Catahoula Leopard Dog Colors: Rarest to Most Common

Catahoula leopard playing ball in the water
© otsphoto/

Written by Erica Scassellati

Published: January 8, 2024

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As its name suggests, the Catahoula leopard dog is known for its distinctive coat patterns. These beautiful dogs have short fur and are well-muscled and agile. They were originally bred in Louisiana to track and drive wild hogs.

Today these dogs make great companions for experienced dog owners. Catahoula leopard dogs come in a variety of colors and often have unique-looking eyes, making them eye-catching creatures. This breed also frequently contains merle or brindle patterned coats. Today we will be looking at colors and patterns in this dog breed recognized by the American Kennel Club, from rarest to most common.

#1 Solid Red

Red merle Catahoula Leopard Dog running agility course on outside competition during sunny summer time.Smart, working and obedient short coated Catahoula Leopard Dog doing agility hurdle

Solid red Catahoula leopard dogs are very rare, though the red merle variation (seen above) is much more common.


As we’ll discuss in this article, Catahoula leopard dogs aren’t typically one solid color. Even when they are technically solid, they often present small splashes of color (such as white) on their face, legs, or chest.

While it’s quite common for this breed to display a coat with a reddish brown leopard print pattern and patches of solid color (known as red merle), completely solid red Catahoula leopard dogs are actually one of the rarest colorations for this breed.

#2 Yellow Merle

Catahoula Leopard Dog puppy playing with stick at beach

Yellow merle is a rarer color pattern in Catahoula leopard dogs.


Merle is a genetic pattern common in breeds such as border collies, Great Danes, and Catahoula leopard dogs. According to the American Kennel Club, the merle coloration is the result of an ancient genetic mutation, which is the same in every breed.

Unfortunately, this mutation can cause health problems, such as hearing loss and microphthalmia (abnormally small eyes). The merle pattern presents irregular patches of fur set on a lighter background of the same pigment.

Yellow merle is a rarer color pattern in Catahoula leopard dogs. These pups typically have a yellowish-tan background with darker-colored patches and spots.

#3 Chocolate

Young catahoula playing with red Ball in Wood

Catahoula leopard dogs sometimes have almost solid colored chocolate brown coats.


Catahoula leopard dogs may be nearly solid brown, a coloration known as chocolate. Dogs of this breed with a solid or nearly solid coat are actually rarer than those with patches or the merle pattern. Chocolate Catahoula leopard dogs often have matching brown eyes.

#4 White Merle (Double Merle)

Catahoula leopard standing in garden

White merle Catahoula leopard dogs are the result of a genetic mutation.


For some dog breeds, white is a pretty rare coat color. However, in the case of the Catahoula leopard dog, white merle, also known as double merle, is a common pattern in this breed.

The merle (M) allele is a semi-dominant gene. This means that only one copy of the M allele is needed to create a dog with the merle coat pattern (Mm). Dogs without the Merle coat pattern have an mm genotype. In cases when two merles breed, a puppy with two merle alleles (MM) may be born.

These pups are typically much whiter in color, with fewer splotches of color and blue eyes. They may even be almost pure white. However, it is not recommended to breed two merles together, as double merles are at an even higher risk of health problems.

#5 Brindle

Catahoula leopard hound with black stripes at a vernal pool in Shenipsit State Forest, Somers, Connecticut.

Brindle Catahoula leopard dogs have stripes rather than the merle pattern.

©Jeff Holcombe/

Catahoula leopard dogs typically have the merle pattern or another look known as brindle. Brindle is not technically a color. Rather it is a coat coloring pattern that typically appears as black stripes on a red or tan base. Brindle can come in other color variations, and has the nickname “tiger-striped.”

#6 Black

louisiana catahoula leopard dog puppy walking on grass in summer

Catahoula leopard dogs may be solid black or black with a merle pattern (blue merle).


While it’s not as common for a Catahoula leopard dog to be entirely black, the color commonly appears in some form on these dogs. In fact, reports that black appears in as much as 52% of Catahoula leopard dogs.

However, terminology gets a little tricky here. It appears that genetically black dogs with the merle pattern are the most common pattern in Catahoula leopard dogs. However, despite having a gray background with black coloring, this pattern is actually known as blue merle.

#7 Blue Merle

beautiful catahoula leopard dog posing in the forest

The blue merle Catahoula leopard dog has a stunning appearance.


Blue is typically considered a rare color for most dog breeds. In Catahoula leopard dogs, this color appears a lot more often. It usually shows up as a blue/gray color, often within the merle pattern. Catahoula leopard dogs that are solid black on gray are called blue merles. Interestingly, blue or partially blue eye colors are common among dogs with merle coats.

Summary of Catahoula Leopard Dog Colors (Rarest to Most Common)

1Solid Red
2Yellow Merle
4White Merle (Double Merle)
7Blue Merle

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About the Author

Erica is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on history, food, and travel. Erica has over 3 years of experience as a content writer and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which she earned in 2018. A resident of Kansas City, Erica enjoys exploring her home town and traveling around the world to learn about different cultures and try new food.

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