The Otterhound dog breed is quite an old breed that is thought to have originated in England. These large-sized dogs were once very popular as scenthounds for tracking otters that were plenty in the countryside. But neither otter hunting nor Otterhounds are popular today because of the dwindling numbers of river otters.
Otterhound dogs are very affectionate and make good companions and great family pets, but they are hard to come by .The breed is now included in the Vulnerable Native Breed list of England.
The Otterhound dog breed is generally considered an English breed as there’s evidence of them being used in England for otter hunting as far back as the 13th century. They are thought to have a mixed lineage that involves Southern Hound Bloodhound, Water Spaniel, and Welsh Harrier. However, some argue that this breed actually originated in France based on its resemblance to the Vendeen Hound from that country.
Otter hunting was promoted in earlier times as these large carnivores destroyed the fish stock in the canals and rivers of the English countryside. King John of England is known to have kept several packs of Otterhounds in 1212.
These large dogs would track the otters with the help of their excellent sense of smell. They would not make the actual kill, but would follow the otters and start to bay on spotting them. Smaller terrier type dogs would then take care of the prey. Intensive hunting significantly reduced the otter population, rendering these dogs jobless. Their numbers steadily decreased until they became very rare in their homeland.
Otterhounds reached the United States by the beginning of the 20th century, and were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1991. However, they remain just as rare in the United States as they are in England.
The large-sized Otterhound dog breed has a strong, muscular body measuring 24 to 27 inches at the withers. The body is slightly longer than its height. These dogs may weigh anything between 80 and 115 pounds. They have double coat that offers weather resistance, especially the furry undercoat with an oily texture that resists wetting when the dog is in water. The outer coat is wiry and rough, with hair 2 to 6 inches long. The coat may come in all typical hound colors such as combinations of tan, black, red and wheaten with grizzle patterns. The long, floppy ears are covered with hair, as is the medium long tail.
Otterhound dogs are boisterous and playful, and are great with older kids. They get along very well with other dogs as they were used in packs for hunting. But it can be risky to have them around smaller pets as their prey drive may cause them to chase them. Early socialization may help to some extent, but these dogs have a mind of their own, and are not very easy to train.
They have to be leashed when taken out as they might just take off after a scent and refuse to obey commands. They should be left free only in a well protected yard as these dogs are known to jump over 5 feet high fences. Otterhounds are equally at home in water as on land, a necessary requirement for dogs used for hunting otters.
Grooming and exercise
The shaggy coat of Otterhound dog breed requires thorough brushings 2 to 3 times a week. That will prevent matting and reduce the amount of hair shed all around. Even though their coat is weather resistant to a great extent, it tends to get dirty very fast, especially around the feet. However, it is not usually trimmed as a natural look is favored in this breed.
These dogs have high energy and stamina, and require regular exercise and other activities to stay fit and happy. Brisk walks or jogs on the leash should be a daily affair, but it would be ideal if they can have access to a secure yard for free sprinting.
These dogs have a good amount of tolerance to both heat and cold, and can live comfortably outdoors round the year. They typically need a lot of space if kept indoors.
Common health issues of Otterhound dog breed
The Otterhound dog breed is prone to several health problems, such as Canine Hip Dysplasia, commonly associated with large-sized breeds. They are at risk of developing gastric torsion, which can have a fatal outcome unless immediate medical intervention is sought. Canine Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia which causes bleeding from the gums and under the skin is seen in this breed. Elbow dysplasia and epilepsy may occur, but very rarely. These dogs have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years.