Catahoula Leopard Dog

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: September 17, 2012
Catahoula Leopard Dog

Named the official state dog of Louisiana in 1979, the Catahoula Leopard Dog, or Catahoula Hound, originates from a mix of dogs from different parts of the world that were all brought to Louisiana. Before the land was taken over by white settlers, Native American Indians in the area used an early version of this breed as a hunting dog. The breed remains most popular as a working dog.

Vital Stats

Breed Group: Herding Dogs Height: 22 to 24 inches Weight: 50 to 95 pounds Lifespan: 10 to 14 years

Physical Characteristics

This breed is known for its endless variety of colors and patterns. The Catahoula Leopard Dog’s coat is single-layer, and although it may be seen in any color combination, it is mainly seen in these four: solid color, brindle, leopard pattern, or patchwork pattern coat. The eyes also stand out. Catahoulas often will have bluish white eyes with a cracked glaze appearance, referred to as “glass eyes.” It is also common for a dog to have just one glass eye, with the other in amber or brown, or to have glass eyes that also have colors within the blue, which are referred to as “cracked glass” eyes. The height of this breed ranges from 22 to 24 inches, and can weigh from 50 to 95 pounds.

Personality and Temperament

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is very loving with family, but may be wary with strangers if it’s not socialized early on. Catahoulas are protective of the family, and make excellent watch dogs. This breed is not aggressive; however, similar to other herding breeds, it is a natural leader. The Catahoula does not allow mistreatment and may assert itself in self-defense. Overall, this breed requires a good amount of teaching and exercise or else it can be very destructive in the home. It does not make a good city or apartment dog.


This breed requires daily exercise and enjoys playing. Although the Catahoula Leopard Dog is not a high maintenance breed, if it is not given an appropriate amount of exercise and attention every day, expect it to start causing trouble, such as digging holes and chewing things.


This breed lives an average life span of 10 to 14 years. Frequent health issues include hip dysplasia, deafness in mostly white Catahoulas, and some eye problems.

History and Background

Although the exact origins of the Catahoula Leopard Dog are unknown, it is believed by some to be a result of chance and some mixed breeding of Native American Indian Dogs, red wolves, and dogs brought over by the Spanish. The Native American Indians in Northern Louisiana referred to this new breed as the “Wolf Dog,” which was later bred with a dog brought over by the French, resulting in today’s Catahoula Leopard Dog.

American Indians and later white settlers used the Catahoula Leopard Dog as a hunting dog, especially with the overpopulation of wild hogs in the area. For this latter reason, the dog is also knows regionally as the Catahoula Hog Dog. This new dog breed was useful in herding cattle by creating a “canine fence” around the wild cows or hogs and moving them in the path as directed by the herder.

In 1979, the governor of Louisiana named this multi-purpose working dog the official state dog. The United Kennel Club recognized the Catahoula Leopard Dog in 1995.

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