Skeletons in the OTFS Closet

Doc the Leopard Cur Shepherd

This is the story of Doc the Leopard Cur “Shepherd”. When Richard McDuffie brought home the last litter of the Old Bob-Tail Shepherds he faced one gigantic obstacle in preserving this line; What would he breed them with? He seemed to have had a very bad opinion of the English Shepherds and according to his son Rick they had owned English Shepherds while he was growing up so no doubt the elder McDuffie had formed this opinion from firsthand knowledge. Some have speculated that this litter of four was in fact the last untainted line of old-time Scotch Collies anywhere in America. This breed, once so popular, was dangerously close to following the path of the St. John’s Water Dog which, just a few years earlier had passed into extinction when the last two members of the breed, both male, died in a remote area of Newfoundland in the 1980s. McDuffie needed to act fast to propagate these dogs so he bred Dunrovin’s Keppie (one of the 2 females from that litter) on what must have been her first heat in 1994 to Doc.

Doc was a Leopard Cur, a breed McDuffie had helped to rescue from the brink of extinction decades before. McDuffie believed that the Leopard Curs had descended from farm shepherds, he wrote:

I doubt if anyone has spent as many years, driven as many miles, done as many interviews, or read as many books researching the history of cur dogs as I have… It is my considered opinion, based on 45 years of research and experience, that the Leopard breed descended from the farm dogs that were brought to this country from the British Isles. What were they? They were basically shepherd types.

So in McDuffie’s mind the Leopard Cur was the natural choice to outcross his precious litter with. Most Leopard Curs are smooth coated but McDuffie explains that in previous days some were born with rough coats, an obvious throwback to their shepherd forebears.

In the fifties and sixties we frequently had Leopard Curs born with long hair! Steve Ingram’s Old Dragon Lady female was one of the last of these. When some of her descendants have been inbred, They have produced long-haired offspring. All true leopards have two coats– a rough outer coat of guard hairs, and a wooly undercoat. Many have a flag tail and thigh feathers.

Doc was a rough coated throwback such as that described above. Eventually McDuffie sold Doc to Chandler Strunk where he was used in outcrossing to the other female from the last litter of the Old Bob-Tail Shepherds, Little Bit. Strunk told me that Doc was a Shepherd, that his behavior was always Shepherd-like. Which isn’t too surprising given what McDuffie had to say on the subject of Leopard Cur temperament.

Most convincing of all Leopard traits, is personality, or temperament. Like farm shepherd breeds they are extremely intelligent but they are also extremely sensitive. Their greatest desire is to please their master. The only training needed is to gain a pup’s confidence then show it what you want it to do. A harsh word can be as destructive as a clubbing, oftentimes. People who are loud and boisterous seldom have much success with Leopard Curs. Their sensitivity has a negative and positive side. The same temperament that is devastated by the yelling, cursing, kicking handler is what makes them easily trained by the kind gentle, understanding handler.

This is very convincing to me since this describes my Shasta perfectly and if I had to outcross her to another breed this is the kind of temperament I would want to look for. Yet some people look down on this cross as though it were some sort of garbage introduced into the line, many of these very critics however own dogs outcrossed to Tom Stodghill’s line of English Shepherds which themselves were crossed to all kinds of stuff. Take a look at the images below, which dog would you rather outcross your shepherd to?

Link to Stodghill’s English Shepherd Breed Standard

Today Doc’s blood can be found many Old Time Farm Shepherds and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Doc allowed this line to expand at a time when suitable outcrosses were very hard to find and he added his fine, collie-like temperament and merle coloring to the line.

Additional Reading

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  1. I had no idea that leopard curs could have long hair.

    That means their coloration is more likely due to collie-types than the proto-Beauceron as is often claim.

    Harlequin Beauceron are merles.

  2. UKC, started registering Lepoard Curs, last year, except they changed the name to Lepoard Hound. Starting in 2015, they are going to register, cross bred coon hounds, a walker, crossed with a black&tan, if it’s black&tan, it will be registered that way. They will be able to hunt them, in ukc hunts, and raise puppys, registered that way.

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