By Ruthie Bently
The Catahoula Leopard Dog originated in northern Louisiana near the area of the Catahoula Lake. Catahoula is a Choctaw Indian word that means “sacred lake.” The “Leopard” in this breed’s name comes from the spots on the dog’s coat. The Catahoula Leopard Dog is known by other names including Catahoula Cur, Catahoula Hog Dog, Catahoula Hound and Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog. It was officially named Louisiana’s state dog in 1979 due to its importance to the history of Catahoula Parish. While the Catahoula is not yet able to compete in American Kennel Club confirmation events, it has been designated a member of the Herding Group and has been recorded in the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service since 1996.
Early settlers to Louisiana found wild boar and an indigenous Indian dog species. It is hard to prove that the Native Americans in the area had Catahoulas when the first European settlers arrived. During the 1539 expedition of Hemando de Soto, the Spanish explorer and his clerks wrote that the native Indian’s dog looked like a wolf but barked instead of howled. Tales state that the war dogs de Soto brought (bloodhounds, greyhounds and mastiffs) were bred with the native dogs to provide a new breed for the Native Americans. These tales have been passed down from generations of settlers that settled in north central Louisiana, and it is thought that the Catahoula Leopard Dog of today is the descendant of these dogs.