Otterhound Breed History
Regardless of its origin, the otterhound was used in England as an otter hunter, a role that it alone holds. The otters were competing with local fishermen for the supply of fish, thereby creating a need for a dog that could trail otter through the water and across rough terrain. The first written mention of the breed was in 1212 when King John kept a pack for hunting. King John, however, was not the only of Britain’s royalty to be associated with the otterhound. Britain’s royalty – including Richard III, Charles II, Edward II and IV, Henry II, VI, VII and VIII and Elizabeth I – often used the breed, even carrying the title of "Master of Otterhounds.” Even though otter hunting never reached the popularity of other sports like fox hunting, it did see much activity in the late 1800s. As many as 20 packs were hunting in England at the sport’s peak, however interest faded after the Second World War. In the 20 th century, the otterhound came to America, however the population slowly decreased as its popularity continued to fade. By 1978, the breed had so few numbers that it became a protected species. An effort by breeders stabilized the breed and brought it to the show ring. Attempts were made to keep the breed’s functional characteristics, without giving into fancy grooming practices for aesthetic purposes. This effort has been maintained, allowing the otterhound to remain the most efficient otter hunter, however it has never regained popularity as hunting companion or seen much of a following as a show dog, or family pet.
Otterhound Breed Appearance
This large, sturdy hound is longer than it is tall. It is powerful, athletic and dignified. It has a large nose, perfect for hunting by scent. Its ears are long and droopy, and its tail curls up and out. The otterhound’s feet are large enough to tread on rough terrain and webbed for the purpose of swimming. Its expression is friendly and open, much like its personality. It has a furry face with big bushy eyebrows and a disheveled look. Its gait is easy and lumbering, but its trot consists of long strides that can be kept up for long periods during a hunt. Unlike other hounds, the otterhound has a rough, double-coat that protects it from cold water during swims and from sticks and brambles. The outer coat is approximately four inches long and course, but not wiry. The shorter undercoat is soft and wooly with an oily texture to protect the skin in water. The coat is not shaped or trimmed for showing and should remain natural-looking. This breed comes in all hound colors, however grizzle or wheaten with black markings are most common.
Otterhound Breed Temperament
This hunting dog is friendly, energetic, and devoted. It can be clumsy and even stubborn, but it is a fairly intelligent breed. Since it was not bred as a companion, it tends to be less responsive and personable than some other breeds. However because the otterhound is so laid back, it can make a great pet that is quiet and undemanding. It can be quite affectionate to its family and is good with older children. It is not recommended for young children and infants. Because it is a pack hound, it gets along fine with other dogs. It may chase small pets and needs to be socialized with other family pets, such as cats.
Otterhound Breed Maintenance
The otterhound gathers dirt and debris in its shaggy coat, making it a bit of a messy breed. It is an average shedder, and its coat should be brushed weekly to prevent matting. Its beard tends to catch food pieces and may need washed after meals. Occasional striping may be needed, however the coat should not be trimmed. Check ears, teeth and nails regularly. The otterhound needs a vigorous daily workout consisting of swimming, running or daily walks. If given adequate exercise, it tends to due well indoors, however it is not recommended for an apartment home. Do not let this breed run free unless it is in a safe, enclosed area. It may ignore all commands if it is following a scent. It does well in a fenced yard and can sleep outside in cool climates as long as it has appropriate shelter. The otterhound has a strong, melodious voice. It likes to bay, but does not bark excessively. It can be a bit headstrong, so training should be consistent yet loving.