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Bayou Dogs

Bayou-Diversity (10 November 2018) BAYOU DOGS With haunting "glass" eyes and varied coats of mottled hues, Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dogs blend into the aura of Louisiana's mysterious swamplands – an important landscape in the breed's origin. They wander through Louisiana history in legends that involve Jim Bowie, President Teddy Roosevelt, and Governor Earl K. Long. Officially designated the Louisiana state dog in 1979, the breed is also called Catahoula Leopard Dog, Catahoula Cur, Catahoula Leopard Hound, Catahoula Hog Dog, and simply Catahoula. Regardless of the label, the breed is one of only a few that originated in the United States.

Factual claims of the breed's origin lack credible historic documentation. A common theory is that Catahoulas derive from a cross of Hernando de Soto's war dogs during his destructive foray across the Southeast in the 1540s, and Native American dogs. Another hypothesis suggests that the breed developed much later in the 1800s when French settlers bred their Beaucerons with the Indian dogs. The name "Catahoula" seems to have been applied to the dogs by the early 19th century and indicates that the modern development of the breed has strong connections to the Catahoula Lake region of central Louisiana.

The general appearance is a dog of medium to large size, well-muscled and athletic. The coat is short to medium in length and diverse in coloration. A merle gene manifests in the "leopard" coats of Catahoulas and also in the icy, colorless eyes of some individuals. Catahoulas are considered herding dogs and are also used to hunt a variety of small and large game from squirrels to bears. The herding trait was especially desirable to stockmen running semi-wild herds of cattle and hogs in the vast, unfenced Louisiana swamps. Owners and breeders report that Catahoulas make excellent pets but always require obedience training because of their assertive nature.

Anecdotal reports suggest that Jim Bowie favored the breed and even slept with a Catahoula at his feet. A pair of Catahoulas are said to have been members of the pack of dogs that pursued bears during President Teddy Roosevelt's 1907 hunt in northeast Louisiana. Governor Earl K. Long is known to have collected Catahoulas and used them to hunt feral hogs. In spite of the breed's time-shrouded pedigree and vague relationships, Catahoula Leopard Dogs are now firmly ensconced in the lore and law of the Bayou State. Act 239 of the 1979 Regular Session reads: "There shall be an official state dog. The official state dog shall be the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dog, as registered by the National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas. Governor Edwin Edwards signed the legislation on July 9, 1979. (adapted from “Bayou-Diversity 2,” LSU Press, 2018)


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