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Form and Function
The Otterhound is a large dog with a somewhat stocky build, slightly longer than tall, not exaggerated in any way, enabling the dog to trot at a slow steady pace for long distances without tiring. The coat, which consists of a rough, coarse outer coat combined with a soft wooly slightly oily undercoat, is essential for protecting the dog from brambles and cold water. The breed has a fairly large nose and muzzle, allowing ample room for olfactory receptors. The large feet provide traction over rough and slippery terrain. This is a strong athletic breed that can withstand harsh weather and long strenuous hunts. The dog’s expression is open and amiable, reflecting a friendly temperament. The Otterhound is noted for its steadfast pursuit of quarry despite the roughest of conditions. The breed has an acute sense of smell and can trail unerringly through running water and over all sorts of terrain.
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Date of Origin
The Otterhound is one of the most unusual members of the Hound Group–a hardy, tousled scenthound of uncertain origin. The breed may have originated in France, and closely resembles the old French Vendeen hound. Other breeds that may have played a part in its origin were the Welsh Harrier, Southern Hound (a foxhound-like breed), Bloodhound, or a type of water spaniel. Whatever the genetic makeup, the Otterhound came to fill a unique niche as a hunter of otters in England and is thus most associated with that country. King John kept the first documented packs of Otterhounds in 1212. Otterhunting was never among the most popular of sports, reaching its peak during the latter half of the nineteenth century, and essentially died out after the Second World War. The first Otterhound came to America at the beginning of the twentieth century and was recognized by the AKC soon after. Otterhound aficionados have been especially adamant that the breed retain the functional characteristics, without succumbing to exaggerated grooming practices or the temptation to breed only for a competitive show dog. Even though this practice has maintained the true Otterhound type, the breed has never been especially popular as a show dog or pet. Despite the fact that the Otterhound is one of the most ancient of the English breeds, it is one of the rarest of English Kennel Club or AKC recognized breeds, verging perilously close to extinction.
As a packhound, the Otterhound is amiable with other dogs. Once on the trail, it is determined, single-minded, and nearly impossible to dissuade from its task. Even though the Otterhound’s job was not to kill its quarry, it will nonetheless give chase to small animals. The Otterhound loves to sniff, trail, and, especially, swim. At home this dog is boisterous, amiable, and easygoing (although stubborn), affectionate with the family, and quite good with children. Because the Otterhound was never traditionally kept as a pet, the dog is not among the most responsive of breeds. However, the Otterhound is a low-key dog that is a quiet companion.
The Otterhound needs daily exercise in a safe area or on a leash. The dog has a loud, melodious voice that carries for long distances. The Otterhound’s coat requires only weekly brushing or combing. The beard may need to be washed more frequently. Tidiness is not one of this dog’s virtues; the large, hairy feet tend to hold debris and mud, and the long hair around the mouth can hold water and food.
- Major concerns: CHD, gastric torsion
- Minor concerns: elbow dysplasia, CTP
- Occasionally seen: epilepsy, thrombopathy
- Suggested tests: hip, (elbow), DNA for thrombopathy
- Life span: 10–13 years