We want to know everything about dogs. Everything! But there are countless breeds of dog out there, and each one is a unique animal with its own history. That's why every week, we shine a spotlight on a different breed. This week, learn some fun facts about Catahoula leopard dogs.
CATAHOULA LEOPARD DOGS ARE ALSO KNOWN BY SEVERAL OTHER NAMES
It took a while for fanciers of this breed to settle on a name for it, and even now it's common to see or hear it referred to as the Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog or the Catahoula cur. Other names for the breed include Leopard dog, Leopard cur, Catahoula hound and Catahoula hog dog.
THE CATAHOULA LEOPARD DOG IS THE STATE DOG OF LOUISIANA
The Catahoula leopard dog's history is rooted in Louisiana, especially northern Louisiana, where you'll find the breed's namesake parish. Because the breed is so important to and closely tied with the region, it's no surprise that in 1979, then-governor Edwin Edwards officially named the Catahoula leopard dog the state dog of Louisiana.
CATAHOULA LEOPARD DOGS ARE THOUGHT TO BE A MIX OF MANY BREEDS
The history of the Catahoula leopard dog's development is a mire. There's speculation regarding what other breeds have been crossed to create this one, but little is known for sure. We know that they are in part bred from the wild dogs kept by the Choctaw people native to the area. Other canines thought to have been used to create this breed include bloodhounds, greyhounds, mastiffs, Beaucerons and even red wolves.
THERE ARE THREE DISTINCT BREEDS LINES OF CATAHOULA LEOPARD DOGS
There are three lines of Catahoula dogs that vary in size and appearance. The largest is the Wright line, developed by Preston Wright. These dogs weigh around 100 pounds. Lovie Fairbanks' Catahoulas were around 70 pounds and yellow or brindle in color. The McMillan line is the smallest, at around 55 pounds, and they carry a blue leopard coloring and the unique glass eyes for which this breed is well known. Over the years, the three lines have been frequently interbred to create a wide variety of appearance in these dogs.
CATAHOULA LEOPARD DOGS ORIGINALLY WERE BRED TO HUNT HOGS
One of the alternate names for the breed is the Catahoula hog dog, and that's not because they look like hogs, but because they originally were bred to hunt hogs. History has it that when white settlers first came to the place that we now call Louisiana, the area was overrun with wild hogs. To deal with the problem, the settlers used wild canines to develop a new breed that was particularly adept at hunting the hogs. These were the earliest Catahoula leopard dogs.
THE AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB DOES NOT RECOGNIZE CATAHOULA LEOPARD DOGS
Although the Catahoula leopard dog is an unassailably cool breed, they have yet to achieve official recognition with the American Kennel Club. They are, however, part of the AKC's Foundation Stock Service, intended to "allow purebred breeds to continue to develop while providing them with the security of a reliable and reputable avenue to maintain their records." Catahoula dogs have been in the FSS since 1996.
Catahoula dogs are well known for their colorful coats and captivating eyes, but they have other interesting physical traits you may not notice on first glance. For example, they have webbed feet. Some webbing on a canine foot is common, but a Catahoula dogs webbing extends much more prominently down the toes than normal. This trait would have allowed these dogs to more easily traipse through the soggy and boggy Louisiana marshland.
A CATAHOULA LEOPARD DOG WAS THE SCHOOL MASCOT FOR CENTENARY COLLEGE OF LOUISIANA
Centenary College's athletic teams are known as the Gentlemen and the Ladies, but for a brief period, a Catahoula leopard dog was the school's official mascot. In 2007, the school rescued 2-year-old Skeeter from a local shelter and named him its mascot. Said the college's president at the time, "We will always be the Gents and Ladies, and the new mascot will be a perfect addition." Sadly, Skeeter died in 2011. With his passing, Centenary College retired the idea of maintaining a canine mascot.
Pictured: Skeeter at his public introduction asCentenary College's official mascot.
CATAHOULA LEOPARD DOGS HAVE APPEARED IN "BONES," "VERONICA MARS" AND THE "SOUTHERN VAMPIRE MYSTERIES" BOOKS
For some reason, this breed has captured the imaginations of folks who write mysteries and crime fiction. A Catahoula leopard dog was central to the plot of a "Veronica Mars" episode in 2005, and eight years later in an episode of the procedural crime drama "Bones." In Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels, which are set in northern Louisiana, the character of Terry Bellefleur owns Catahoula leopard dogs, although the same character doesn't have the dogs in the books' TV adaptation, "True Blood."
CATAHOULA LEOPARD DOGS ARE POPULAR SLED DOGS IN CANADA
With their Louisiana origins and relative obscurity, Catahoula leopard dogs aren't well known outside of the U.S., but they have begun to creep beyond international borders. They may not resemble the thick-coated spitz breeds like akitas and huskys that are commonly thought of as sled dogs, but Catahoula dogs have gained some favor with sled racers in Canada. One sledding enthusiast described the breed as possessing "drive and power like I have never seen."