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Catahoula Hound Breed Description
Catahoula, Catahoula Leopard Dog, Catahoula Cur, Catahoula Hog Dog
Approximately 10–14 years
Approximately 4-12 puppies
Herding (UKC), Foundation Stock Service (AKC)
Though physical characteristics are varied Catahoulas are usually muscular dogs with a rectangular-shaped body. They tend to have a large head with drop ears and a strong, slightly tapered muzzle. They tend to have a thick muscular neck and a long curved tail. Catahoulas come in many different colors including blue merle, red merle, brindle, and solid colors. Often, solid coat Catahoulas have small splashes of other colors such as white on their face, legs or chest. The leopard-like coat of most Catahoulas is the result of the merle gene. The merle gene does not normally affect the entire coat of the dog, but dilutes the color only in areas that randomly present the characteristic of the gene. Deeper colors are preferred; predominantly white coats are discouraged. Since Catahoula is a working dog, coat color is not a primary consideration. The Catahoula has a single smooth short or coarse medium coat. The short hair looks almost painted. The medium can have extended "feathering" on the hind legs, tail, and chest. The breed may have any eye color or combination of colors including blue, brown, green, or amber.
Head: The head is powerfully built without appearing exaggerated. Viewed from the side, the length of skull and muzzle are approximately equal in length, and joined by a well-defined stop of moderate length. The planes of the topskull and the bridge of the muzzle are roughly parallel to one another. There may be a slight median furrow between the eyes and running back to the occipital bone. Gender differences should be apparent in the characteristics of the head.
Skull:The skull is broad and flat. The cheeks are well developed.
Muzzle: The muzzle is strong and deep. Viewed from above, the muzzle is moderately wide and tapering toward the nose. Lips may be tight or slightly pendulous with pigment of any color or combination of colors.
Teeth: The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog has a complete set of evenly spaced, white teeth. A scissors bite is preferred, but a level bite is acceptable.
Nose: Nose pigment may be any color or combination of colors.
Eyes: Eyes are set moderately well apart, medium in size, somewhat rounded in appearance, and are set well into the skull. Eyes may be any color or combination of colors without preference. Eye rims are tight and may be any color or combination of colors.
Ears: Ears are drop, short to medium in length, moderate in size, and proportionally wide at the base, gradually tapering to the slightly rounded tip. They should fold over and be generally triangular in shape. The top of the ear fold is level or just slightly below the top line of the skull. When the dog is at attention, the inner edge of the ear lies close to the cheek. Laid-back ears are acceptable but not preferred.
Neck: The neck is muscular and of good length, without being overdone. The circumference of the neck widens from the nape to where the neck blends smoothly into the shoulders.
Forequarters: The shoulders are strong and smoothly muscled. The shoulder blades are long, wide, flat and well laid back. The upper arm is roughly equal in length to the shoulder blade and joins it at an angle sufficient to ensure that the foot falls under the withers. The elbows are close to the body and do not turn out.
Forelegs: The forelegs are straight, and of medium bone, indicating strength without excessive thickness. Pasterns are strong, short, and slightly sloping. The length of the forelegs should roughly equal 50-60% of the dog’s height at the withers. A dog with legs shorter than the ideal is to be more heavily penalized than a dog with longer legs.
Body: A properly proportioned Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog is slightly longer than tall. The topline inclines very slightly downward from well-developed withers to a level back. The back is broad and well muscled with a short, strong, slightly arched loin. A slightly longer loin is acceptable in females. The ribs extend well back and are well sprung out from the spine. The chest is deep, reaching at least to the elbows, and moderately broad. When viewed from the side, the forechest extends in a shallow oval shape in front of the forelegs. Tuck-up is apparent, but not exaggerated. Croup is medium to long and slightly sloping.
Hindquarters: Hindquarters are strong and smoothly muscled. Width and angulation of 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, viewed from the rear, parallel to one another.
Feet: Good feet are essential for a working dog. Feet are well knit and oval in shape. Toes are long, webbed and well arched. Pads are thick and hard. Nails are strong. Dewclaws may be removed.
Tail: The tail is a natural extension of the topline. It is thicker at the base, and tapers to the tip. Natural bob tails are permitted, but not preferred. The natural bob tail, regardless of length, will taper in width from base to tip. A full length tail may be carried upright with the tip curving forward when the dog is moving or alert. When the dog is relaxed, the tail hangs naturally, reaching to the hock joint. Catahoulas should be allowed to carry their tails naturally when being shown. Exhibitors should not hold tails upright.
Coat: The Catahoula has a single coat, short to medium in length that lies flat and close to the body. Texture ranges from smooth to coarse, without preference.
Color: Catahoulas come in an endless variety of coat colors and patterns. All color combinations and patterns can have color points or trim, which may be located on the chest, cheeks, above the eyes, on the legs, underbody or under the tail. The Leopard pattern has a base color, with contrasting spots of one or more other colors. Solids have a single coat color. Brindles may have a light or dark base coat color with contrasting stripes. The Patchwork pattern may or may not have one predominant solid color with one or more different size patches of different colors and shades placed randomly on the body. In dogs of equal quality, rich, deep colors are preferable to the lighter colors. However, in evaluating the Catahoula as a true, multi-purpose working dog, coat color is not a primary consideration. No coat color or pattern is preferred.
Height and Weight: Ideal height at maturity for males is 24 inches, and for females, 22 inches, with a variation of two inches either way acceptable. Weight may range from 50 to 95 pounds, in proportion to the dog’s height. The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog must be both powerful and agile so actual weight and height are less important than the correct proportion of weight to height. Catahoulas should always be presented in hard, working condition. Any deviation from the ideal must be judged by the extent of the deviation, and the effect it has on the dog’s ability to work.
Gait: When trotting, the gait is smooth, fluid and effortless, showing good but not exaggerated reach in front and powerful drive behind. The topline remains level with only a slight flexing to indicate suppleness. 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. Poor movement should be penalized to the degree to which it reduces the Catahoula’s ability to perform the tasks it was bred to do.
The Catahoula lineage is unknown. One theory suggests the breed originated in the mid-1700s when French settlers emigrated to what became Louisiana with Beauceron dogs. The settlers crossbred their dogs with well-adapted swamp hunting wolf dogs owned by Native Americans in an effort to develop a better working dog. In the 1800s, breeding intensified in an effort to develop a family dog that was well-suited to work, hunt, and guard yet good with children.
Intelligent, Energetic, Inquisitive, Independent, Loving, Gentle.
The Catahoula was initially used for hunting. Native Americans tended to use the dog for hunting large game. European settlers used the dog for hunting and herding livestock. The first white settlers in Louisiana are believed to have used the dog to hunt feral pigs in the swamps of Louisiana.
Catahoulas are used as bay dogs, tree dogs, and for hunting a variety of wild game, including small game such as raccoons and squirrels, as well as big game such as deer, mountain lions and bear. They are also used for scent trailing game, and as a search and rescue dog.
Catahoulas need both exercise and mental stimulation to be happy and well-behaved at home. The breed may become destructive when left to their own devices. The wise Catahoula owner will combine daily vigorous exercise in the form of running, hiking, swimming or fetch, with regular training for activities like hunting, herding, tracking, agility or obedience.
Catahoulas have a natural herding instinct and a unique way of working a herd. AKC describes it as creating a “canine fence” around the herd which allows the dog's master to work the herd within that circle. Herding ability and a natural working instinct are a top priority to Catahoula breeders, over and above a dog's appearance. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Catahoulas exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in cow/hog dog trials.
Deafness is one of the major genetic faults common in Catahoulas and is 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 impaired. Hearing in one ear is referred to as "directional deafness". Breeders are often unwilling to allow deaf Catahoulas to leave their premises and will generally euthanize deaf pups. Puppies born from a litter where both parents have the merle color pattern have a 25% chance of turning out to be blind, deaf, or blind and deaf. These puppies are often referred to as "double merles". A double merle can come from any breed, or breed mix. As long as both parents are merle, each puppy has a chance of inheriting these traits. Double Merle Catahoula's only have a 25% chance of being deaf in one or both ears due to their heavy pigmentation.
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Jeff Gold, Founder, Rescue Me! Animal Rescue Network
Jeff Gold lives in Watkinsville, Georgia on the same property as Rescue Me's Animal Rehabilitation Center, with 18 rescue animals. Shown with him in the photo to the left are Maggie, Izzie and Cortez. In 2003, after learning there was nobody doing boxer rescue work in Georgia, Gold founded Boxertown, an organization which helped find homes for over 500 boxers during its first two years. Based upon this success, Gold came up with the vision for Rescue Me! ― a network which helps all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals find good homes, anywhere in the world. RescueShelter.com is also a free service of Rescue Me! and provides the world's largest and most up-to-date directory of animal rescue organizations for all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals, including a comprehensive directory of wildlife rehabilitators in over 150 countries.