American Leopard Hound
American Leopard Hound (Catahoula) – General Description
The American Leopard hound, also know as Catahoula cur or Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog, is an American dog breed. It is named after Catahoula Parish in the state of Louisiana in the United States. Of remaining dog breeds, the Catahoula is believed to have occupied North America the longest, aside from the dogs descended from Native American-created breeds. The breed is sometimes referred to as the “Catahoula Hound” or “Catahoula Leopard Hound”, as it is not a true hound, but a cur. It is also called the Catahoula hog dog, reflecting its traditional use in hunting wild boar.
The Leopard Cur was recognized by UKC on November 1, 1998 and classified as a “Herding breed”. The breed name was changed to American Leopard Hound May 1, 2008 and reclassified as to “Scenthounds”.)
There are three versions of the Catahoula Cur:
- The Wright line: The Wright Line was the largest line of Catahoula at 90 to 110 pounds (40 to 50 kg) and was developed by Mr. Preston Wright. This line represented dogs originally produced from Hernando de Soto’s dogs.
- The Fairbanks line: The Fairbanks line was the next in size at 65 to 75 pounds (30 to 35 kg) and were developed by Mr. Lovie Fairbanks. They were brindle to yellow in color.
- The McMillin line: The McMillin line was known to be Blue Catahoula with glass eyes the smallest in size at 50 to 60 pounds (about 25 kg) and were developed by Mr. T. A. McMillin of Sandy Lake, Louisiana. These were Blue Catahoula dogs with glass eyes.
These three lines were crossed back and forth and created the variations of Catahoula seen today.
Classification and Standards
- AKC Herding (FSS) The AKC Foundation Stock Service (FSS) is an optional recording service for purebred dogs that are not yet eligible for AKC registration.
- UKC Scenthounds
Curs and Cur Breeds
Cur is also a type of hunting and all-purpose dog developed in rural areas of the United States. Cur is used to describe this type of dog, although it does not describe a specific breed. Breeds of cur are usually not recognized by major show registries, so selection for certain looks hasn’t been a main factor in their development. They are normally selected mainly for hunting or work ability, although some breeds of cur are also known for herding ability. Consequently, most cur breeds have extremely flexible appearance standards; enough so that a complete breed appearance standard is difficult to create. The resultant diversity in appearance and selection for physical ability result in breeds that tend to be genetically sound and healthy.
They are descended from European dogs brought over by immigrants, possibly mixed with native American dogs. Unlike the true mutt which is random-bred with no human involvement, the curs’ breeding is intentionally planned by people.
A related variety of breeds are the feists, small terrier-like dogs bred in the same areas of the United States for hunting small animals and keeping vermin out of farms. The feist breeds are slightly more unified in appearance than the curs, presumably because they were developed solely for working purposes.
Other Cur Breeds Include:
- Blackmouth Cur
- Mountain Cur
- Stephens Cur
- Treeing Cur
Character & Temperament
“You must be ready to teach and exercise a Catahoula. If not, he will eat your house. The Catahoula will not let you forget that you own a dog.” –Don Abney
The American Leopard hound (Catahoula) is highly intelligent and energetic. They are assertive but not aggressive by nature. They have a need to take charge of their pack whether other dogs or humans. Catahoula in general are very even tempered. Males tend to be more obnoxious than females, but Catahoula are very serious about their job if they are working dogs. They make a good family dog but will not tolerate being isolated, so interaction with the dog is a daily requirement. When a Catahoula is raised with children, the dog believes that it is his or her responsibility to look after and protect those children. Many owners will say that the Catahoula owns them and they can be insistent when its time to eat or do other activities. Catahoula are protective and a natural alarm dog. They will alert you to anything out of the ordinary.
Very little is known about the actual origins of the Catahoula. One theory posits that the Catahoula is the result of Native Americans having bred their own dogs with molossers and greyhounds brought to Louisiana by Hernando de Soto in the 16th century. As for the aforementioned Native American dog breeds, for a time it was believed that they were bred with or from red wolves, but this idea is not supported by modern DNA analysis. Several recent studies have looked at the remains of prehistoric dogs from American archaeological sites and each has indicated that the genetics of prehistoric American dogs are similar to European and Asian domestic dogs rather than wild New World canids. In fact, these studies indicate that Native Americans brought several lines (breeds) of already domesticated dogs with them on their journeys from Asia to North America.
Another theory suggests that the breed originated three centuries later, some time in the 19th century, after French settlers introduced the Beauceron to the North American continent. The French told of strange looking dogs with haunting glass eyes that were used by the Indians to hunt game in the swamp., and the theory states that the Beauceron and the Red Wolf/war dog were interbred to produce the Catahoula.
There are two theories regarding the origin of the word ‘Catahoula.’ One theory is that the word is a combination of two Choctaw words ‘okhata’, meaning lake, and ‘hullo’, meaning beloved. Another possibility is that the word is a French transformation of the Choctaw Indian word for their own nation, ‘Couthaougoula’ pronounced ‘Coot-ha-oo-goo-la’.(Don Abney)
Jim Bowie and his brother Rezin Bowie, who spent much of their youth in Catahoula Parish are reported to have owned a pair of Catahoulas. It was said that they would sleep with a Catahoula at their feet. During the early 1900s, Teddy Roosevelt used the Catahoula when hunting. Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long had an interest in the breed and collected them. This interest was recognized by an annual competition known as Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials.
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.
In 2007, the Catahoula was voted to be the school mascot for Centenary College of Louisiana.
Size & Appearance
The breed’s size ranges from 20–26″ and weighs between 50–90 lbs, with a few individuals larger. Most males average 60–70 lbs in lean working condition and are about 24″ tall. As a working dog, the American Leopard hound has been bred more for temperament and ability than for appearance. As a result, the physical characteristics of the Catahoula are somewhat varied.
The American Leopard hound has a single, short, dense coat in a variety of colors though they are mostly black, gray and white.
These dogs are actually solid colored dogs that have been affected by the merle gene which dilutes a normally dark coat. This merle gene combines with solid colors to create merle patterns in patches of white and colored hairs intermingled with patches of solid colors.
The American Leopard hound with a black coat will appear with patches of blue or gray. Likewise, Catahoula with red and brown coats will appear with lighter patches of red or liver. This occurrence is referred to as a leopard (merle) colored dog. The merle gene does not normally affect the entire coat of the dog, but dilutes the color only in areas that are randomly selected by the gene. White coats are visually unaffected.
- Black: This American Leopard hound is least affected by the merle gene but will display smaller patches of blue or gray.
- Gray: A black American Leopard hound has a coat that is diluted to appear gray.
- Tri-color: The tricolor American Leopard hound has three distinct visible colors usually white, black, and gray.
- Quad-color: These are Catahoula with the varying body coloration’s and trim colors that help to designate the number of colors present on the dogs. Gray Catahoula may be considered a Quad-color when White and Tan trim are included. This dog would display Black, Gray, White, usually around the neck, face, feet and tail, and Tan, which may also appear around the face and feet. Most Five colored dogs are actually misnamed Quad-colored dogs.
- Patchwork: These Catahoula are predominantly white dogs with small amounts of solid and/or merle patches appearing throughout the coat. The colored patches may be black, or brown. Dilution may affect those colored patches and produce gray, blue, red, or liver coloration within them.
The texture of a American Leopard hound coat can be as varied as the colors and can be coarse, slick/painted-on, or woolly/shaggy.
- Coarse coat: This coat is a little longer and fuller than others. They do not require that much maintenance, however these dogs are not quick to dry when wet. These coats will often display “feathers” seen on the rear legs, tail, and underbelly. Also they can be considered “fluffy”.
- Slick coat: A slick, painted-on coat is so slick and smooth that it appears as if the coat were painted on the dog and not hair at all. The hair is very short and lies very close to the body. These coats dry very rapidly, and because of this, the dog can be cleaned and ready in a matter of minutes and are often referred to as a “Wash n’ Wear” coat.
- Woolly coat: Woolly, shaggy, and double coats are undesirable but still appear in some litters. At about 3 weeks of age, the coat will be longer and fuller and appear woolly. Most puppies will shed this for a coarse coat, however some will become double-coats. Some coats will maintain a length similar to that of a German Shepherd while others will maintain their shaggy appearance.
The breed may have “cracked glass” or “marbled glass” eyes (heterochromia) and occurs when both colored and glass portions are present in the same eye. Cracked or marbled eyes are blue or blue-white in color. Catahoula with two cracked or marble glass eyes are often referred to as having double glass eyes. In some cases a glass eye will have darker colored sections in it and vice/versa. Cracked eyes may be half of one color and half of another. They may just have a streak or spot of another color. Gray eyes are usually cracked eyes, made of blue and green, giving them their grayish appearance. The eyes may be of the same color or each of a different color. Eye color can also be ice blue, brown, green, gray, or amber. No particular eye color is typical of Catahoula.
The tail of the American Leopard hound may be long and whip-like reaching past the hocks of the back legs or bobtail which is a tail that is one vertebra shorter than full length to only one vertebra in total length. The question mark tail is a common tail trait often with a white tip. The bobtail is a rare but natural part of the Catahoula Heritage.
Though most dogs have webbing between the toes, American Leopard hound feet have more prominent webbing which extends almost to the ends of the toes. This foot gives the Catahoula the ability to work marshy areas and gives them great swimming ability.
Health & Maintenance
Deafness is one of the major genetic flaws in the American Leopard hound and associated with individuals that are excessively white in color and deafness attributed to a lack of melanocytes. A Catahoula that is predominantly white, has an 80% chance of being bi-laterally deaf or uni-laterally hearing. Hearing in one ear is referred to as “directional deafness”. Breeders are not readily willing to allow deaf Catahoula to leave their premises and will generally euthanize the deaf pups (there are groups setting out to rescue said deaf pups).
A concern with many breeds, hip dysplasia is dependent on the gene pool and good breeders. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and PennHIP can help determine whether a specific individual is prone to hip dysplasia through radiographs. Catahoula are no more apt to have this orthopedic problem than other breeds.
Working & Activities
The American Leopard hound 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.
Catahoula have found their way to the Northern Territory of Australia where they have been found to be a superior hunting dog for pigs by breeders. They have been introduced in New Zealand as well as Australia, but the number of Catahoula there is unclear.
They are used primarily for herding cattle, 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. Herding instincts and train-ability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Catahoula exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in cow/hog dog trials.
The breed was recognized by the United Kennel Club under the “herding dog” breed group. It is now recognized under the “scenthounds” breed group.
- Leonard, et al.: “Ancient DNA Evidence for Old World Origin of New World Dogs”, Science, 298(5598):1613–1616
- Old Dogs in a New World, Alaska Science Forum – http://www.gi.alaska.edu/ScienceForum/ASF16/1636
- Abney, Don. The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog: a truly versatile working dog. Wilsonville, OR: Doral Pub, 1996.
- Cracker Catahoulas – http://crackercatahoulas.com/his.html
- State of Louisiana official site: About Louisiana – http://www.louisiana.gov/Explore/About_Louisiana/
- Centenary College official site, News Release: ASPCA Names Mascot “Success Story of the Week” – http://www.centenary.edu/news/2008/0000031
- Don Abney: Coats and color description – http://www.donabney.com/issue_coat.php
- Abney Catahoulas – http://donabney.com/
- Abney Catahoulas, General information and overvew. – http://www.donabney.com/information.php
- Abney Catahoulas, FAQ Temperament and general behavior of Catahoulas. Abney Catahoulas, P.O. Box 248, Abita Springs, Louisiana – http://www.donabney.com/faq.php
- Canis Major: Herding dogs – http://www.canismajor.com/dog/herddogs.html
- Hartnagle-Taylor and Taylor, Jeanne Joy, Ty. Stockdog Savvy. Alpine Publications. ISBN # 978-157779-106-5.
- List Of UKC Breeds By Group – http://www.ukcdogs.com/WebSite.nsf/WebPages/LrnBreedInfoByGroup
- Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog – http://www.ukcdogs.com/WebSite.nsf/Breeds/LouisianaCatahoulaLeopardDog
- 2 Gals Farm: Catahoula – http://www.2galsfarm.com/catahoula.html
- Don Abney Catahoulas: Information – http://www.donabney.com/information.php
- Catahoula History, A Factual Account Of the Louisiana Catahoula Origin – http://www.donabney.com/history.php
- Central Pets: Catahoula lines – http://www.centralpets.com/animals/mammals/dogs/dog3091.html
- ŔŔ Photo taken by Noles1984 (Photo was moved here from en.wikipedia.org) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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- Patrick McNelis (Photo taken by dog’s owner.) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
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American Leopard Hound
The American Leopard Hound is believed to be the descendant of dogs that were brought to the new world by Spanish conquistadors and crossed with native Mexican dogs. Early American settlers brought Leopard dogs from Mexico to hunt bear.
The Leopard Cur was recognized by UKC on November 1, 1998. The breed name was changed to American Leopard Hound May 1, 2008.
The American Leopard Hound is a powerful, agile tree dog of medium-to-large size. The body is just slightly longer than tall. Legs are long enough to allow the dog to move quickly and with agility in rough terrain. The head is broad, with a moderate stop and a heavy muzzle of moderate length. Ears are set high and drop. The tail is straight, set low, and may be any length. The coat is dense but close fitting. The American Leopard Hound should be evaluated as a hunting dog, and exaggerations or faults should be penalized in proportion to how much they interfere with the dog’s ability to hunt. Scars should neither be penalized nor regarded as proof of a dog’s working abilities.
The American Leopard Hound is an all-purpose tree dog, noted for stamina and the ability to withstand all extremes of temperature. This breed is noted for its extreme desire to please, which makes it an easy dog to train. They can handle a cold track and still be under the voice control of the handler. They are open trailers with a very strong desire to stay on track. They excel in their ability to hold game at bay without getting injured. Although they have been bred and used for all varieties of small game, the American Leopard Hound is also outstanding on big game such as bear and cougar.
The head is large but proportionate to the size of the body. When viewed from the side, the muzzle is slightly shorter than the skull and they are joined by a definite stop. The planes of the top lines of the skull and muzzle lie in parallel planes.
Skull – The skull is flat and broad, tapering in width slightly toward the muzzle. Cheeks are muscular and prominent.
Muzzle – The muzzle is of medium length and well proportioned to the rest of the head. Lips are tight and darkly pigmented.
Teeth – The American Leopard Hound has a complete set of evenly spaced white teeth meeting in a scissors bite.
Nose – Nose is black.
Eyes – Eyes are nearly round and set wide apart. Eye color may be any shade of yellow or brown. Leopard spotted dogs may have one or both blue eyes or wall eyes. Eye rims are tight and darkly pigmented. The expression is soft and appealing.
Ears – Ears are drop, of short-to-medium length, wide at the base, and set high.
The neck is slightly arched, strong, very well muscled, and of moderate length. The neck gradually widens from the nape and blends smoothly into the shoulders.
Shoulders are well laid back. The upper arm is long and wide, and forms an apparent 90-degree angle with the shoulder blade.
Forelegs – The forelegs are strong and straight, with large, round bones. The elbows are set close to the body, but able to move freely in action. The pasterns are short, powerful, straight and flexible.
A properly proportioned American Leopard Hound is slightly longer than tall. Back is broad, strong, of moderate length, and level, blending into a muscular, slightly arched loin with slight to moderate tuck-up. The croup slopes gently to the set on of the tail. The ribs extend well back and are well sprung out from the spine, then curve down and inward to form a deep body. The brisket extends to the elbow. Viewed from the front, the chest between the forelegs is muscular and wide. This is a dog bred for stamina and faults should be penalized to the degree that they detract from that goal.
The hindquarters are strong and muscular. The bone, angulation, and musculature of the hindquarters are in balance with the forequarters.
Hind Legs – The stifles are well bent, and the hocks are well let down. When the dog is standing, the short, strong rear pasterns are perpendicular to the ground, and when viewed from the rear they are parallel to one another.
The cat-like feet are of moderate size, round and compact, with well arched toes. Pads are large, tough, and well cushioned.
The tail is set on low and may be any length.
Coat is double and dense, but smooth. The outer coat is rough, and the undercoat is fine and wooly. This makes it possible for dogs to work in the thick underbrush for long periods of time after most dogs have given up.
Leopard spotted; yellow; black (may have brindle or tan trim); brindle; red and blue or mouse color. Any of these may also have white points and a white collar. No more than one-third white is allowed.
Height at the withers for mature males is between 22 and 27 inches. For adult females, it is 21 to 25 inches. Mature males weigh between 45 and 75 pounds. Mature females weigh between 35 and 65 pounds. American Leopard Hounds are working dogs and should be presented in hard, muscular condition.
American Leopard Hound gait is smooth and effortless, with good reach of forequarters. Rear quarters have strong driving power, with hocks fully extending. Viewed from any position, legs turn neither in nor out, nor do feet cross or interfere with each other. As speed increases, feet tend to converge toward center line of balance.
- Excessively long hair, silky or wavy hair.
- Color that is more than one-third white. Albinism.
- Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid.
- Viciousness or extreme shyness.
Note: Spayed and neutered dogs may compete in all UKC Licensed Coonhound Events, including bench shows, nite hunts, water races and field trials.
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