Versatility - Traditional and Non-traditional uses
the catahoula was developed to be the all around, get it all done dog
that helped settle this country. Back then, a family couldn't
afford to feed one dog that brought the cows in, another to trail game,
and yet another to protect the homestead. The catahoula filled
all those roles.
breed developed when livestock were turned loose to fend for
themselves, then were rounded up for market or branding. People
from the bayous eked out a living from fishing, trapping, and running a
few wild hogs and cattle back in the woods. This stock was wild and
unruly, living off acorns and berries, not seeing humans only very
rarely. The hogs, particularly, were nearly impossible to drive.
They would turn on most herding dogs and fight rather than run. The
Catahoulas were essential to gathering and penning the pigs, and their
herding techniques are described by H. Ellen Whiteley, DVM in her
article "Catahoula Hog Dog Brings Back Memories of Home." Stragglers
were picked out by the dogs and forced into a "fight." Distressed
screams from the enraged boar brought the other hogs, especially the
lead boar, to the rescue with champing jaws and raised back-bristles.
The dogs then turned and ran, escaping the slashing tusks, just fast
enough to tantalize the hogs into continuing the chase, which soon led
directly into the waiting hog pens. The Catahoula deftly jumped the
back fence, and the hogs were trapped! Good dogs were worth their
weight in gold. A natural selection of breeding stock occurred, since
inept or slow specimens rarely made it through the first year of work.
Eventually, this herding style was adapted for cattle.
Brief Description of the Competition Bay
Hog Dog Trials are built around what once was totally a wood's experience.
Hog hunters would gather their dogs, usually a pack and head for the
nearest branch or where they knew the hogs were spending the nights.
They usually had two or three dogs that were good at trailing the hogs,
finding them and then baying them," said Cindy Sneed, a journalist with
Bayed Solid, the magazine that co-produces the annual contest. "When the dogs located
the hogs, cornered them and had them standing still, a hunter would say the dogs
were 'bayed solid'."
There are five judges of each event with four above the action and one in the
center of the arena. The judges look at how quickly the dogs bay the hogs,
whether the dog stays completely focused on the hog, how close each dog stands,
and other criteria. They uses a ten point rule. The highest and lowest score are
dropped and the remaining three averaged out to get a dog's score. Actual physical
contact between dog and hog is discouraged and can be a disqualification.
The A Bay is live contact between the dogs and hog. In the B-Bay a fence seperates the dogs from the hog
other herding dog breeds, Catahoulas are "Headers" and are used for
herding cattle and sheep by a method of agitation and intimidation of
herd animals as opposed to the method of all day boundary patrol and
resticting the animals being herded from entering of leaving the
Hunting - The
hunting catahoula roots go back to the inception of the breed and the
need to put food on the table. Today, catahoulas are used to hunt and
trail many types of animals; raccoon, deer, bear, coyote. The Catahoula has the inert ability to detect a specific scent, categorize it, and
recall it to memory.
The catahoula is predisposed to air scent, locating the scent on
the air and moving in a directly to the source of the scent. A
desirable trait as the quickest path is taken to reach it's
destination. Unlike hounds, the catahoula is hot nosed in that it
will discriminate between the freshest scent and choose the most recent
scent path to follow. Also unlike hounds, the catahoula typically
tracks it's quarry with a closed mouth, not opening up to bay
until on or near the quarry.
Catahoulas today often
particpate in treeing competions, where, like the hog bay, the dog is
judged on it'd dedication to the to raccoon, it's baying
technique, with a bonus for the handler being able to call the dog out.
Raccoons are caged in this competion, and there is no contact
between the animals.
More modern uses: Today the inherited talents of the catahoula have found
this breed in a wide array of work and service. From SAR, Arson, Water
Recovery, Therepy and Service Dog. Perhaps the first person who
considered the catahoula for SAR work was Don Abney of Abney
Catahoulas. In 1989 Abney's Ladyhawke started her service dog career
and went on to certify in: Wilderness I, II, III, Water, Cadaver,
Building, Articles, Urban, and Narcotic searches.
Today Ladyhawke is in good company as a number of Catahoulas have
joined her in earning thier service dog titles and certification.
Pictured below is Abney's Blue Gunner, owned and trained by Stephanie
Walsh-Bunny of Jetta Catahoulas. Gunner is certified in Trailing, Land Cadaver, Water Recovery, Building
Searches. He is seen below searching for human remains at fire scene.
Of course it's a natural that Catahoulas would also show up across the
country in every dog sport imaginable. From Agility and Flyball,
Obedience and Rally, even Dock Diving. The catahoula can excell
at it all!
Special Thanks to the following individuals for allowing me to use thier photos:
Cathy Vega and
Gold River Catahoulas
Tori Earls and
J. Cross Catahoula
Stephanie Walsh-Bunny and Jetta Catahoulas