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The American Leopard Hound

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 American Leopard Hound

The American Leopard Hound is a medium to large purebred from the US also known as the American Leopard, Leopard Tree Cur, American Leopard Cur and the Leopard Cur. It is a very smart dog bred to hunt and is one of the oldest American treeing dogs having been around for hundreds of years. They have been bred for their purpose not for their looks.

The American Leopard Hound at A Glance
Name American Leopard Hound
Other names American Leopard, Leopard Cur and American Leopard Cur, Leopard Tree Cur
Nicknames ALH
Origin US
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 40 to 75 pounds
Average height 21 to 27 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Short,
Hypoallergenic No
Color Merle pattern or solid, black, brindle, tan, mouse or red
Popularity Not yet a fully registered member of the AKC but are part of the Foundation Stock
Intelligence Quite intelligent – trains well because of it
Tolerance to heat Very good to excellent – can handle hot weather
Tolerance to cold Excellent – can handle even extreme colds
Shedding Average – some hair will be left around the home to clean up
Drooling Moderate – not especially prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – just make sure it is not overfed or under exercised
Grooming/brushing Low maintenance – brush regularly and the usual care
Barking Occasional – uses vocalization when hunting
Exercise needs Very active – needs active and committed owners to ensure it gets what it needs
Trainability Easy when approached in the right way
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Moderate – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Very good to excellent
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Moderate – strong prey drive so socialization and training are a must as is training
Good with strangers Good – Wary though so training and socialization needed to prevent it being over protective
Good apartment dog Low - needs a home with a yard at the least but best in rural settings
Handles alone time well Moderate – prefers not to be left alone for long periods
Health issues Quite healthy – some issues may include hip dysplasia, hearing problems and sight problems
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and dog insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for miscellaneous items, toys, license and basic training
Average annual expenses $1000 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $600
Rescue organizations None specific to the breed, check your local shelters and rescues
Biting Statistics None reported
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The American Leopard Hound's Beginnings

The American Leopard Hound's history is not clear and the exact details of its origins are not really known though there are some theories about them. They have been around for hundreds of years as America's first settlers are known to have used them to hunt with and to protect livestock. Most believe the Spanish conquistadors brought their ancestors with them to the US. Some think Spanish dogs were crossed with Mexican ones before coming and some think they were developed in the south of the US with a mixing of herding and hound dogs.

Whatever their beginnings they were bred for their skills and were (and still are) valued for being good as treeing dogs and as all purpose hunting dogs. They could track large and small game including racoons, cougar and bear. In North Carolina there is record of them in the early 18th century and they then spread to several other American states. It was used in rural America, woods, farms and the back hills. The term Cur was not a derogatory reference to having a mixed origin, there are several American curs, all with a proud background. It refers to its versatility, bravery, a short tail and being a hard working family dog. For a while the American Leopard Hound was a very popular breed especially in those Southern states. However in the 20th century a lot changed with more people working in towns and such. By the 1950s their numbers had dropped dramatically and they were facing possible extinction.

New Lease on Life

Thankfully the breed was saved and some numbers were restored much due to the work of three people, L Smith, J McDuffie and A Carter. Working independently they then eventually met in late 1950s and formed the American Leopard Cur Breeders Association. In 1998 the UKC (United Kennel Club) recognized the breed and its name was changed from Cur to Hound basically so that it could compete against other coonhounds. In 2012 it was added to the Foundation Stock Service and is awaiting full recognition.

The Dog You See Today

This is a medium to large sized dog weighing 40 to 75 pounds and standing 21 to 27 inches tall. It is a little longer than it is tall, muscular and has a broad back with a level topline. Because the ALH was bred more for its ability on the hunt and temperament there can be differences in its appearance. However there are some generalities that can be used. Its Leopard look for example with splotched or spotted coats, though even that is not a guarantee, you can get them with solid colored coats! The coat tends to be short and harsh, a double coat and common colors are red, black, brown and tan. It is a powerfully built dog with long legs and strong back legs that allow it to move through difficult areas and climb trees. Their feet are tough and are cat like being round. Its tail is set low and often docked in places where that is still allowed. Its chest is wide and strong too.

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The American Leopard Hound has a wide head and a medium sized heavy muzzle that ends in a black, liver or brown nose. Its eye are set wide apart and are round and usually are colored brown or yellow. It is possible though to have blue eyed Leopard Hounds, sometimes just one of the eyes. Its ears are short to medium in length and taper, hang down and are set high.

The Inner American Leopard Hound

Temperament

The American Leopard Hound is an intelligent, independent and energetic dog, not surprising considering what it was bred and developed to do. However it can also make a great family dog in the right home as with the right care it can also be very affectionate and loving, calm, social and sweet. It is alert and will bark to let you know of an intruder and it also has strong protective instincts so will act to defend you and its home. However those instincts and its brave and fearless nature means training and socialization is important to prevent it from being over protective.

These dogs were developed to be excellent hunters. It is bold, energetic, has great stamina and endurance, focused and hard working. It is also vigilant, agile, excellent at tracking over long distances, able to pick up a cold trail but will corner and hold their prey not kill it. It is aggressive when in action but its dexterity means it is good at avoiding injury. They do make sounds, some will chop but they can also yodel, bawl and squall. It is very eager to please its owner and is not at all aloof the way some hounds can be. It can actually form strong bonds especially with one person, most likely the person it hunts with.

Living with an American Leopard Hound

What will training look like?

For the experienced this is an easy dog to train because it is intelligent, eager to please and listens and obeys well. It does have an independent side to it, but with consistency and firmness that is not a problem for most. Use positive training techniques offering it praise and encouragement and motivate it with rewards and treats. Once rules are set they should be stuck to and you need to be clear that you are the boss, not it. In homes where there is a dog that is difficult to live with, destructive and anxious, often it can be traced back to its owner not establishing their dominance. Good training is especially important if you are using it to hunt with, it needs to listen and react to what you want when out with you. Along with making sure it gets at least basic obedience training you should also make sure it is well socialized and that this starts from a young age too. Let it experience different places, people, animals, sounds and situations so that it learns the acceptable way to react to them.

How active is the American Leopard Hound?

The ALH is a very active breed so only owners who are active and happy to be active with their dog should consider owning one. They are best kept by owners who are going to hunt with them as that is what they love to do, but they can be happy just as a companion with a good combination of physical activity and mental challenge. It would be happiest with land to run on and explore, so it is not great for apartments, but at least a large well fenced in yard would also do. That fence needs to be done well as it does like to go after scents it catches. It needs at least two walks a day that are kept brisk and are fairly long, in total it should get an hour a day. Then it needs other opportunities, play time, off leash run time, mental challenges and such. It likes to play ball, seek things, Frisbee, swim, hike, and can join you for your jog or bike ride. If it is not hunting it might be an idea to train it for some other sporting events like rally or agility. It has a lot of stamina and can handle most temperatures and climates.

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Caring for the American Leopard Hound

Grooming needs

This dog is really quite easy to look after, it is low maintenance with the usual things you have to do with all dogs like regular cleaning and checking of things like ears, nails and teeth, and then brushing once or twice a week. It does shed an average amount so there will be some hair around the home to clean up. Make sure you avoid bathing it too often as it can damage the natural oils in its skin. Keep the baths for when it really needs one or comes home after getting into something icky. Make sure you check its coat and skin for bugs, debris and ticks it might pick up especially if being used to hunt with.

Its nails may be worn down naturally with its outdoor activity but if they do get too long you can choose to clip them yourself, or have a vet or groomer do it for you. Should you do it yourself make sure you learn about how to do it and that you use proper dog nail clippers. Their nails are not like ours, they have a section called the quick that has blood vessels and nerves running through. If you cut or even just nick that you can really hurt your dog and cause bleeding. Once a week you can also check the ears for infections signs, having droopy ears means it can be more prone to them. If there are no signs such as redness, irritation or discomfort then it is okay. You should also clean them once a week using a dog ear cleanser and cotton ball, or damp cloth. Only wipe where you can reach, never insert anything into the ear, it can cause damage and pain. There are also its teeth that need to be brushed at least two to three times a week using a dog toothpaste and toothbrush.

Feeding Time

A dog the size of the ALH will need to eat about 2 1/2 to 4 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, split into at least two meals. Amounts can vary from one dog to another because how large they are, active they are, their age, health and metabolism can all impact them. Make sure it has access to water at all times and that it is changed often so it is fresh.

How is the American Leopard Hound with children and other animals?

When the American Leopard Hound has been socialized well and trained it is able to get on well with children. It enjoys playing with them, is very affectionate too and is also protective of them. Make sure in fact that it does not become too protective as that can make rough housing between friends a thing of the past. Make sure children are taught how to touch and approach dogs in the proper way. It also gets on well with other dogs in general so taking them to a dog park is fine. However it has a high prey drive and that means it can be less calm around other small animals so correct poor behavior straight away from a young age. With strange small animals it is likely to try and chase them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The ALH has a life span of about 12 to 15 years and is mostly a healthy dog. It can have issues with things like hip dysplasia, eye problems, hearing problems and ear infections. To avoid the eye and hearing problems it is important not to breed two merle or patterned dogs together. Double Merles are more likely to have more health issues.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks causing bodily harm against people over 35 years in North America, there is no mention of the American Leopard Hound. It is aggressive when it is hunting against its prey but it is not, or should not be, in usual situations. It is very protective though, and should it perceive a threat and not have had good socialization it is possible it can overreact. It is also a fact that there are no completely safe breeds. All dogs have some potential to become aggressive or have a bad day even the more popular 'family' dogs. Make sure you get a dog that suits your lifestyle and commitment level and that you exercise it, give it the attention it needs, train and socialize it and you can lessen the risks.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The American Leopard Hound puppy is not going to be easily found as it is not a very common breed. From a decent breeder of pet quality dogs you can expect to pay $600 or more, but from a top show breeder that is going to go up by quite a bit. Spend some time finding a reliable breeder with a good reputation and avoid buying from less trustworthy places like pet stores, puppy mills or backyard breeders. While finding a purebred ALH is not likely in a local shelter or rescue if you are just looking for a companion dog please do consider checking yours out. Adoption can be between $50 to $400 and in that price initial health needs are usually dealt with too.

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As mentioned there are some initial costs to be aware of when you have your dog and have brought it home. You should make an appointment with a vet as soon as possible to have it check over, given a physical, have some blood tests done, shots, deworming, spaying or neutering and micro chipping. These will cost about $290. Then there are some things to get for the dog in your home like a crate and carrier, bedding, bowls and collar and leash. These are going to cost around $240.

Having any kind of pet means making sure you are financially able to properly take care of it including food, health care, training, toys and such. An American Leopard Hound will cost about $1000 or more a year. This covers about $485 for pet insurance and basic health care like tick and flea prevention, shots and check ups. Then another $245 a year should cover toys, basic training, license and miscellaneous items. Finally the rest, about $270 will be needed for a good quality dog food and dog treats.

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  • The American Leopard Hound is not a dog for just anyone. It is mainly used to hunt with, and if you are just getting one as a companion that is fine but be prepared to give it the activity and stimulation it needs. It works hard, is driven, smart and very energetic. It best in a home with a large yard or even better with land in a rural setting. It can be great in a family, with good socialization it gets along well with children and other dogs, and with really good support can learn to live with other pets if raised with them. It can be wary with strangers though and its protective nature needs to be watched to make sure it does not become over protective. If you are active, you hunt and you have experience with such dogs it could be a great hunting dog, companion and best friend.

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