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Nuova Fattoria




Since my first litter of catahoula leopard dogs was born in Europe in 2000, I have tried to hand over all my experience with this breed to new owners. At the beginning, my knowledge was poor and it was not so easy for me to obtain more information from abroad, therefore my advices were corresponding to my own experience. My long-term goal is to produce healthy offsprings of perfect conformation and good working ability. However, it is not possible to achieve it without a good knowledge and respect to basic genetic rules.

After some time, we have realized that not all breeders from the country of origin can be our teachers, because they already have got problems resulting from irresponsible and thoughtless breeding. Recently I have received a booklet written by Mr. Tom Stogdhill, the American breeder and farmer, who established Animal Research Foundation (ARF) and was the first, who registered catahoulas as a breed. This happened almost 25 years before NALC was established. Mr. Stodghill found out basic principles which should be taken into account when breeding catahoulas, the same ones as we did many years later supported by recent research of canine genetics. His work and ideas are respectfull even now, particularly those concerning catahoula breeding and working cattle. Unfortunately, they became almost forgotten when NALC became probably the most powerful organization in this breed. This registry seems to associate mainly recent breeders and owners, who do not use their dogs for working cattle but rather as a rare breed with interesting coloration. Therefore the demands for working ability or health of dogs are not so strict as they were in Mr. Stodghill's time. He was a great observer and his common sense helped him to find useful rules and to take right decisions in his breeding policy.

Now in America, there is also a fashion to produce catahoulas preferentially in interesting merle colors. However, it brings a great danger of genetic faults that are bound to a presence of merle gene. Fortunately, it seems that a number of reasonable breeders is growing. They call for more responsible breeding and they try to explain basic genetic rules for such a breeding to wider public.

But back to the Czech Republic. When I summarized and evaluated the results of my own breeding programme, I have started to ask for changes in our breeding practices to avoid mistakes, which were already made abroad. However, my opinion was not welcome by all our breeders. Some of them pointed out that "Americans do know the best how to breed" or "they make their own linies". But for me it means only two things that I am not willing to support. First, it is the production of solely merle colored dogs, which increases a number of deaf individuals in the whole population. Second, it is inbreeding (both true inbreeding and line-breeding) that increases the danger of genetic diseases and generally lowers the stamina of the breed.

From above mentioned, the breeders in Czechia could be divided into two groups. One of them seems to involve responsible people, who want to breed well and according to basic genetic principles and rules. I regard highly those breeders. One of the participants of our gathering in Brno, Mr. Zoltán Tatarko, the vet from Slovakia, wrote me: "Concerning the people on the gathering - I was surprised by such a variety of owner's characters but also by a certain internal unity of this group. I think that leopards are in good hands and you should not cease your guiding them. Those dogs, but also those people are worthy of it!" What else to say.

Bellow you can find data that concern all our litters or litters sired by our males. Both parents are marked for their color, i.e. S = solid, non-carrier of the merle gene; M = merle or patchwork color, the merle gene carrier. Table gives the number of pups alive in a litter, a number of males (m) and females (f), and a number of double merle colored ones. In fact, this is not a fault excluding a pup from further breeding, nevertheless, it is limiting for a choice of further partner as only solid colored should be used. Other columns give numbers of more serious faults that are excluding from breeding. Over or undershot bites belong among excluding faults. Incomplete number of teeth is not shown in our table, because it is not mentioned by the breed standard although the full dentition is preferable. Moreover, it is very difficult to get those information from new owners. The missing data or data on following litters will be updated.

The state is evaluated until January 21, 2009 and it is following: from the total amount of pups (161), solid black Cat's Cradle Car sired 55, and merle gene carrier, Crawdad's Toledo sired 83, and solid red Windridge's Trapper 14. None was double merle or deaf after Car or Trapper. Eleven double merle was born after Toledo and Hanibal Šumící křídla from merle dams most of them males, four of them were diagnosed for bilateral deafness, one unilateral deafness. It means ca 45 % of double merles were affected, but only 4.8 % from all after Toledo, and even less (3.1 %) from the whole number of pups including those after Car and Trapper.

Overshot bite was found in 3 pups, one after Car and two after Toledo, none after Trapper. If calculated per total amount of pups after each of them, then it is 1:1, but pups sired by Toledo had Car as grandsire. Total is ca 2 % of the whole population. The same is valid for hooked tail, i.e. three pups were affected (2 %). In two cases, the dam was So Slough's Kathy, in one she was granddam.

Hip dysplasia testing (DKK)

The majority of our imported dogs has been already hip dysplasia tested, most of them later than in 2 years of their age. The only non-tested catahoula in our breeding programme is So. Slough's Kathy, who left us in her 10 years (December 30, 2008). Unfortunately, she was probably the carrier of a worse hip quality, because worse HD results were detected in some of her offsprings. Hip dysplasia evaluation was done according to CZ evaluation system (DKK), which is comparable with FCI HD evaluation (i.e. DKK 0/0 = HD A; DKK 1/1 = HD B; DKK 2/2 = HD C; DKK 3/3 = HD D; DKK 4/4 = HD E). It is difficult to compare it accurately with OFA evaluation, but it seems that a real dysplastic hips start at DKK worse than 2/2 (ca OFA fair).

Inbreeding coefficient (IC)

according to Wright shows the degree of relationship between parents within pedigree and it can vary from 0 to 100 %. It has been calculated for our imported dogs and for all litters after them from their five generation pedigree. Ideal IC is zero, acceptable values of IC should be ca 3 %. FCI allows maximum IC = 10 % for rare breeds. Fortunately, most of our litters fullfil such a criteria although two of our imported dogs exceed such a permitted level of IC.

Comparison with the world and other Czech kennels
We could not find any statistics like this among American breeders. But if you ask personally, then you can get some information. The most interesting and the most accessible are numbers of double merle individuals or deaf, the other faults are not followed. The most important is that ca 50 % of double merle puppies are unilaterally or bilaterally deaf. Eye faults, higher sensitivity to food or to other environmental factors often occur in excessive white individuals. This is in agreement with our results.

Corresponding data from other Czech kennels has not been published, but the number of double merle pups could be estimated from pictures of respective litters. The number of deaf pups is not known, but some of them were proved to be deaf.

Our table summarizes a situation at this moment. The more litters the more precise results we can get. As hip dysplazia is also one of the negative traits found in this breed, we have started also a routine checking of our dogs. The statistics and results of x-rays evaluations will be presented soon.

Author :
RNDr. Helena Synková CSc.
Ing. Gerhard Stein


© 2008 | Marek Macola