What are Catahoulas anyhow?
Above is a rather dramatic photo well worth the click to larger size. These dogs are fearless when it comes to bulls, wild boar, and even people when they are protecting someone or something. Our Catahoulas have never formally herded cattle but show the tendency to herd. They always like people to be sitting calmly together in the house. No horseplay is allowed especially with children around. They instinctively know to protect kids first, women second, and men are to be suspected of all sorts or nefarious deeds. Our current dog, Buffy, knows when I am having small seizures and comes to sit on my feet so I can't get up. She also knows when I am sick and sits close to me. My neurologist happened to know a lot about Catahoulas and was not surprised that she knew I was at risk for seizures.
They are used as guard dogs in S. America instead of German Shepards. We have often thought that they aren't quite dogs but still have a great deal of wolf left in them. The history of the dog supports this. Many sites tell a great deal more about Catahoulas including personal stories. I will add a few of our more memorable stories to the site eventually.
Below articles are shamefully copied from two other sites. Eventually I will have time to write my own article.
Left to right: Sunshine, Sugar,
Catahoulas are bred to go and find livestock in swamps, hilly canyons, thickets or forests, or mountains. They will trail, nose to ground, but prefer to throw their heads up and "wind" their prey, taking the shortest route to find, gather up or bunch, and circle and bay the quarry until their master can reach them to take control.
Preferred size from 20-26", weight 50-90 lbs, with a few individuals larger although most males average 60-70 lbs in lean working condition, & about 24" tall. Short haired, long tail, natural flop ear (like a Dalmatian ear), they come in every color of the rainbow, but are best known for a blue/grey base with black/liver spots ("blue Leopard"), tan legs and face, white toes and chest. Many variations on this general pattern. Spots occur in all colors. Blue/glass or parti-colored "marbled" or "cracked"eyes are common in every litter. Often a dog will have eyes of two different colors.
Catahoula Leopards are extremely agile and athletic, territorial, protective of "their property". They are more primitive psychologically than most breeds and need consistent obedience reinforcement. The owner must understand the Alpha concept and stay in control at all times, but still be loving to the dog. Very loyal, loving, intelligent and independent... they really think for themselves.
Leopard dogs are the only known domesticated native North American breed of dog... developed by our Native American Indians and early settlers, and kept pure to the present day by folks who use them to work livestock, hunt game ranging from squirrels to coons to bears, and as guard dogs. Leopard Curs, Catahoulas, Blackmouth Curs, Mountain Curs, etc., are all branches of the same root stock, but since there is no absolute documentation of the chronological history and precise ancestors involved, much is left to speculation on exactly when and how these several varieties emerged. We probably will never know their exact heritage until and unless DNA samples from today's dogs and their suspected canine relatives are tested. What we do know is part archaeological fact, part excerpted from diaries and letters written by early day dog fanciers, and part legend.
Archaeological facts: An ancient breed, the Xoloitzcuintli, is known to have existed in Mexico 3,300 years prior to the arrival of Spanish explorers, and the Peruvian Inca Orchid had been living with Peruvian citizens for several hundred years before the Spaniards landed on North American shores in 1539. It is only reasonable to assume representatives of these breeds made their way North through the hands of various native peoples into an area which later became Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, and perhaps even farther North. French explorers invaded the area in the late 1600's, and most certainly would have brought their dogs... one of which, the Beauceron, is still known today and displays leopard (merle) coloration. The Carolina Dog is a feral relic of antiquity, directly related to the Australian Dingo, African Jackal, and New Guinea Singing Dog, and has been only recently discovered surviving in uninhabited areas of our own Southeastern United States. The Carolina Dog was most likely the "Indian dog" base stock which interbred with dogs brought in by Spanish explorers, producing the ancestors of what we now call Catahoulas.
NEWS FLASH!!! Recent archeological discovery of Indian remains (including dogs buried with them) in Bienville Parish, LA, has been dated at 5,630 BC. Read about it here. The dogs are mentioned in the second paragraph of the second clipping where Jeff Girard, regional state archaeologist in charge, commented, "They hunted deer and loved their dogs so much they were buried with them." (Please be patient, as this page is very slow loading.)
Diaries and letters: Research done by J. R. McDuffie (founder of the American Cur Breeders Association in 1960), and Rex Bowers (author of the column Leopard Dogs Of The Blue Ridge, which appears regularly in FULL CRY magazine) points to the Irish foxhound as one of the primary ancestors, down through the noted July hounds (known to be leopard spotted, and possessing short folded-over ears & glass eyes) with a Plott cross and perhaps an English Shepherd thrown into the mix; and Tom Stodghill (founder of the Animal Research Foundation, which registers specialty breeds of farm animals as well as numerous breeds of dogs) adds the Beauceron. Mr. Stodghill began to register Catahoulas in 1951, and in 1958 received a letter from a gentleman in Louisiana of French ancestry who... "said his grandfather had brought a pair of leopard spotted (Beauceron) dogs from Paris, France, to the Catahoula area of Louisiana 150 years earlier, and he thought all Catahoula Leopards in Louisiana went back to that pair." (excerpted from "History of Catahoula Leopard Cowdogs", published 1983 by the Animal Research Foundation of Quinlan, Texas).
Legend: DeSoto's war dogs tamed by native peoples interbred with the Red Wolf, producing a spotted hybrid with glass eyes which was found primarily in the region around Catahoula Lake in central Louisiana, living with the natives. The word 'Catahoula' is actually a combination of two Choctaw words 'okhata', meaning lake, and 'hullo', meaning beloved... or a *French transformation of the Choctaw Indian word for their own nation, 'Couthaougoula' pronounced 'Coot-ha-oo-goo-la'... take your pick. (*per Don Abney's "The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog", Doral Publishing, 1996.) According to Betty Ann Eaves (founder of the NALC in 1977) "Putting the facts of time, place and nature together, one could assume that the Indians cared for the Spanish war dogs, which could have mated with the (red) wolf, the only canine-type animal in the area at that point in time... making for a strange and potent set of genes, the results of which are still evident today." (excerpted from "The Catahoula Collection", published by the National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas).
My personal opinion is that the Catahoula, the Leopard Cur, and all varieties of Cur dogs are a mixture of ALL the influences named above, and that dogs (some feral, some semi-domesticated) were widespread across at least the entire Southern third of the North American continent before the Spanish arrived. A Catahoula lover and professional photographer in Colorado, Keith Benoist, in 1996 Emailed me a tidbit he stumbled over in researching one of his projects which indicates the native peoples did indeed already have dogs... "Indians known as the 'Dog Lovers' were the Karankawa tribe (pronounced kuh-RAN-kuh-way). Theirs was a coastal tribal culture, living in the East Texas marsh country, near as I can remember. A Spaniard who had lived with them for some years was responsible for helping the surviving portion of the De Soto expedition find its way South, along the Gulf of Mexico, in order to make contact with other Spanish Missions in Mexico following De Soto's demise. He is alluded to in the diaries of Elvas and others who chronicled the De Soto expedition. He was most likely a holdout from the earlier expeditions of Cortez..." After Spanish and French explorers introduced their dogs to the native mix, other European settlers arrived with Irish and English hounds. Given the nature of canines it is logical to assume much interbreeding occurred, both planned and chance, including to the wolf. Later settlers, of course, attempted more structured breeding... using, as many country folks do today, neighbors' dogs that were doing a particular job well. In the 1800's many dog breeders began to select for more specific traits which intensified the gene pool in their favored strains. In the 1950's (Stodghill) and 60's (McDuffie) recognized a renewal of interest in these dogs and began registering two of these strains, the first bred and used for livestock working abilities and the second bred and used for hunting abilities. With continuing research and study it is possible that more pieces of this puzzle will be unearthed in the future. Several registries handle the Catahoula Leopard Dog and the Leopard Cur today, and most of the dogs are listed in more than one registry to better take advantage of various shows and trials offered by the sponsoring organizations.
I did not discover these great dogs until I was grown
and married, but have bred and worked this unique breed since 1971. My dogs have
been used exclusively on livestock, but on their own time will tree varmints in
our rural area... many evenings I've gone out to find them before going to bed
(usually just listening will locate them, as a Catahoula baying "tree" can be
heard for a mile or more), pulled them away from the base of a tree, and coerced
them into the truck for a lift home, then they must be tied or penned to ensure
they don't go back.
SweetWater Catahoulas occasionally has started dogs or puppies
available from a family linebred to Mama Maud, imprinting and preserving her
supreme intelligence and wisdom for the benefit of future generations. See this
grand matriarch below, shown working a yearling filly with son Pete, and observe
great-grandson Mr. SweetWater (age 5) handled things when he was
forced into accepting an 8 week old trespasser into "his" household. Mr.
SweetWater's family has proven over the years to possess the necessary
combination of intelligence, aggressiveness, and good judgment needed in a top
But it takes to dogs to handle one horse.....(Mama
Maud and Pete)
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What is a Catahoula?
Fearless for starters
The Catahoula Leopard Dog's roots date back over 400 years, to the period of Spanish Exploration of the New World, specifically the Gulf Coast and southern portions of the East Coast of the United States. On these expeditions the Spaniards were accompanied by "war dogs", believed to have been the Mastiff and Greyhound. These dogs would assist in hunting, guarding the camps, and battle. Some of these dogs were wounded or left behind and were captured by the Native Americans of the region. It is believed by historians that these dogs may have bred with the red wolf, a species native to that area. These wolf-like dogs became the companions and protectors of the Native Americans.
About a century later the French, during expeditions along the mouth of the Mississippi River, became intrigued with these strange-looking dogs with haunting light eyes. The French found that the wolf-like dogs had the ability to successfully hunt game in the swamp because of several characteristics including a keen sense of smell and webbed feet. The dogs could also easily retrieve cattle which had wandered into marshy areas. The French had brought with them their own dogs, known today as the Beauceron. The Beauceron dates back to the mid 1500's and was originally used to hunt wild boar. It is believed that in an attempt to create an even better hunter, protector, companion, and herder the French crossed the Beauceron with these wolf-like dogs. The Catahoula Leopard Dog is the descendant of that crossing.
A Catahoula is a loyal friend and protector, as well as being an incredibly versatile working dog. While not overtly aggressive, one would be unwise to enter their domain in the absence of their owner.
Catahoulas can be aggressive toward other dogs, and proper socialization is especially important when raising a pup in a multi-pet environment. They are very protective of their food, and a separate food bowl is suggested to alleviate potential conflict with other pets.
The Catahoula can be stubborn or hard-headed. A combination of love, praise, perseverance and a no-nonsense attitude is required when training a Catahoula. Given an inch these dogs will happily take a mile. The owner must assert his/her dominance from day one & continue to re-enforce that dominance when tested, or trouble will follow. While some will always argue an exception to the rule, the Catahoula is not a city dog. Unless allowed to run for a minimum of an hour per day (a walk on the leash or a romp in the park doesn't begin to suffice) they will find other outlets for their energy, including unwelcome and sometimes destructive behavior.
Their conformation is that of a rugged yet agile athlete. They are "headers" rather than "heelers". They gather or "bay-up" cattle and keep them bunched together so the cowboy can move the herd. They will prevent a cow from breaking away and circle the herd as the herd moves.
Catahoulas are also widely used today to hunt wild boar, and when you hear a Catahoula owner talk about them "working hogs" chances are they mean baying up wild boar, not herding domesticated pigs. Catahoulas also make a fine tree dog, being used on coon and squirrel.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog is an often overlooked yet excellent choice of breed for training in both Schutzhund and SAR. ACA director Don Abney, a reserve deputy, handler, and trainer of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's office SAR division, has just retired his Catahoula Ladyhawke after a long and very successful career as a fully accredited Sheriff's deputy. Don gave a SAR seminar for ACA in June of 1997 and a tracking seminar in May of '99.
07/06/2009 14:28:00 -0700