Dr. Jim is proud to share his June 2015 rare sighting of a wild Red Wolf in rural Mississippi. There are less than 100 of these Red Wolf ancestors of the Catahoula existing naturally in the wild.
The foundation of the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog was developed through chance breeding by the Indians who used their “Red Wolf” dogs to locate game. When Hernando DeSoto came into Louisiana he brought with him Greyhound and Mastiff “War Dogs”. These two types of dogs mixed with the Indian’s Red Wolf. The Mastiff type of dog that accompanied DeSoto was probably the dog known as the “Alano Mastiff” of Spain is now extinct.
Defeated by the Indians, DeSoto abandoned his War Dogs allowing those dogs to roam freely and interbreed with each other along with the indigenous Red Wolf. The mixed blood dogs were used by the Indians for hunting and became known as the “Wolf Dog.” In the early 1700s, the French had arrived in Louisiana and interbred their dogs with the Indians’ Wolf Dog. These four canines formed the foundation bloodstock of the Catahoula of today.
The name “Catahoula” research has established comes from a mispronunciation or slurring of the word “Couthaougoula” which means Choctaw Indian. Today three old main lines of Catahoula dogs remain in existence. The interbreeding of these three main lines is responsible for today’s variation in the Catahoulas size, conformation, eye color, and hair coat colors. Ranchers seem to prefer the smaller slighter-built conformation while many hunters prefer a dog with heavier larger conformation.
Stories surrounding the Catahoula dog begin around the 1850s. Those narratives let us know what a great hunting and companion dog the Catahoula has been for hundreds of years. In the development of the Catahoula dog if a dog did not work or perform and function as needed on the farm or earn its keep that dog was set aside. During the early centuries of improvement, these dogs were rigorously culled solely on the basis of their performance leaving only the best of the best Catahoulas remaining to work and reproduce.