A breed of unknown origin, the beginnings of the Catahoula Leopard Dog are subject to conjecture, with some suggesting it was developed in the 16th century as a result of Native American breeding, whilst others attribute its early development to the 19th century when French settlers introduced the Beauceron to North America; it is widely believed that the Catahoula Leopard Dog is the result of crossing between the Beauceron, Red Wolves and various sight hounds. Formally named in 1979 and designated the State Dog of Louisiana, the Catahoula was primarily bred for the purposes of driving cattle to slaughter and rounding up feral pigs in the woodlands of Louisiana State.
Easily identified, the breed is distinctive in appearance, boasting a powerful and athletic build with straight, muscular legs, a broad, wedge-shaped head, high-set ears and a long tail. The coat of the Catahoula Leopard is typically short, coarse or woolly and common in colour variations of silver, blue grey, red, chestnut, tan or tricolour deviations, usually with white markings. Characteristic to the breed is its webbed feet, well suiting it to marsh crawling. Additionally, the eyes of the Catahoula are unique in that all colours are permissible, whilst being commonly seen in ice blue, grey, brown, green or amber, often with the two eyes appearing in different colours.
An inherent working breed, the Catahoula Leopard is both able-bodied and independent-minded, well suited to the active family lifestyle. Due to its early utilisation as a herding dog, the Catahoula has a tendency to be over-protective, particularly of children, and will safeguard home and property if potential danger is perceived. Otherwise loyal and affectionate, the breed makes a great addition to the home setting, whether for a family or dedicated sole owner. On average, a healthy Catahoula Leopard Dog will weigh 16-35 kg, with a life expectancy of 10-12 years when shown the appropriate care.
Re-bred for its inherent hardiness and health, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is resilient to most serious diseases, although its relative rarity makes it difficult to determine any breed-specific disorders. As with most breeds, skin allergies, hip and elbow dysplasia and optical complaints are identified in the Catahoula.