Truly one of the first “American” breeds, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is the combined result of New and Old World dog breeding. The rise of the Catahoula Leopard Dog not only marked an important point in history, it presently represents the state of Louisiana for it’s historical importance to the region. Find out more about the Catahoula Leopard Dog below on this week’s BestBullySticks Breed Spotlight.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog — or more commonly the Catahoula Cur — got it’s unique name from Catahoula Lake in North Central Louisiana. Choctaw Indian in origin, Catahoula means “sacred lake.” Recognized by the American Kennel Club as a herding dog, this breed holds a special place in American culture as it’s rise coincides with some of the earliest cultural exchanges between American Indians and European settlers in the 1500’s.
The earliest known records documenting the origins of the Catahoula Cur date back to 1539. Hernando de Soto, a Spanish conquistador, was the first to describe the Catahoula Cur’s New World ancestors. This ancient breed accompanied early North American settlers from Asia and evolved into the American Indian Dog. This native breed was only half of the Catahoula Cur equation, though. Hernando de Soto’s expeditionary crew had crossed the Atlantic with dogs of their own. Similar in description to Bloodhounds, Mastiffs and Greyhounds, these European breeds were crossbred with the indigenous American Indian Dog giving rise to the Catahoula Cur.
De Soto’s hand in shaping the history of the Catahoula Cur would also be seen in the years to come. The journey inland into unknown territory, which cut through the south, demanded emergency food reserves. De Soto’s solution was to bring Caribbean pigs along for the ride. However, when de Soto’s expedition broke down in northern Louisiana near present day Catahoula, the pigs became too large of a burden on the group and many were released into the wild.
When settlers were moving into the American heartland two hundred years later they encountered the wild pigs let loose by de Soto’s group generations earlier. These “pineywood rooters” proved a nuisance for settlers. Relatively common in the region already, the Catahoula Cur— or Catahoula Hog Dog as it was soon to be known— was used to dispatch the invasive wild pigs. A superb hunting dog able to scale trees, the Catahoula Cur even came to win the favor of former president and renowned huntsman Theodore Roosevelt.
The Catahoula Cur also excelled at herding. The Catahoula Cur herds through constant antagonization and intimidation as opposed to the normal boundary patrol methods seen in most herding breeds. This is the result of their assertive nature and shouldn’t be confused with aggression. Even-tempered and intelligent, the Catahoula Cur is firmly dedicated in it’s protection of the pack making them an extremely loyal and family-oriented breed. However as with other herding breeds, there may be difficulties with smaller children.
While loyal and intelligent, this breed is fiercely independent and wastes no time attempting to establish dominance. Many owners have stated their Catahoulas believe they own them. As a result, this breed requires a firm and confident owner, able to lead by example and with respect. Treats certainly don’t hurt either! BestBullySticks offers many all-natural dog treats such as Bravo! All-Beef Hot Dog Training Treats to help build good habits.
With a medium to large build, Catahoula Curs often grow to 20–26 inches (51–61 cm) and weigh between 55–80 lbs (16–37 kg). A physically active breed, they require at least one hour of exercise daily. However, they are not a high energy breed like Weimaraners or Border Collies. Even still, boredom and a lack of exercise will almost certainly contribute to an increase in destructive and obnoxious behavior. Toys like the ChompChamps Duke Rope are perfect for keeping dogs of all types entertained!
The Catahoula’s coat varies greatly with yellow, brindle, black merle, red merle and red the most common. However, the most striking feature of the Catahoula Cur are their eyes. Akin to cracked glass or brightly colored marbles, it is the Catahoula’s intense gaze that sets this breed apart. Heterochromia (different colored eyes) is also a common among Catahoula Curs. This, in combination with their extremely varied coats, makes the breed’s appearance extremely diverse.
Deafness is recognized as one of the breed’s largest shortcomings. A predominantly white coated Catahoula has an 80% chance of being born with bilateral deafness or unilateral hearing. Thankfully there are organizations dedicated to the rescue of deaf dogs helping to prevent unnecessary euthanization.
All things considered, the Catahoula Cur is a great dog for experienced owners. Their gorgeous coats and penetrating eyes give them a unique appearance unlike any other breed. The Catahoula Cur is without a doubt a breed like no other.
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