"A true hunting breed" - Part 1
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. I’ll explain further how this prey drive associates with the Catahoulas working drive:
The natural hunting behavior of a wolf is as follows:
Dissect and Eat
"A true hunting breed" - Part 2
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. Many Catahoulas will go through all phases, including 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 then “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, (see Working Style) 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.
"A true hunting breed" - Part 3
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.
In short, the prey-drive of a Catahoula as a hunting dog far exceeds that of a herding breed, so to refer to the Catahoula (or any Cur breed for that matter) as a herding dog is incorrect and a misrepresentation of the breed. The correct terminology would be to call them a “cattle working dog”, a “bay dog”, or a “stock dog”.
It is possible to tone this prey drive down and keep control over it. There are Catahoulas who have succeeded in getting their sheep herding titles or Catahoulas that will retrieve, but this takes quite a bit of control over your dog and the suppression of the natural instincts they were born with. If your Catahoula lives in areas where there are many smaller type dogs or cats and must co-exist peaceful with them, then it is more advisable that your dog not be allowed to hunt to it’s full potential as this could naturally then be directed towards animals that your dog should NOT hunt. It is also a good idea to social with your Catahoula with smaller type dogs when they are young.
"Bobtail Cur Breeds"
Most of the Cur breeds have and are allowed a natural bobtail within their various standards. The following is a list of many of the breeds.
Black Mouth Cur - The tail can be quite lengthy. Many are born with a short tail or have a docked tail. The tail is set on low and may be any length.
Canadian Cur - The tail is set low and either naturally bobbed or of any length.
Kemmer Stock Mountain Cur - Preferred natural bob or bobbed but full length with high carriage is permitted History tells us that there are have been short tail dogs in Georgia since Oglethorp brought his jailed criminals to settle there. When settlers moved down the Appalachian Mts. they found these natural short tail dogs. They have been around ever since. Although there are some breeds of cur dogs that have long tails. This in no way makes a dog better or worse. Our breed standard says that tail length should be natural bob or bobbed but full length not objectionable. Breed for ability first and always.
Leopard Cur - The tail is set on low and may be any length.
Mountain View Cur - Natural bob or docked preferred. Docking should leave enough tail to have a handle when grown.
Mountain Cur - The tail is set low and either naturally bobbed or of medium length.
Treeing Cur - Tails -Any length
"Bobtail Facts - Part 1"
The bobtail trait is inherited as a dominant gene. Only one bobtail parent is required in order for bobtail pups to be whelped. On average, when breeding 1 bobtail parent and 1 longtail parent, 50% of the pups in the litter will have a bobtail. The bobtail gene can not be inherited as “homozygous”. Meaning that a bobtail dog can not carry two bobtail genes (one inherited from each parent). The bobtail gene is inherited as “heterozygous”. Meaning that a bobtail dog has 1 bobtail gene and 1 longtail gene. Therefore when breeding two bobtail dogs together, there will still be both longtail and bobtail pups in the resulting litter. On average there should be 50% bobtail pups with this breeding. The bobtail gene in Catahoulas (as with most other Cur breeds) has a “variable expression”, meaning that the length of the bobtail can range from a very short stub to a ¾ length tail, although on the average the bobtail is from 1 – 3” in length. A longtail dog from a bobtail parent will not produce any bobtail pups when bred to another longtail dog. If a pup does not inherit a bobtail gene from a parent then the trait is forever lost in that pup...it can not be passed on as a “recessive” trait.
"Bobtail Facts - Part 2
Out of eight associations, only the NALC faults the natural bobtail. The Animal Research Foundation was the first to register the Catahoula in 1951. The bobtail dogs have always been included in their standard. Note: Mr. Vernon Traxler was the first to registered a bobtail Catahoula with the ARF. Mr. Traxler - “Traxler Catahoulas” had been breeding bobtail Catahoulas since 1944. His first bobtail Catahoula was acquired in a trade with the Indians at Three Rivers, south of Jonesville, LA - a yellow, glass eyed female. When the NALC started up in 1975, the bobtail trait was not faulted. This fault did not come into effect until 1985. In 1995 the standard was revised to make the bobtail a serious fault. Most Cur breeds have the natural bobtail trait. This trait is accepted by the various Cur breed clubs and organizations.
"Registries and Standards" - Part 1
The ARF - (American Research Foundation - first registering body of the Catahoula) recognizes both the longtail and the bobtail Catahoula, stating in their standard that “A natural bobtail is not uncommon, and is recognized as part of this unique breed."
The ACA - (American Catahoula Assoc.) recognizes the natural bobtail Catahoula, stating in their standard that - “The tail should have a medium to high set. Natural bob-tails occur occasionally and this trait shall not be penalized."
The LCCA - (Lousiana Catahoula Cur Assoc.) est. 1976, also recognizes the bobtail dogs. Their standard reads - “Natural bob-tails occur on occasion in the breed and should not be penalized” and “TAIL: Natural length, if that is full length or any other length that is natural.”
The CCBA - (Catahoula Cur Breeders Assoc.) recognizes a natural bobtail.
"Registries and Standards" - Part 2
The UKC (United Kennel Club) - When the UKC started their “Cur & Feist” program in 1995 they adopted the NALC standard for the Catahoula, including listing the natural bobtail as a “serious fault”. In 2000 the trait was changed to a “fault”. The UKC has recently revised their Catahoula standard effective Jan, 1, 2008 - the bobtail will no longer be faulted. The new standard will read - · The tail is a natural extension of the topline. It is thicker at the base, and tapers to the tip. Natural bob tails are permitted, but not preferred. The natural bob tail, regardless of length, will taper in width from base to tip. A full length tail may be carried upright with the tip curving forward when the dog is moving or alert. When the dog is relaxed, the tail hangs naturally, reaching to the hock joint. Catahoulas should be allowed to carry their tails naturally when being shown. Exhibitors should not hold tails upright. Faults: Ring tail; docked tail. Disqualification: Complete absence of a tail (no external coccygeal vertebrae evident.)
NSDR - (National Stock Dog Registry) Bobtail, docked tail, or long tail accepted.
"Registries and Standards" - Part 3
NALC - When the NALC - (National Association of the Louisiana Catahoula) was established in 1977, the specifics of the standard did not fault a natural bobtail. However, in 1984 a vote was held on this matter. Any Catahoula breeders certified with them at this time were eligible to vote. It was decided that the bobtail would now be considered a fault. In 1995 the NALC standard was revised to state that the bobtail was a “serious fault”; there was no vote on this change. Being that the NALC has grown to become the largest and most widely spread Catahoula registry, the bobtail Catahoulas have greatly declined in numbers. The preservation of the bobtail Catahoula is very important as their history traces back to the beginning of the Catahoula breed! To lose this would be like losing a part of the breed itself.
“Hot-nosed” Hunter - Catahoulas will track scents that have recently been laid, approximately within the last hour or so, sometimes as long as 2 hours before. If they are working an older track they will however leave it if they find a scent more recent and continue to track that, or if they air scent a critter that is near-by. In other words, they will track the hottest scent they can find to the closest critter!! (This is very different to many hounds, who are “cold-nosed” hunters, tracking scents that may be many, many hours old.)
“Closed” On Trail - Or silent. They do not have a continuous bark while tracking, but may give off an excited bark or two upon hitting a track and then are silent until the prey is bayed-up or treed, when they will start to bark. (Some hunters do prefer a dog that is open on track, so that they can follow the sound and know which direction the dog has headed)
“Short Ranged” - Catahoulas will stay within a reasonably close proximity to their owners while they are hunting. My dogs are rarely gone for more then 10 minutes without checking back in with me.....one of the traits that I love about them.
“Ground Scenting or Air Scenting” - a Catahoula is quite adept at either following scents on the ground and following scents on air currents.
“Large or Small Game” - They will hunt any type of game - squirrel, coon, bobcat, bear, hog, cougar, deer....etc. With some training they can be “trash broke” to hunt mainly what the hunter wants to and not the nearest game in sight!
“Hog Dog” - they make an excellent hog baying dog in the woods. Baying a hog to a stand still and holding them there until their owner arrives. A dog that “bays loose” or gives the hog room is less likely to be injured then a dog that “bays tight”. The “tight baying” is looked for more in the bay pen at shows.
“Tree Dog” - Catahoulas are excellent treeing dogs. After treeing a squirrel or coon, they will “bay treed” until their owner arrives.