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|Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog
|When we adopted our dog, Navi, from the shelter last Fall, we thought she was a
unique dog, both in appearance and personality, but we had no idea what kind of
dog she was. My husband and I kept thinking of breeds she might resemble, but
none seemed right. A few weeks had gone by before I noticed a line on the
vet's report that accompanied her adoption papers. It read:
"Breed: Louisiana Catahoula / Color: Blue Leopard."
We had our answer, which led to more questions, because we weren't at all
familiar with Catahoulas (a little embarrassing, considering the Catahoula is
Louisiana's state dog and we're from Louisiana - but, in our defense, Catahoulas
are often used for hunting or herding, and we've never hunted or herded :-).
I did some research and learned that Catahoulas have a long history - in fact,
possibly one of the longest histories of any dog in North America. For many
reasons, they are a unique breed, truly a breed apart - not only for the common
traits of their breed, but for the differences within it.
I purchased a book, "Catahoula," by John Slaughter, who is a very talented
photographer. He's been taking pictures of Catahoulas for many years and the
beauty of the photographs is a tribute to his talent and clearly shows his love for
these incredible dogs.
As to their differences from other breeds and within their own, Mr. Slaughter
writes: "Catahoulas are difficult to define. It's as if aliens came to earth, took
the form of dogs, and are trying to figure out how to be typically 'doglike.'"
They may have trouble being 'doglike,' but they have no trouble being devoted,
loving and intelligent companions. At least, that's the case with one Louisiana
Bobtailed Blue Leopard Catahoula named Navi.
|Intelligent ~ Energetic ~ Devoted ~ Protective
|One theory regarding the word 'Catahoula' is that it's a combination of two
Choctaw words 'okhata', meaning lake, and 'hullo', meaning beloved or sacred.
This would be in reference to Catahoula Lake, in Louisiana, where the breed
originated. Another possibility is that the word is a French transformation of
the Choctaw word for their own nation, 'Couthaougoula.'
When Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, began his expedition through the
modern-day southeastern United States in the 1500's, his scribes noted they
had only seen one species of domestic animal in North America, the Native
Americans' dog - who, they wrote, looked like a wolf, but barked like a dog.
Researchers have reason to believe that, in what is now central Louisiana, the
Choctaws' dogs were crossed with the mastiffs and greyhounds brought by the
Spanish explorers, and this produced the first version of the Catahoula.
When French settlers arrived in Louisiana with their Beauceron dogs, they told
of strange looking dogs with haunting glass eyes, used by the Native Americans
to hunt game in the swamp. Some believe that the French Beauceron and the
descendants of native dogs and Spanish war dogs were interbred to give us the
Catahoulas we know today.
|Catahoulas come in many different colors, including blue merle, red merle, brindle
and even solid colors. Most Catahoulas have a white stripe on their faces, going
from muzzle to forehead.
Our dog, Navi, has a bobtail, which is a natural part of the Catahoula heritage.
But, now, unless specifically bred for this trait, the percentage of a bobtail
occurring naturally is small.
When she perks her ears up, Navi has one ear that more or less goes down and
one ear that goes a little sideways. I thought that this must have been the
result of an old injury, but, curiously, I've seen three different Catahoulas in
photos online with ears like Navi's. Maybe just a coincidence?
Catahoulas often have cracked glass or marbled glass eyes, which occurs when
both colored and glass portions are present in the same eye. Cracked glass or
marbled glass eyes are blue or blue-white in color; they may be half of one color
and half of another. Catahoulas have a better chance of having one eye of one
color and the other of a different color than most breeds.
One of Navi's eyes is blue-white. I don't know what the other one was, because
she sustained an injury to her eye before arriving at the SPCA and the result of
the injury left her blind in that eye and it has a film over it. But she can still
spot a squirrel at 100 yards and, possibly thanks to an ancient greyhound gene,
she can very nearly catch it. Thankfully, she hasn't managed to do that yet.
|By the middle of the 20th century, Catahoulas were rapidly becoming extinct. They
may not have survived if it wasn't for the attention given to them by Louisiana
governor, Earl Long. He liked the breed so much that he started collecting them as
he traveled around the state. He would send them to Louisiana State Police
Headquarters to be cared for. He bred the best of the breed and brought
Catahoulas back from the brink of extinction. Today, the Louisiana Catahoula can
be found all over the country and, in fact, all over the world.
In 1979, Gov. Edwin Edwards signed a bill making the Catahoula the official state
dog of Louisiana, in recognition of their importance in the history of the region.
|~ Navi ~