Otterhound – General Description
The Otterhound is an old British dog breed, with Bloodhound ancestors, and one of the ancestors of the Airedale Terrier.
Classification and Standards
- FCI Group 6, Section 2, #294
- AKC Hound
- ANKC Group 4 (Hounds)
- CKC Group 2 – Hounds standard
- KC (UK) Hound
- NZKC Hounds
- UKC Scenthound Group
Character & Temperament
Otterhounds have extremely sensitive noses which make them inquisitive and perseverant in investigating scents. Consequently, they need particular supervision. They are friendly dogs with a unique bass voice which they use frequently.
The first recorded Otterhounds known to resemble the current breed are in the North-West of England in the first half of the 19th century – for example, the Hawkstone Otter Hunt and Squire Lomax’s Otterhounds. In the second half of the 19th century, French Griffons were outcrossed, including one-eighth Wolf cross/Griffon Vendeen from the Comte de Canteleu in Normandy.   In the early 20th century the Griffon Nivernais was crossed into the breed, and one particular dog, Boatman, a Grand Griffon Vendeen/Bloodhound cross became an ancestor for several kennels.
It is one of the ancestral breeds of the Airedale Terrier.
There are an estimated 1000 Otterhounds in the world. It is considered to be the most endangered native breed in Britain, with only 15 new registrations in 2011. This is partially because Otterhounds have never been numerous, and even in the early 20th century, when otter hunting was at the height of its popularity as a sport, the number of dogs was still small. They are on the list of Vulnerable Native Breeds as identified by the UK Kennel Club, and great efforts are being made to save the breed.
In Popular Culture
Otterhounds were featured as the main enemy of the title character in Tarka the Otter. The Kendal and District Otterhounds also featured in the 1979 film version of the story. Both the book and film depict working Otterhounds, and as the main character is an otter, the depiction is not flattering.
Otterhounds were also featured in works of art by Vernon Stokes, and John Seageant Noble. Several works by Noble featuring Otterhounds were featured at the Royal Academy in the late 1890s.
Size & Appearance
The Otterhound is a large, rough-coated hound with an imposing head. Originally bred for hunting, it has great strength and a strong body with long striding steps. This makes it able to perform prolonged hard work. The Otterhound hunts its quarry both on land and in water and it has a combination of characteristics unique among hounds; most notably an oily, rough, double coat and substantial webbed feet.
Otterhounds generally weigh between 80 and 120 pounds (36 and 54 kg). They have extremely sensitive noses which make them inquisitive and they persevere in investigating scents. Consequently, they need particular supervision when outdoors. They are friendly dogs with a unique bass voice which they use frequently.
Health & Maintenance
The average lifespan of the breed is a little over 10 years. A quarter will live 12 to 15 years. At least one hound is known to have lived to be 16 years old.
The Otterhound enjoys considerable exercise, but can also be a couch potato. They can be good family dogs but need to be kept in a secure property since they can jump fences up to 5 feet high.
In spite of the small gene pool, the Otterhound is generally a healthy breed, but is subject to many of the same complaints as all large, rapidly growing dogs.
Common problems that can occur are elbow and hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip and elbow joints. They are not always painful, but can cause lameness and impair mobility. It can also result in arthritis. Badly affected hounds should not be bred from, but most Otterhounds have a poor hip and elbow score. The problem can be reduced by making sure that young Otterhounds do not jump down from high places, go up and down the stairs or walk too much on very hard surfaces while bones are still growing. this enables the muscles around the sockets to strengthen and develop, providing more support.
Otterhounds can also be subject to ear infections, due to the shape of their ears, and Bloat (or gastric torsion), due to their deep chest.
Epilepsy and seizures are also known to affect the breed, and can be hereditary. There is ongoing research into the causes of epilepsy in Otterhounds. For reasons currently unknown, epilepsy in Otterhounds in the United States does not appear to be fatal, while epilepsy found Otterhounds from the United Kingdom is frequently untreatable, and is usually fatal.
Work & Activities
Otter hunting dates back to the early medieval period, with references it is found as early as 1360. The Otterhound, however, can only be traced back as a distinct breed as far as the early 1800s.
The otter is one of the largest and most intelligent carnivorous mammals in Europe. To be equal to the otter, an Otterhound was said to need “a Bulldog’s courage, a Newfoundland’s strength in water, a Pointer’s nose, a Retriever’s sagacity, the stamina of a Foxhound, the patience of a Beagle, and the intelligence of a Collie”.
In 1978, due to the dramatic decline in otter numbers, the use of Otterhounds to hunt otters by scent was banned in Britain. Otterhound Packs were kept all over the United Kingdom, but were most famous in the Lake District and Devon. The Kendal and District Otterhounds in particular were one of the longest running otter hunts from 1921 to 1977, and several of the dogs in the pack at the end of the 1977 hunting season became ancestors of the dogs alive today. As virtually all the remaining packs were privately owned, it was left to the owners to decide what to do with their dogs. A few hunts switched to hunting mink or coypu, but many hunts ceased to exist altogether. As the dogs had been selectively bred for their hunting capabilities, only a few of the bloodlines were suitable for breeding into companion animals.
- Adair, R, A Chain of Bubbles
- Lee, Rawdon B, 1893, History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland, Sporting Division
- Cunliffe, J, 2003, Otterhound: Special Rare Breed Edition, Kennel Club Books
- they had a nose that could track in the mud and water for over 72 hours, too.”Otterhound”, Kennels.co.uk – http://www.kennels.co.uk/Hound/Otterhound.html
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArG0-FG8cbw Otterhounds Sing
- Leighton, R, 1910, Dogs and All About Them, Cassel and Company Ltd, London
- K. Evans, V. Adams, J. Sampson (2010). “World survey of Otterhound health: Part 1: Mortality and Lifespan”. Animal Health Trust – http://www.aht.org.uk/pdf/otterhound_mortality.pdf
- “UK native dog breeds ‘at risk of extinction’, BBC News – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16665702
- “The puppies rarer than giant pandas”, The Daily Telegraph, 5 March 2007, page 9
- “Yesterday’s Dogs?, Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/galleries/index.html?in_gallery_id=9840&in_image_id=330802&in_page_id=1055
- Author releases the image into the [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Dickonprior (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Stonehenge (John Henry Walsh) (The Dog in Health and Disease) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Author unknown, photograph taken in 1879 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- W. E. Mason – Dogs of all Nations [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 8, Slice 6., available freely at Project Gutenberg (Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Dale D. McDonald [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
FCI-Standard N° 294 / 27.01.2011/EN
ORIGIN: Great Britain.
DATE OF PUBLICATION OF THE OFFICIAL VALID STANDARD: 13.10.2010.
Big, strong hound primarily built for long day’s work in water, but able to gallop on land.
- Group 6 Scenthounds and related breeds.
- Section 1.1 Large-sized hounds.
Without working trial.
BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY:
It is generally felt that the Otterhounds ancestry includes a French influence combined with original English hound strains.
He is a kindly fellow with a typical loud baying call which he can use to good effect when he needs to indicate that he has found a prey that interests him, though today his primary purpose of hunting otters is banned. The breed has keen scenting ability. When following the scent of an otter on land the scent is called a drag and in water a wash. An Otterhound can follow a drag for up to twelve hours and when following a wash may swim for five hours. In addition to his oily coat he has webbed feet.
Large, straight limbed and sound, rough-coated with majestic head, strong body and loose, long striding action. Rough double coat and large feet essential. Free moving.
Distance from nose end to stop slightly shorter than from stop to occiput.
BEHAVIOUR AND TEMPERAMENT:
Amiable and even tempered. Signs of aggression or nervousness should be heavily penalized.
Clean, very imposing, deep rather than wide, expression being open and amiable. Whole head except for nose well covered with rough hair, ending in slight moustache and beard.
Skull: Nicely domed, neither coarse nor overdone, rising from stop to slight peak at occiput. No trace of scowl or bulge on forehead.
Stop: Distinct, though not exaggerated.
Nose: Good wide nose, wide nostrils.
Muzzle: Strong, deep.
Lips: Plenty of lip and flew, but not exaggerated.
Jaws / Teeth: Jaws strong, large, well placed teeth with perfect, regular scissor bite, i.e. the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
Cheeks: Clean cheekbones.
Eyes: Intelligent, moderately deep-set eye; haw showing only slightly. Eye colour and rim pigment variable according to coat colour (a blue and tan hound may have hazel eyes). Yellow eye undesirable.
Ears: Unique feature of the breed. Long, pendulous, set on level with corner of eye; easily reaching nose when pulled forward, with characteristic fold. Leading edge folding or rolling inwards giving curious draped appearance – an essential point no to be lost. Well covered and fringed with hair.
Long, powerful, set smoothly into shoulders. Slight dewlap permissible.
Top line: Level.
Loin: Short and strong.
Chest: Deep with well sprung, fairly deep, oval ribcage. Ribs carried well back allowing plenty of heart and lung room; neither too wide nor too narrow.
Set high, carried up when alert or moving, never curling over back and may droop when standing. Thick at base, tapering to point; bone reaching to hock and carried straight or in a slight curve. Hair under tail rather longer and more profuse than that on upper surface.
Shoulder: Clean and well laid back.
Forearm: Strongly boned, straight from elbow to ground.
Metacarpus (Pastern): Strong and slightly sprung.
Forefeet: Large, round, well knuckled, thick padded, turning neither in nor out. Compact but capable of spreading; Web must be in evidence.
General appearance: Very strong; well muscled when viewed from any angle, standing neither too wide nor too narrow behind. Hind angulation moderate. In natural stance, hindlegs from hock to ground perpendicular.
Thigh: Heavily muscled.
Lower thigh: Heavily muscled.
Metatarsus (Rear pastern): Hocks well let down, turning neither in nor out.
Hind feet: Hind feet only slightly smaller than forefeet. Large, round, well knuckled, thick padded, turning neither in nor out. Compact but capable of spreading; .Web must be in evidence.
GAIT / MOVEMENT:
Very loose and shambling at walk, springing immediately into a loose, very long-striding, sound, active trot. Gallop smooth and exceptionally long striding.
Long 4-8 cms, dense, rough, harsh and waterproof but not wiry; of broken appearance. Softer hair on head and lower legs natural. Undercoat evident and there may be a slight oily texture in top and undercoat. Not trimmed for exhibition. Presentation should be natural.
All recognized hound colors permissible: whole colored, grizzle, sandy, red, wheaten, blue; these may have slight white markings on head, chest, feet and tail tip. White hounds may have slight lemon, blue or badger pied markings. Black and tan, blue and tan, black and cream, occasional liver, tan and liver, tan and white.
Colors not permissible: Liver and white, a white-bodied hound with black and tan patches distinctly separate. Pigment should harmonize though not necessarily blend with coat color; for example a tan hound may have a brown nose and eye rims. A slight butterfly nose permissible.
Height at the withers:
Males approximately: 69 cms.
Females approximately: 61 cms.
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
- Aggressive or overly shy.
Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioral abnormalities shall be disqualified.
N.B.: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
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