Written by Cat's Cradle Catahoulas

The hunting and working instinct of the Catahoula are really one and the same. It can be difficult to explain how a breed can be both a hunting dog and a cattle dog, but I will do my best to clarify this.

A Catahoula is not a “herding” breed. When they are working cattle, they are using their prey drive. With a true herding breed, such as the Collie, they “stalk”, (still a part of the prey drive) but their natural predatory aggression has been inhibited through selective breeding so they no longer have the desire to pounce, grab and kill that all canine descendants once had.

Many hunting breeds still have a high predatory aggression. Although in a sense this is not “aggression” at all, in compared with Social/Dominance Aggression or Fear Aggression. Predatory aggression is a natural survival-related behavior. It is not vicious, malicious or vindictive nor is it preceded by a mood change or threatening gestures, as when we think of other types of aggression. Therefore it is more appropriately referred to as predatory drive or prey drive. Catahoulas have an intense hunting instinct. Remember: all dogs are predators.

I’ll explain further how this prey drive associates with the Catahoula’s working drive: 

The natural hunting behavior of a wolf is as follows:
●  Stalk ●  Chase ●  Pounce ●  Grab-Bite ●  Kill-Bite/Shake ●  Dissect and Eat

The “working” nature of most breeds uses these traits to various degrees to achieve the required result in that breed. ●  Herding breeds – “Stalk” ●  Pointing breeds have a more inhibited “stalk” ●  Retrieving breeds have a “chase” + inhibited “grab/bite”

Some breeds will go through the entire sequence of wolf type hunting, but stop short of actually dissecting and eating the animal.

Since the Catahoula as a breed is more primitive psychologically, many Catahoulas will go through all phases, many times while hunting this includes the eating of the meal they have just caught. 

This is why they do not make a good retriever, their predatory drive is too high. They do not have a soft mouth and rather than “retrieving” the bird will, in most cases proceed to keep it away from their owner and eat it.

They do not make a good sheepherding dog, because they do not stop at the “stalk” phase as most herding breeds are required to. They are too tough for sheep and if given the chance would continue on with hunting the creature instead of herding it.

Cattle and hogs are much tougher adversaries for the Catahoula and although the in proper terminology, they are working/baying these animals, they are in effect “hunting” them, putting into use their high prey drive. Catahoulas and other Cur breeds are well-known for their ability to locate cattle in brush or wooded areas, tracking or trailing them using scent, in other words....hunting. They are also effective at holding livestock until their master commands them to make the next move, essentially holding the cow at bay. When a rancher is looking for that perfect cow or stock dog in a Catahoula, they need to evaluate the hunting ability of the dog. Catahoulas bay cattle in much the same way that they hunt and bay hogs, so to say that a Catahoula is “herding cattle” is incorrect.

Catahoulas, being a Cur breed, have a very distinctive style of working cattle. Different from the other breeds that we think of when thinking of a cattle or stock dog, as an example –

●  Border Collie ●  Hangin’ Tree Cow Dog ●  Australian Kelpie

These breeds can be seen more as “heelers”, they will move cattle in the general direction indicated, working from behind the cattle, “driving” them forward, and have higher “stalk” traits.

The Catahoula, being a “bay” dog, their natural instinct is to stop the cattle and hold them in a group or bunch. To keep them from moving, holding them at “bay”, until the owner arrives. In order to accomplish this, a Catahoula will work from the front, in “header” fashion, barking and moving in a semi-circle face to face with the animal. If there is a need to put pressure on an animal to stop, the dog may bite at the nose area quickly, for a split second, but should never “hang” on. The true Catahoula style is not that of a “catch” dog. A Catahoula will naturally make a wide circle around any cattle in sight to gather them into a herd. After the cattle have settled, the owner can then start to push or move the cattle from behind, while the dogs cover the area in front of the herd to quell any thoughts of escape.

Although an excellent cattle dog, Catahoulas are not a herding breed. A Catahoula is a hunting dog at heart and their working ability is an offshoot of that same instinct.

The American Bulldog - A Brief History

About The Catahoula Bulldog

Written by: Joshua Kennels, in part by Lemmuel Miller

 If you study the history of the bulldog you will find there are many different views and opinions. However, a careful look at any of the paintings and prints of bullbaiting during the 1700 - 1800's you will see basically the same dog that is now called the American (Performance) Bulldog. This name has only in the past 30 years or so been used to separate it from other strains of bulldogs and terriers. Prior to that time this same bulldog was called, White English, Ol' Country White, Southern Catch Dog, Ol' Time Bulldog and just Bulldog. The American Bulldog for the most part migrated to the southern states, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Carolina's. In this area the bulldog proliferated in the 1 800 - 1900's.

In the state of Florida (of which my family has lived for 6 generations) cowboys known as "CRACKERS" (a term given because of their use of long bullwhips which they would crack over the heads of cattle) would use these bulldogs to help head and drive the cattle through the flat woods and swamps of Florida. These cattle now known as "CRACKER CATTLE" still a pure breed of cattle in Florida, were very wild, so a tough, hard dog was needed in order to herd these cattle and keep them bunched up. The way this was done, when cattle would break and run the cowboy would send his bulldog on the cow and the bulldog would catch the cow by the nose or ear and toss the cow. When the bulldog was called off, the bulldog would drive the cow back to their herd and the bulldog would then circle and bay the herd while the "Crackers" would push the cattle on horse back from behind to the desired location. Written records of this Southern Bulldog are indeed rare, however, stories of legend proportion were widely told. Stories of confrontation with bear, wild cats, coyotes, wild hogs etc. were passed down from generation to generation.

It should be noted that the American Bulldogs were and are genuinely used as working and hunting dogs, which produced the reputation of being true stock dogs. The farmer would use these bulldogs not only for cattle but also to catch and hold wild hogs in order to mark the hog, (usually a notch in the hogs ear) to declare ownership. . No breed of dog is more adept at this type work than the American (Performance) Bulldog. It is one of the very few breeds that has the speed, power and tenacity to consistently catch and hold a bad boar hog.  These same qualities known as "Bulldog Tenacity" are prerequisites for success in Schutzhund, ring sport and protection training. (Schutzhund and ring sport are the two most demanding systems by which protection dogs are tested for breeding qualities.) These qualities also ensure a healthier, longer living companion.


National Catahoula Bulldog Registry

The Catahoula Bulldog is a hybrid breed that originated over 100 years ago in the southern United States.  The hybrid is formed by crossing the Catahoula Leopard dog and the American Bulldog specifically.  The cross is not meant to harm or change either breed, but to combine two well suited breeds to gain certain characteristics that you may not get by leaving them separate.  They were originally produced for their strong working abilities including hunting, finding and working stock and protection/farm utility.  

In 1951 Mr Stodghill of the Animal Research Foundation first began registration of the hybrid "Catahoula Bulldogs" thus coining this term and beginning their public recognition.  Only the American Bulldog is used in this specific hybrid, not other types of bulldog or molossoid breeds. 

Herding Dog?  The Working Style of Catahoulas

The Catahoula Bulldog is a medium to large dog that is an athletic, non-bulky, free breathing and versatile working dog.  They are protective, loyal companions and working partners with a high eagerness to please.  They are an animated and personable dog, often times vocal.  Generally the Catahoula Bulldog possesses the intelligence, endurance and prey drive of the Catahoula while being slightly heavier bodied with a more robust skull, strong jaw and even temperament.  Aloofness towards strangers is not uncommon however they should never be outwardly aggressive to people or other animals unless provoked.  

The Catahoula Bulldog should generate the impression of strength, agility and endurance while exhibiting a well-knit, sturdy, compact frame with the absence of excessive bulk.  Males are typically larger, more masculine appearing than females.  The Catahoula Bulldog has a short smooth coat which comes in a wide variety of colors ranging from any solid, leopard, patched, brindle or any combination of these.  Their eyes may be any color or combination of colors (cracked or marbled) in one or both eyes.  Tails can be long, docked, or naturally bobbed in any length with no preference.  Their weight should be proportionate to the body type and size thus giving the dog a smooth and balanced appearance.  Males generally range from 21-26" at the shoulder and 50-100lbs.  Females range from 20-25" at the shoulder and 45-90lbs.