Though references to “otter dogges” in England date back to the 12th century, the breed does not seem to have reached its current form until some time late in the 18th century. Otterhounds were used in packs to hunt river otter, initially as a way to keep otters from destroying a needed food source, and only later as a sport. King John of Magna Carta fame hunted otter with large shaggy dogs, described at that time as a “rough sort of dog, between a hound and a terrier”. Queen Elizabeth I was the first “Lady Master of Otterhounds”. The modern Otterhound is documented to have Bloodhound and several rough-coated French hound breeds in his background, as well as the now extinct Southern Hound. Terriers and Otterhounds were bred to create the Airedale Terrier.
Otter hunting reached its peak of popularity in the years preceding World War I. At that time there were more than 500 hounds in 24 packs which hunted otter, though most of those dogs were not purebred Otterhounds. Indeed, the hunt packs continued to cross-breed their hounds well into the 20th century to improve hunting abilities. One of the results is that all current purebred Otterhounds pedigrees go back to a Bloodhound/Griffon Nivernais cross done in 1958. A drastic drop in otter population, due to water pollution, caused otter hunting to be banned in England in 1978 and in Scotland 2 years later. The purebred Otterhounds in the remaining packs were dispersed to private owners, with some going to the mink hunting packs.
The first Otterhounds were brought to the US early in the 20th century, with six Otterhounds exhibited at an AKC show in 1907. Veterinarian Dr. Hugh Mouat began the first serious breeding program in the US in 1937. A bitch and dog, Bessie’s Countess and Bessie’s Courageous from Dr. Mouat’s first litter became the breed’s first AKC champions in 1941. The Otterhound Club of America was founded in 1960 and held breed’s first National Specialty in 1981.
The above is credited to The Otterhound Club of America, Inc.
The Otterhound is a large dog, slightly rectangular in shape, strong boned and well muscled. His head is somewhat large, moderately narrow and well covered with hair. The back-skull and muzzle are of equal length; muzzle is square; jaws are strong and powerful with quite deep flews; his nose is large with wide nostrils. Depending upon the pigmentation, eyes are dark to hazel. His ears are an essential feature of the breed, long and low-set covered in long hair, pendulous, folded and hanging close to the side of his head. The Otterhound’s neck is strong and powerful, blending smoothly into well laid back shoulders and is of sufficient length which allows the dog to follow a trail. His top-line is straight, with no dipping in the middle; chest is deep and reaches to elbows. His tail is long and set high, carried in saber fashion. His coat comes in different colour combinations, including variation on the black and tan grizzle, to an ash blonde saddle. The length of his outer-coat can vary from around 3 to 6 inches.
IMPORTANT. A Otterhound with exaggerated features is the result of bad breeding. Credit; The Breed Club Connection.
Otterhounds are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions. Not all Otterhounds will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed.
If you’re buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy’s parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
HIP DYSPLASIA; In this inherited condition, the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip-joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don’t display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred — so if you’re buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
GASTRIC DILATATION-VOLVULUS; Also called bloat, this is a life-threatening condition that can affect large, deep-chested dogs such as Otterhounds. This is especially true if they are fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large volumes of water after eating, and exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat is more common among older dogs. GDV occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists (torsion). The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid himself of the excess air in the stomach, and the normal return of blood to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen and is salivating excessively and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak, with a rapid heart rate. It’s important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you see these signs.
CANINE IDIOPATHIC THROMBOCYTOPENIA (CIT); Also called immune mediated thrombocytopenia or ITP, this condition results from an immune system disorder in which there are not enough platelets. CIT is more common in female dogs than in males, and it runs primarily in a few Otterhound lines. Symptoms include abnormal bleeding under the skin or gums.