The Catahoula Leopard Dog
The breed's size ranges from 20-26" and weighs between 50-90 lbs, with a few individuals larger. Most males average 60-70 lbs in lean working condition and are about 24" tall. As a working dog, Catahoulas have been bred more for temperament and ability than for appearance. As a result, the physical characteristics of the Catahoula are somewhat varied.
Catahoulas Leopards have a single, short, dense coat in a variety of colors though they are mostly black, grey and white. These dogs are actually solid colored dogs that have been affected by the merle gene which dilutes a normally dark coat. This merle gene combines with solid colors to create merle patterns in patches of white and colored hairs intermingled with patches of solid colors.
Leopards with black coats will appear with patches of blue or gray. Likewise, Leopards with red and brown coats will appear with lighter patches of red or liver. This occurrence is referred to as a Leopard (Merle) colored dog. The merle gene does not normally affect the entire coat of the dog, but dilutes the color only in areas that are randomly selected by the gene. White coats are visually unaffected.
The texture of a Catahoula Leopard coat can be as varied as the colors and can be painted on coats, slick, coarse, or shaggy, wooly coats.
* Coarse coat: This coat is a little longer and fuller than others. They do not require that much maintenance, however, these dogs are not quick to dry when wet. These coats will often display "feathers" seen on the rear legs, tail, and undercarriage. Also they can be looked at as "fluffy"
* Slick coat: A slick, painted on coat is so slick and smooth that it appears as if the coat were painted on the dog and not hair at all. The hair is very short and lies very close to the body. These coats dry very rapidly, and because of this, the dog can be cleaned and ready in a matter of minutes and are often referred to as a "Wash n' Wear" coat.
* Wooly coat: Wooly, shaggy, and double coats are undesirable and will appear in some litters. At about 3 weeks of age, the coat will be longer and fuller and appear wooly. Most puppies will shed this for a coarse coat, however some will become double-coats. Some coats will maintain a length similar to that of a German Shepherd while others will maintain their shaggy appearance.
* Black: These are leopards least affected by the merle gene but will display smaller patches of blue or gray.
* Gray: Gray leopards are black where the coat has been diluted to appear gray.
* Tri-color: Leopards with three distinct visible colors usually white, black, and gray.
* Quad-color: These are Catahoulas with the varying body colorations and trim colors that help to designate the number of colors present on the dogs. Gray Leopards may be considered a Quad-color when White and Tan trim are included. This dog would display Black, Gray, White, usually around the neck, face, feet and tail, and Tan, which may also appear around the face and feet. Most Five colored dogs are actually misnamed Quad-colored dogs.
* Patchwork: These Leopards are predominantly white dogs with small amounts of solid and/or merle patches appearing throughout the coat. The colored patches may be black, or brown. Dilution may affect those colored patches and produce gray, blue, red, or liver coloration within them.
The breed may have "cracked glass" or "marbled glass" eyes (heterochromia) and occurs when both colored and glass portions are present in the same eye. Cracked or marbled eyes are blue or blue-white in color. Catahoulas with two cracked or marble glass eyes are often referred to as having double glass eyes. In some cases a glass eye will have darker colored sections in it and vice versa. Cracked eyes may be half of one color and half of another. They may just have a streak or spot of another color. Gray eyes are usually cracked eyes, made of blue and green, giving them their greyish appearance. The eyes may be of the same color or each of a different color. Eye color can also be ice blue, brown, green, gray, or amber. No particular eye color is typical of Catahoulas.
The tail of the Catahoula may be long and whip-like reaching past the hocks of the back legs or bobtail which is a tail that is one vertebra shorter than full length to only one vertebra in total length. The question mark tail is a common tail trait often with a white tip. The bobtail is a rare but natural part of the Catahoula Heritage.
Though most dogs have webbing between the toes, Catahoulas' feet have more prominent webbing which extends almost to the ends of the toes. This foot gives the Catahoula the ability to work marshy areas and gives them great swimming ability.