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Versatility - Traditional and Non-traditional uses

Traditionally 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.

Herding/Baying -   The 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. Courtesy of J Cross Catahoulas

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


Courtesy of J Cross Cataholas J Cross Catahoula, Mr. Twister

Unlike 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 designated area.
Tumbling Run's High Hopes
Tumbling Run's Xena

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.
J Cross Checkers
J Cross Slinky
J Cross Slinky and J Cross Checkers

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.

Abney's Blue Gunner, Courtesy of Jetta Catahoulas
Abney's Blue Gunner, Courtesy of Jetta Catahoulas
Abney's Blue Gunner, Courtesy of Jetta Catahoulas

Dog Sports:   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!
Flyball    Jetta's Indigo Blue
Flyball   Jetta's Indigo Blue
Agility    Jetta's Indigo Blue

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