The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog is a “Cur” dog…once referred to as the “Catahoula Cur” (among other names such as the Catahoula Cow Dog, Catahoula Leopard Stock Dog.) The Cur part of the name was dropped in 1979 when the Catahoula became the official State Dog of Louisiana. (July, 9, 1979 House Bill #75)
A quick look in the dictionary will show us that cur means a mangy mongrel or a crossbred dog. However over the past century the usage of the word has come to have a different meaning. A Cur is a type, group, or family of dog. (i.e. – Hound, Terrier, Feist, etc)
After many years of petitioning the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, in Nov, 2006 they have agreed to review the meaning of the word Cur and will considering adding another meaning. This could still take years, but it’s a great start that the word has been added to their files for revision!!
There are many different purebred Cur breeds –
Black Mouth Cur
Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog
More information on these breeds can be seen on the UKC website.
The Cur breeds were developed in remote and rural parts of the Southern United States. Most of the early American settlers who utilized a Cur breed of dog were not well off and so out of necessity they required a dog that could serve multiple purposes: hunter, family guardian and stock dog; a multi-purpose hunting and working dog with a strong spirit and stamina. These dogs played an important role in the everyday lives of their owners; protecting farm and family, working various livestock and hunting to help put food on the table.
Cur breeds were developed first and foremost for their performance, with their working instinct being the first factor a breeder would consider. A medium to medium-large sized, short coated dog, they are powerfully built, but yet fast and agile while trailing in rough terrain and swampy areas. A hard hunter that finds game using both ground and wind scenting. They are equally capable of hunting small game such as squirrel and raccoon or big game such as bear and cougar. They have a strong treeing instinct on all game and will also hold at bay larger game such as feral hogs or cattle on the ground.
While hunting on track they can be either silent, semi-open or open, depending on the breed and what the breeder/hunter prefers in his dogs. They are mainly a hot nosed dog, only following a scent that is strong and has been laid recently. When a hot track is not immediately available, many Cur breeds will circle wide areas or cold tracks until a hot track is located and can be followed, then leaving the track when their quarry is sighted.
They are intelligent, with a strong desire to please. Known as a courageous hunter that can stand their ground against formidable prey, they also make excellent companions and watch dogs as they are affectionate, very loyal and protective of their owner and family.
Even though individual Cur breeds have been around as purebreds since the early 1900's, many were not officially recognized with their own breed club until the 1950's because most of the breeders that owned these dogs were working people who were interested mainly in a working dog and not in registration papers.
(I once stopped in at a coffee shop and had a few of my dogs in the back of the van. An older gentleman stopped me, thrilled to see that I had Cur dogs with me and then proceeded to tell me stories of his childhood in Virginia with his own cur dogs.)
Because the Catahoula is a hunting dog they are sometimes confused or grouped together with the hound group. Being a Cur dog though, they do vary in their hunting methods as compared to a hound.
A few of the differences –
A Catahoula is silent on track, only baying when it’s prey is treed or bayed, where most hounds are open (bark) on track.
A Catahoula is hot-nosed (will only track a recent scent) where most hounds are cold-nosed (tracking a scent that is quite old.)
A Catahoula is short-ranged (will not trail far for it’s prey) where many hounds will go for miles and miles, sometimes being gone half a day on a track.
While an excellent hunter, a Catahoula will also work or bay cattle, something that most hounds can not do.
A Catahoula is protective of its family, while most hounds do not show this trait.