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How To Breed Catahoula Leopard Dogs

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Published on
Thursday 14 January 2021
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
how to breed catahoula leopard dogs
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As an experienced Catahoula Leopard Dog owner, you may be wondering how to breed Catahoula Leopard Dogs. The goal of many Catahoula breeders is breed preservation. With this in mind, we will discuss how to register your Catahoula puppies, which health tests to carry out, and the working roles of these unique dogs.

Breeding Catahoula Leopard Dogs should involve knowledge of the breed’s history and temperament. These dogs are intelligent, independent, and energetic. Thus, they require a firm and patient trainer to match their temperament. While some Catahoulas settle down well in a family home, others need to stay highly active in a working environment.

The Background of Catahoula Leopard Dogs

To begin breeding the Catahoula Leopard Dogs it is crucial to understand the breed history. This is because the majority of Catahoula breeders prize breed preservation and working ability over physical appearance.

Origin and History

The exact origin of the Catahoula Leopard Dog is unclear. This is because of cultural biases and the oral nature of the cultures involved with the breed’s history. Firstly, it is thought that “war dogs” came to Louisiana in the 16th century with Hernando DeSoto. After committing atrocities against the native peoples of Louisiana on his “expedition”, Hernando DeSoto died on the Mississippi River. This left many war dogs, which were of Mastiff and Greyhound descent, without ownership. Native tribes within the Missippi River Valley soon took these dogs in. These tribes may have included the Avoyelles, Ofo, Tunica, and Choctaw tribes. The dogs may have interbred with red wolves, although this claim is not proven in any scientific literature.

In 1700, Henri de Tonti wrote of “strange-looking wolf dogs with white eyes and mottled coats” in the state of Louisiana. Later in the mid-1700s, French settlers brought the Beauceron to the region. The Beauceron is said to have crossed with these “wolf dogs.” After many years of line or cull breeding, Catahoula Leopard Dogs developed a unique method of working stock. By creating a “canine fence” of three or more dogs, the breed works in an extremely fast-paced and sometimes dangerous way to herd wild boars and escaped livestock. Each dog must be alert and aware of the position of other dogs whilst working. Today, the Catahoula Leopard Dog retains its hard-working and daring approach to herding.


The AKC does not accept Catahoula Leopard Dog registration. Instead, the breed is under the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service. Because of this, the breed cannot be ranked in the AKC’S Most Popular list. This does not mean that Catahoula Leopard Dogs are unpopular!

In 1979, this breed became the state dog of Louisiana. Similarly, the breed became the mascot of the Centenary College of Louisiana in 2007. Catahoula Leopard Dogs are also seen in popular culture. One such dog was featured in an episode of Veronica Mars. Another was seen in an episode of the crime drama Bones. Finally, two Catahoula Leopard Dogs are featured in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels.


The United Kennel Club breed standard came about in January 1995. The breed standard essentially describes the ideal specimen of a breed. In a dog show, the judge will refer to the breed standard.

General Appearance

In general, dogs of the breed are medium to large. They are muscular and demonstrate power without being bulky, giving an impression of great endurance. Its body is slightly longer than it is tall and should not resemble a Bulldog or a sighthound with its proportions. The head has a powerful appearance without appearing exaggerated. The length of the skull and muzzle should be equal in length and joined by a well-defined stop. This breed is a multi-purpose working dog, so any faults should be taken in the context of how they interfere with the dog’s ability to work.

Coat and Coat Color

Catahoula Leopard Dogs have a single coat that is short to medium in length. This coat lies flat and close to the body. Under the breed standard, the coat texture may be smooth or coarse without preference. However, a long coat or excessively fuzzy coat that obscures the outline of the dog are disqualifying factors. Not all Catahoulas have a distinct “leopard” coat pattern, and many different coat variations are accepted in the UKC. However, dogs with 70 percent or more white are considered a serious fault. Similarly, dogs with 90 percent or more white or albinism are disqualified. Finally, a Catahoula’s nose can be any color or even a combination of colors.

catahoula leopard dogs
Not all Catahoula Leopard dogs have a recognizable leopard coat.

Height And Weight

The ideal height for a male dog is 24 inches, while the ideal height for a female is 22 inches. A variation of two inches is acceptable. Weight can vary from 50 to 95 pounds in proportion with the Catahoula’s height. Because the breed must be powerful and agile, the precise height and weight are less important than the proportions of the two.


According to the UKC, Catahoula temperaments vary from serious and hard-working to affectionate and clownish. It is common for Catahoulas to be aloof with strangers but they should never be aggressive or shy. These dogs are naturally independent, territorial, and protective, meaning that they require firm guidance and training. With a loving owner, Catahoulas are often affectionate, gentle, and loyal when living with a family. They are well-known for being protective of children.

However, some individuals are not well-suited to family life and prefer a working environment, exhibiting uncharacteristic aggression, and destructive behavior if not mentally stimulated enough. Some Catahoulas also demonstrate inter-dog aggression due to their high prey drive. You must socialize and train a Catahoula puppy well to avoid any future behavioral issues such as these.

Health Concerns When Breeding Catahoula Leopard Dogs

When asking how to breed Catahoula Leopard Dogs, you must be responsible and knowledgeable about your breed. What health conditions are common in the breed? How can they be avoided? In summary, Catahoulas are prone to hip dysplasia, deafness, and ocular problems which may be hereditary.

Hip Dysplasia

You have probably heard of hip dysplasia, a disease that causes a dog’s hip joints to form improperly. Unfortunately, this disease is common in Catahoula Leopard Dogs. According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, roughly 20 percent of Catahoulas inherit hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia can cause pain and lameness, which will impact this working breed’s ability to perform in the field.

Because Catahoulas are prone to the condition, it is advisable to screen your breeding stock before carrying out any matings. Your vet will be able to take an X-ray of your dogs’ hips for a specialist to review. If your dog’s screening suggests hip dysplasia, reconsider breeding from your dog. The most reliable way to prevent hip dysplasia is to avoid breeding dogs with the condition. Over 100 genes are responsible for coding hip dysplasia, and while environmental factors can make it more likely that your puppies develop the disease, genetics is the most important factor involved.


Catahoula Leopard Dog coats are influenced by the merle gene. The merle gene is associated with deafness. This makes deafness one of the most common genetic faults of Catahoulas. In general, dogs that are predominantly white have an 80 percent chance of being deaf in one or both ears. Similarly, puppies born from two merle dogs have a 25 percent chance of being born as double merle. Double merle puppies may be born blind, deaf, or both. Compared to other breeds, it is rarer for double merle puppies to be born deaf and blind, but the possibility is still a significant problem for the breed. For these reasons, it is advisable to avoid breeding merle to merle.

Eye Disorders

The ACVO Genetics Committee lists three ocular disorders seen in Catahoula Leopard Dogs. These are iris coloboma, retinal dysplasia, and persistent pupillary membranes (PPM). Iris coloboma develops when part of the dog’s iris does not develop. While this condition usually has a minimal effect on vision, large colobomas can cause a dog to squint in bright light. This causes discomfort and reduces the range of vision, which may impact a Catahoula’s ability to work. Dogs with iris coloboma should not begin breeding. Retinal dysplasia manifests as small folds within the retina that cause blind spots. Most cases of this condition are hereditary. As a result, dogs with retinal dysplasia should not be bred from. Finally, PPM is inherited in several breeds. If attached to the cornea or lens, PPM strands can cause opacities that impair sight.

How to Breed Catahoula Leopard Dogs

Breeding Catahoula Leopard Dogs is a task that requires knowledge of the breed standard, understanding of the genetic problems the breed faces, and willingness to register with the appropriate breed clubs. Before breeding Catahoulas it is important to know that the breed’s appearance is less important than its working ability.

breed standard of catahoula leopards
You must understand the breed standards of Catahoula Leopard dogs.

Choosing the Bitch and Stud

You must study the background of the dogs you intend to breed from. You will need to know where your dogs came from, and what six generations of ancestors were like. This includes investigating health problems that are present in the dogs’ bloodlines. Every Catahoula breeder wants to ensure that their puppies are fit and healthy. So what health tests are relevant to the breed?

Because Catahoulas are prone to hip dysplasia, getting your dogs screened for the disease is a responsible measure to take before breeding. Book your dogs in with your local vet for X-rays that can identify any dysplasia problems that may affect your puppies. Ideally, you should breed from a bitch and stud that both score low on their OFA hip dysplasia screening. Your dogs may also benefit from the OFA Eye Certification examination. The major goal of this exam is to stop the breeding of dogs with potentially blinding eye diseases. If your dog passes their OFA exam you will receive a certificate number that is valid for one year. The OFA can also offer breeding advice based on guidelines made for the breed. Ideally, you should breed from a bitch and stud with OFA Eye Certification.

Another relevant test is the M-Locus test. The merle gene can be cryptic, meaning that it is not visible. This leads to unexpected double merle pups. To be safe, consider ordering a test before breeding. You should breed from a bitch and stud that will not produce double merle pups.

Litter Size

Be ready for large litters! Catahoula Leopard Dogs have 8 to 12 puppies per litter. In some cases, the litter size exceeds 14 puppies. You will need to take extra care to ensure that your puppies are growing and well-fed. Be sure that you have the necessary equipment for caring for large numbers of puppies. This might include extra milk formula and a backup incubator in case the dam rejects any puppies. You will also need extra towels and heating pads to keep a large number of pups warm. In large litters, there is a higher risk of losing pups within the first few days. If your pups fail to gain weight or seem unwell, make sure to get veterinary advice right away. Fading puppy syndrome can cause devastating losses if not addressed quickly.

Birthing Issues

Because Catahoula breeders focus on working ability rather than appearance, the breed probably experiences lower dystocia rates than other breeds. However, this does not mean that Catahoulas cannot experience dystocia. Dystocia is difficulty giving birth. If you intend to breed your dam, you must know the signs of this potentially life-threatening complication. Your bitch may have strong contractions for more than 30 minutes without delivering any puppies. She may strain for more than two hours and have no puppies. Green or black discharge for more than three hours with no puppies is another sign. If your bitch experiences dystocia, your vet will either administer oxytocin or carry out a C-section.


Catahoula Leopard Dogs are multi-purpose which opens them up to a large clientele. Not only is the breed a good family dog in some cases, but it also excels as a working dog. Consider if your puppies are most suitable for family or work life.

Registering your litters with the National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas (NALC) is a necessary step in your breeding program. Because your puppies cannot be registered with the AKC, registration with the UKC and NALC is important for preserving the breed and champion bloodlines. Registration is the only way to prove that your litters are purebred. Also, if the parents of your puppies have earned any UKC titles, it is important to mention these as well!


The price of a Catahoula puppy varies greatly. Pricing depends on the breeder’s location, litter size, bloodline, and reputation. The physical appearance of your puppies will matter less than their personality and working ability, so the markings of your litter should not affect pricing too drastically. While the average cost sits at around $400, a Catahoula puppy may cost anywhere from $100 to $1000. Puppies with superior and proven bloodlines fetch the highest prices. Those without working bloodlines typically cost less. Be sure to price your puppies accordingly.

price of catahoula leopards
The price of Catahoula Leopards varies.

How to Breed Catahoula Leopard Dogs – FAQs

Have any more questions about breeding Catahoula Leopard Dogs? Feel free to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions section for more details. If in doubt, always ask your vet for advice.

What breeds make up a Catahoula Leopard Dog?

The true lineage of the Catahoula is not entirely clear. Based on our current understanding of the breed’s history, Catahoulas may originate from Mastiffs, or “war dogs”, Greyhounds, and Beaucerons. Some suggest that the breed also has Bloodhound and Red Wolf lineage. The different talents and traits of each breed combine to create the Catahoula, an intelligent, independent, and energetic working breed.

Mastiffs and Greyhounds were used as war dogs by Spanish conquistadors. While the Mastiffs were responsible for brute attacks, the Greyhounds were speedy and made quick strikes. Perhaps the most important breed in the Catahoula’s ancestry is the Beauceron. The Beauceron is a French herding breed. It was bred to be calm, intelligent, and fearless whilst at work. Bloodhounds may have also made up the Catahoula’s ancestry. These large, gentle scenthounds were bred for hunting wild boar and deer. Finally, the red wolf is the last proposed animal to make up the Catahoula. Red wolves are shy and secretive canines that prefer to stay clear of human activity. Within their packs, red wolves are highly social and mate for life.

Are Catahoulas good family dogs?

Catahoula Leopard Dogs may or may not be suitable family dogs depending on several factors. Firstly, if you do not have time to interact with your dog, this breed may not be a good fit for you. Catahoula Leopard Dogs require a lot of attention. They also need a firm but patient trainer to level with their independence and intelligence. Because Catahoulas are independent, they can be more challenging to train than other breeds.

Secondly, what might not work for all families is the Catahoula’s protective tendencies. This can cause tension in some situations. As your Catahoula grows older, they may start to develop over-protective behavior as they decide that it is their responsibility to protect your family. Catahoulas can also become intolerant of other dogs, especially dogs of the same sex – this is something to consider if you already own a dog or intend to buy more in the future. You must be willing to commit to training and obedience classes to prevent future behavioral problems with the breed. As a working breed, Catahoulas often require a lot of stimulation. Once they become bored, Catahoulas may develop destructive behaviors to cope with the lack of mental stimulation. If you can commit to all of these needs, then a Catahoula may be right for you.

How many puppies do Catahoulas have?

Catahoula Leopard Dogs have 8 to 12 puppies in the average litter. However, numbers of up to 14 are also possible. To put this into perspective, the average English Bulldog will have 3 to 4 puppies per litter. In contrast, the average Labrador Retriever has 6 to 8 puppies per litter. The Catahoula’s large litters can lead to greater puppy losses, as is the trend for any large dog litter. There is a higher risk of losing puppies within the first few days so you must know the signs of fading puppy syndrome.

How much does a Catahoula Leopard Dog cost?

The cost of the Catahoula varies from $100 to $1,000 with an average price of $400. Their price ultimately depends on the individual dog’s bloodline, its NALC registration, and the breeder’s reputation and preferences.

Breeders who intend to sell their puppies to working homes may sell them for a higher price, as proven working lines tend to fetch a greater price. If a breeder intends to sell their puppies as family pets, the price is generally much lower, as the puppies may or may not have a working bloodline.

Did we explain how to breed Catahoula Leopard Dogs? If not, let’s recap. Any dam and sire should undergo health testing before pairing, and all litters benefit from NALC registration.

2 comments on “How To Breed Catahoula Leopard Dogs”

  1. Cindy Denham

    I have a male catahoula that I would like to have bred with a female catahoula,but they are a rare breed where I’m from.Is there anyone that could help me.Thanks.

    1. Kathryn E. Feltner

      I have a female 10-month-old. Where do you live and what testing has he undergone? Does he have a merle coat?

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