Named after the Catahoula parish in Louisiana, the Catahoula leopard dog is the only current breed of domesticated dog to originate in North America. Part of the herding group, these are large, muscular dogs with wide foreheads. These dogs are usually used as working dogs, herding unruly cattle or pigs, but are also purchased as family pets.
Originally bred by the early English settlers to help with livestock, the Catahoula leopard dog may have been used by Native American tribes as well. Thought to possibly originate from the Nordic wolfhound, the exact lineage of these dogs is unclear. It is generally agreed that the location of their origin is Louisiana, however, and in 1979, the Catahoula leopard dog was named Louisiana’s state dog. These dogs are recognized as breeds in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, where they are listed as a rare breed.
Generally 20–26 inches (50.8–66 cm) tall, Catahoula leopard dogs weigh between 55 and 80 pounds (22.7–36.3 kg). They have short, single-layered coats that are usually merle patterned, but may be mostly solid or have black and tan coloring instead. Merle patterning consists of blotches of two or three colors over a solid base. Their eyes may be any color, but are often a specific shade of blue, called glass.
Catahoula leopard dogs are distrustful of strangers and should be socialized as puppies. These dogs are extremely loyal and affection toward their owners, however, and friendly with people they know. Both independent and dominate, leopard dogs need a firm, experienced owner who knows how to be a pack leader as well as companion. Owners who are prone to baby their dogs, or who cannot devote enough attention to the dog, should not consider adding a Catahoula leopard dog to their homes. These dogs will become destructive and aggressive if not cared for properly.
Though they are not exceptionally high energy dogs, they do require daily exercise. Jogging or other high impact activity is required for at least an hour each day to keep these dogs healthy. Extremely agile, leopard dogs also enjoy exercising in ways that use their agility. Activities such as playing catch with a Frisbee may be a good way to exercise the dog without exhausting the owner.
Usually living for 12 or 13 years, the Catahoula leopard dog is not prone to many diseases. It is, however, prone to deafness and eye issues, as well as hip dysplasia. These dogs are light to average shedders and should not be kept outside in cold weather due to the absence of an undercoat.