9 Facts About Catahoula Leopard Dogs

two catahoula leopard dog puppies in fall leaves

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a medium-sized dog breed with a unique appearance. They are highly intelligent and energetic working dogs that love their families. Here are a few more facts about Catahoula Leopard Dogs:

1. They Are an American Breed

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are considered American herding dogs, but their origins are not precise. We know they have a mixed lineage that stretches back to before the United States was founded and originated in the region that now includes Louisiana.

Although there are competing and various theories as to how the Catahoula Leopard Dog came to be as we know it now, we do know that they are a dedicated and focused working dog that excels at hunting, tracking, and herding.

Although the American Kennel Club does not currently recognize the breed for conformation events, they are designated in the Herding Group, included in the Foundation Stock Service, and are considered a rare breed.

2. The Catahoula is the State Dog of Louisiana

Because of their history rooted in what is now northern Louisiana, it’s no surprise that the state has some pride when it comes to this dog breed. Edwin Edwards, who was governor at the time, officially named the state dog of Louisiana as the Catahoula Leopard Dog in 1979.

Not only did part of their name come from a parish in Louisiana, but this is also why they are sometimes also referred to as the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, Louisiana Leopard Dog, Catahoula Cur, and others.

3. Three Distinct Breed Lines Are Blurring

For much of their modern history, the Catahoula Leopard Dog could be separated into three distinct breed lines – the Wright line, Fairbanks line, and McMillan line.

Although you can find individual Catahoula Leopard Dogs that are still distinct to these lines, most are some mix of them. The mixing and interbreeding of these three lines over the years is why Catahoula Leopard Dogs can have a lot of variety in appearance within breed standards.


The Wright line is credited to Preston Wright and is the largest of the three lines. Catahoula Leopard Dogs from this line usually weigh in around 100 pounds.


The Fairbanks line is credited to Lovie Fairbanks. Catahoula Leopard Dogs from this line usually weigh in around 70 pounds. They also tend to be brindle or yellow.


The smallest line of the three is the McMillan line. Catahoula Leopard Dogs from this line usually weigh in around 55 pounds. This is the line from which the unique glassy blue eyes originated. Dogs from this line also tend to have a blue leopard coat.

4. Catahoula Leopard Dogs Have Webbed Feet

Several of the dog breeds that love water have webbed feet because they were bred to excel at swimming. The Catahoula Leopard Dog also has webbed feet. What is different, however, is that a Catahoula’s webbing extends much further down the toes.

This would have made navigating the swamps, bogs, and marshlands of Louisiana during a hunt much easier. It also gives them an advantage in the water if you find that your Catahoula likes to swim.

5. They Are Starting to Become Sled Dogs

A Catahoula Leopard Dog is not usually a breed that comes to mind when you think about a sled dog. Although they are not an arctic spitz breed that is usually associated with sledding, they are starting to break into the sport in Canada.

Their coat may be short and thin for warmer weather, but Canadian sled racers are praising this breed’s power, focus, determination, work ethic, etc. These dogs were bred for endurance, power, tracking, and more. With their high energy and need to feel needed, sled racing turns out to be a surprisingly good fit.

6. Some Catahoulas Can Climb Trees

There’s a reason this dog breed is sometimes affectionately called a “cat-dog”. Between webbed feet, short, hard nails, and plenty of athleticism, some Catahoula Leopard Dogs can even climb trees!

This also means your Catahoula may be able to climb your fence. Like Huskies, they can tend to have a bit of wanderlust, especially if they see something they want to chase or get bored. With a potential escape artist on your hands, you’ll likely need more than just a fence to help keep your dog from escaping the yard.

7. Catahoula Leopard Dogs Tend to be Great Family Dogs

These dogs are highly intelligent, highly energetic, and playful. They require both physical and mental stimulation to be happy. They may be serious when on a job, but they are playful, loving, and affectionate when at home with the family. They do tend to get picky and bond more closely with one or two members of the family.

They are naturally curious and instinctively alert, which makes them a good watchdog. But, because of their curiosity, need to be useful, and devotion to family, they don’t like to be left alone for long periods of time.

They tend to get along well with children and other dogs, but their high prey drive may require extra socialization and training if there are smaller pets in the household. Their high-energy nature could cause them to knock over small children during playtime, so any playtime with children should be closely supervised.

8. They Tend to be Better for More Experienced Owners

Although these dogs have a pleasant temperament, are highly intelligent, and are eager to please, they tend to be a better fit for more experienced owners. Their high energy and working dog background can be a challenge for novice dog owners to handle alone.

These dogs need to be needed and need to feel useful. Part of training them will include giving them a job to do and teaching them how to direct their high-spirited energy and herding instincts into something useful.

Obedience classes or a professional dog trainer can be a big help in creating the right training program, strengthening the bond you have with your dog, and also getting some opportunities to socialize a puppy.

9. The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a High-Energy Working Dog

On top of needing a job to do and plenty of mental stimulation, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is also a high-energy dog breed. They need daily walks plus playtime and time to run or other activities throughout the day to be happy and healthy.

These dogs will also likely be up for more activity if you are. They love spending time with you and feeling useful, so accompanying you on physical activities where they get to expend energy too is a bonus.

Training them for dog sports, even if you won’t be competing anywhere, is a great way to meet both their exercise needs and working dog needs. Agility, tracking, herding, rally, and more can all be a good fit for a Catahoula Leopard Dog.

These are just a few facts about Catahoula Leopard Dogs. These dogs can be a great fit for active single owners or families that can give them the exercise, mental stimulation, and affection they need to be happy and healthy.

If you think this could be the right dog breed for you, learn more about them and then take a look at the available Catahoula Leopard Dog puppies. You could end up finding your new best friend!