Catahoula Leopard Dog

The Louisiana auditions for American Idol, Season 10, were about to begin. They opened the show with a picture of the Louisiana state flower (Magnolia), the Louisiana state bird (Eastern Brown Pelican), the Louisiana state reptile (alligator), and then they came to the Louisiana state dog.

Now this got me really excited because I learned all about the Louisiana state dog when we adopted one. Like a proud parent waiting to see baby pictures, I waited with anticipation for a photo to appear of the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, but instead they declared the Louisiana state dog to be Randy Jackson, the American Idol judge whose birthplace was Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I was so let down. I don’t deny Randy his moment in the spotlight for his home state, but Catahoulas are beautiful dogs and I was really looking forward to a photo.

Also known as the Catahoula Hog Dog, Catahoula Cur, Louisiana Catahoula Cur, Catahoula Hound, Leopard Cowdog, or Catahoula Leopard Hound, this is an unusual breed in both appearance and temperament and like our other dog, not a good match for the unprepared dog owner. We seemed to gravitate toward strong, alpha-type herding breeds.

Catahoulas were bred to hunt wild hogs in the swamps of Louisiana and are often used to hunt hogs, deer, raccoons, mountain lions and even bears. They are also used as herding dogs to herd pigs and cattle. For us this little factoid was deja vu because our other dog is half Australian Cattle Dog and they were bred to herd cattle.

Catahoula Leopard Dog and Ausky DogOur Australian Cattle Dog/Siberian Husky mix broke us in pretty thoroughly to the challenges of the breed so we were prepared for a Catahoula. Or rather, we believe that we are prepared and so far it’s going very well. We took the advice given and worked with our Catahoula from day one with both her training and our leadership role. She’s just shy of eight months old and we’ve had pretty smooth sailing so far.

We are however, preparing for the challenges yet to come. You can’t sit on your laurels with Catahoulas. They need both physical and mental exercise and are not designed to be isolated from the pack unit. As our dogs are house dogs and active parts of the family, this is not an issue.

We found ways to exercise our Australian Cattle Dog/Husky mix and that will carry over well to the Catahoula. We also tend to teach a lot of thinking games. We’ve worked especially hard to ensure a strong friendship between the two dogs by taking the lead and establishing fair house rules for both dogs to follow.

Neither breed is a dainty breed and it’s working out well during playtime. I cannot imagine either dog playing with a small, delicate breed such as the Teacup Poodle. It would be a complete and total mismatch. We’re anticipating the Catahoula to be about the same size as our other dog who is 65 pounds.

We believe that our Catahoula comes from the McMillin line as she’s on the small side, with a grey and black merle coat and glass blue eyes. There are three distinct lines of Catahoula Leopard Dogs: Wright, Fairbanks and McMillin. The Wright line can weigh up to 110 pounds, the Fairbanks line up to 75 pounds and be brindle or yellow in coloring, and the McMillin line also known as the Blue Catahoula, weighing up to 60 pounds.

They may have what are known as glass eyes which are blue. If both eyes are blue, they are referred to as having double glass eyes. If other colors are mixed with the blue, the eyes are considered to be marbled or cracked. Grey eyes are usually a combination of blue and green, rather than being a solid grey. It’s not uncommon for a Catahoula to have two different colored eyes in blue, green, grey, amber or brown.

Another notable feature is their webbed feet. The webbing between their toes fills the entire space, not just part of it as in most dogs. Webbed feet gives them the ability to work and swim in the swamps. Allegedly they make a very distinct baying sound when they corner their pray and in the early months, ours was very vocal making the strangest yowling sounds but she went into a silent spell for quite awhile and is just now finding her voice again.

Catahoula Leopard Dog

Also known as a Catdog, Catahoulas have the ability to climb trees and are known to possess a very strong sixth sense. It is said that if you can survive two years with a Catahoula, by the end of two years you’ll swear that your dog knows your every thought. The verdict is still out on our Catahoula’s ability for the unusual but I can tell you one thing, she can really creep you out with her facial expressions and she’s still just a pup. I can’t even fathom what effect she’ll have on strangers once she fully grows into her own.

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This was originally posted in January 2011, and Sierra has now been with us for several years. Bad Dog to Best Friend isn’t about Sierra, but the lessons learned in training our other dog, an Australian Cattle Dog/Husky mix, carried over to make training our Catahoula Leopard Dog a breeze. We worked with her consistently from day one, and she rewarded us by becoming a cherished, and trustworthy member of our household.

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