbing between their toes, but, the web of a Catahoula is very prominent and extends almost to the end of the toes. This fully webbed foot enables the Catahoula to work soft marshy areas where wild boar often live very easily, and aids them in being great swimmers.

The eyes can be blue(also called glass), green, brown or amber. They may have two different colored eyes, or may have "cracked" eyes. An eye is considered cracked when two different colors appear within the same eye. This could be as much as half of the eye, or as little as a different colored streak running through the eye.

Catahoulas have a single, short, dense coat in a variety of colors. According to Don Abney, an authority on the breed, the term "Leopard" refers to merles which may be blue, gray, black, white, liver, red, and patched. Patched dogs are predominantly white with any color patches. Solid colors are black, red, chocolate, yellow, and brindle.

    * Blue - This refers to the mostly grey to mostly black merle color pattern and sometimes the terms "grey leopard" or "black leopard" are used.

    * Red - This refers to the red merle color pattern with varying shades of light reddish-brown with darker red or brown patches. These dogs are sometimes called "brown leopard" or "chocolate leopard".

    * White - This refers to a primarily white coat with some areas of leopard color. White Catahoulas carry two copies of the merle gene creating a double merle. A double merle dog is usually born deaf or blind, or both. Some double merle puppies are born without eyes, or with microphthalmia (shrunken eyes).

    * Solid - This refers to black, red, chocolate, yellow, and brindle. Trim colors may be black, white, tan, red, or buff.

    * Patchwork - This refers to Catahoulas with patches of several different shades in their coats which are white or very light and appear as large patches giving a more blotchy look than a typical Catahoula. A pattern can be similar to the harlequin pattern seen in Great Danes.

The Catahoula is very wary of strangers but is at home with children. If a child and pup are allowed to grow together, you will not have to worry about your child. You will have a built in baby-sitter.   Many parents have found it impossible to spank their child with the family 'houla in attendance.  As with any dog, you must be cautious when introducing him to new people. Catahoulas know what and whom they like, and mine have proved to be an excellent judge of character.  I've always taken my dog's word for it, if they tell me that a person is not to be trusted and have never run into any difficulties after leaving the presence of a person they have deemed to be untrustworthy.  They are very family oriented, and for the most part, would rather not have to associate with strangers.

The Catahoula is not an aggressive dog, but it is assertive. This dog will not tolerate being mishandled, mistreated, or attacked. It will defend itself to whatever means necessary.  The Catahoula is a dog that will take charge when it is necessary. It is naturally protective of what and whom it thinks it owns. 

A Catahoula requires a minimum of one hour of running exercise each day, rain or shine. If the dog is kept outdoors, this is not a problem, but, if he is an indoor dog, he must get this exercise. Daily walks or runs in a yard are sufficient, but they are necessary. Since this dog has the inherent nature to herd and track game, he needs the exercise to release some of that pent up energy.

You must be ready to teach and exercise a Catahoula. If not, he will eat your house or find some other equally obnoxious manner of entertaining himself. The Catahoula will not let you forget that you own a dog. If you do not have the time and energy it takes to train and exercise an active dog, then the Catahoula is not the dog for you. To describe what a Catahoula is like is almost impossible. You really have to own one to understand these dogs. Once you own one, you will be amazed that this dog already knows what you want, and what you are going to do. You will swear that the dog can read your mind, and he will out-think you, if given the chance.  My first catahoula service dog saved my life twice by performing a task that I had never taught her when I was in trouble.



The Catahoula is a common working dog of the region and is seen on farms and ranches across North America. These dogs are outstanding tracking and hunting dogs, commonly 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. For large game it is not uncommon for a pack of three dogs to work together. 


They are used for herding cattle, sheep, 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.  Catahoulas are said to be one of the few breeds who herd from the front, rather than driving from the rear.


Catahoulas also excel in mainstream dog activities such as search and rescue, agility, weight pulling and dock diving.  There is a catahoula who assisted in 9/11 and several who work as service dogs for the disabled.

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