Catahoula Leopard Dog

Also known as the Blue Leopard Dog, the Blue Spotted War Dog, the Catahoula Cur, "Hog Dog", the Catahoula Leopard Dog, The Catahoula Leopard Stockdog, the Texas Leopard Cowdog or simply the Leopard Dog, this breed has been developed as a cattle driving dog in the deep south of the United States. Among its owners it has acquired the nickname of "the Cat". The word "leopard" in its title refers to its typically spotted coat.


The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a breed with a most unusual history. Its ancestors were employed by the early Spanish explorers in the New World to brutally drive the native Indians from their lands. Pursuing them into Louisiana, the Spaniards arrived at the marshy land around the Catahoula Lakes in the north-east of the region, where they and their horses sank into the swamps. The Indians climbed into trees to escape and later were able to adopt the abandoned Spanish war dogs. Over the years, they interbred them with their own native dogs. Then, in the middle of the 16th century, shipbuilders moved into this region and obtained some of the Indian dogs as working animals. These were later given the task of controlling the movements of cattle and were eventually developed as specialized cattle drivers. It is thought that some hound blood was introduced at one stage to improve the breed.

Concerned about the random crossing that was threatening to destroy the purity of this early American breed, local enthusiasts have recently studied its history and have set up a registry to record pedigrees. In 1977 the National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas was founded. In 1984, a special gathering of these dogs was able to display as many as 168 examples, and its future now appears to be assured.


Some owners also use these dogs to control the movements of pigs. The Catahoula Leopard Dogs are renowned for their fearless behaviour when dealing with escaped or difficult pigs and cattle and are described as hard heelers best suited to rough stock. Tough, sturdy and strong-jawed, they are said to be extremely hard-working and dedicated to their dangerous tasks. One owner referred to them as "walking sledgehammers".

One strange feature of the dog is that an individual sometimes displays odd eye colours, the right eye being dark and the left one pale. When this occurs, the pale eye looks strangely artificial, leading to an early reference to the animal as "the dog with a glass eye". Some dogs have two pale eyes, giving them a striking expression which is favoured in the show-ring.


In personality they are dominating dogs with a strong character. This is not surprising bearing in mind the way they deal with the livestock. Their technique is not to gently drive the animals along, but to attack them boldly, bite them and then run for it. The enraged cattle or hogs chase them to retaliate and find themselves led precisely where the dogs want them to go. The dogs eventually run into a penned area with the livestock following close behind. The gates are slammed shut, the dogs quickly leap over the back fence and their bewildered victims are secured.

Gallery of Catahoula Leopard Dog