In 1978, Britain declared otters an endangered species that would be protected by the country’s government. This ended the long standing sport of otter hunting that had been popular since the 1100’s and was popular by many members of the royal family including King John, Richard III, Charles II, Edward II and IV, Henry II, VI, VII and VIII and Elizabeth I. These particular royal otter hunters were giving the shared nickname of “Master of Otterhounds”. This is because their hunting partner of choice was the rough shaggy dog breed of Otterhounds.
Otterhound Picture by Mark Robinson.
What is an Otterhound?
Otterhounds are a breed of dog that are believed to have been around since the 1100’s, although the first written document that describes them is just over 150 years old in which William Twici, a hunter for King Edward II, described Otterhounds by name and referring to them as a “rough sort of dog, between a hound and a terrier.” It is believed by many that the Otterhound was developed by crossbreeding Bloodhounds with the rough haired Welsh terriers.
These large animals (standing between 24 and 26 inches tall, and weighing on average between 66 and 120 pounds depending on gender) were used for tracking and killing otters which were causing the fishing industry in the 1100’s and 1200’s to diminish. Of course, as the otter population was brought under control and became less and less in population, so too did the popularity and population of the Otterhound dwindle.
Otterhound Hunting Style
The Otterhound made such a great hunter of otters specifically, due to their swimming and smelling abilities. Otterhounds are very happy to be in water, and can be seen splashing around joyously in anything wet even today. They have the ability to swim in even the coldest waters for as long as several hours without tiring. They can even swim underwater, plunging down into rivers and lakes in search of an otter’s home.
The Otterhound breed of dog is also known for it’s incredibly sensitive sense of smell. The Otterhound dog sense of smell is so strong and accurate, that it can track an animal that hasn’t been in the area for as much as 12 hours. They can smell and track not only the sent of an otter that is traveling by land (known as “drag”) but can even smell the sent of an otter that is in or under water (known as “wash). Otterhounds are able to track for long periods of time over long distances, including being able to track for more than 20 miles in a day and keep up their pace for as long as 10 hours without needing rest.
Otterhounds are Good As A Family Pet If You Exercise them Well
Otterhounds make a great companion dog as they are loving, friendly, cheerful (especially in and around water), and devoted to their owner. They are also good with children, very patient, however they are known to be a bit of a clumsy beast and are therefore not recommended for infants or toddlers just learning to walk.
The Otterhound is a very independent and willful creature, making training a difficult and exhausting matter. If you’re a lazy owner who would rather just sit around on the couch all day with your pet rather than take it out for a walk or jog every day, then you’re better off with a different dog. Otterhounds have a lot of energy and need plenty of exercise not only for their health but also to fight off boredom.
Be advised, however, that the Otterhound’s super sensitive nose also makes it very inquisitive. It is likely that in the middle of a jog, he’ll pick up on a strange scent that interests him and he’ll veer away from the task at hand to follow the scent. They’re also likely to chase after any non-canine animal.