One theory as to the origins of the breed states that the Catahoula is thought to have descended from “war dogs” (Mastiffs and Greyhounds) brought to Louisiana by Hernando de Soto in the 16th century. Dogs left behind by the explorer’s party were interbred by the local natives with their domestic dogs.
The idea that Native Americans bred their dogs with or from red wolves is not supported by recent DNA work. Several recent studies, have looked at the remains of prehistoric dogs from American archaeological sites and each has indicated that the genetics of prehistoric American dogs are similar to European and Asian domestic dogs rather than wild New World canids. In fact, these studies indicate that Native Americans brought several lines (breeds) of already domesticated dogs with them on their journeys from Asia to North America.
There is a plethora of published sources detailing the domestic dogs found in prehistoric archaeological sites. Clearly, the red wolf was not the only canid located in the Mississippi River Valley before the arrival of Europeans. There were also foxes and grey wolves as well as various domesticated Native American breeds.
In the 1800s, French settlers arrived in Louisiana with their Beauceron. They told of strange looking dogs with haunting glass eyes that were used by the Indians to hunt game in the swamp.It is thought the Beauceron and Red Wolf/war dog were interbred to produce the Catahoula.
It`s incorrect that the word ‘Catahoula’ is actually a combination of two Choctaw words ‘okhata’, meaning lake, and ‘hullo’, meaning beloved. The word Catahoula actually comes from the Taensa Indians! Couthaougoula means by the Lake or Lake people. Later the French transformed these Indian words for their own nation, ‘Couthaougoula’ was pronounced ‘Coot-ha-oo-goo-la’.(Reneè Jackson)
Jim Bowie and brother Rezin Bowie, who spent much of their youth in Catahoula Parish are reported to have owned a pair of Catahoulas. It was said that they would sleep with a Catahoula at their feet.During the early 1900s, Teddy Roosevelt used the Catahoula when hunting. Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long had an interest in the breed and collected them. This interest was recognized by an annual competition known as Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials.
In 1979, Governor Edwin Edwards signed a bill making the Catahoula the official state dog of Louisiana in recognition of their importance in the history of the region.
In 2007, the Catahoula was voted to be the school mascot for Centenary College of Louisiana.
The Catahoula Bloodlines
* The Wright line: The Wright Line was the largest line of Catahoulas at 90 to 110 pounds (40 to 50 kg) and were developed by Mr. Preston Wright. This line represented dogs originally produced from Hernando de Soto’s dogs.
* The Fairbanks line: The Fairbanks line was the next in size at 65 to 75 pounds (30 to 35 kg) and were developed by Mr. Lovie Fairbanks. They were brindle to yellow in color.
* The McMillin line: The McMillin line was the smallest in size at 50 to 60 pounds (about 25 kg) and were developed by Mr. T. A. McMillin of Sandy Lake, Louisiana. These were Blue Leopard dogs with glass eyes.
These three lines were crossed back and forth and created the variations of Catahoulas seen today.