Bred to Prevent Otters from Devouring Fish in old England, This Large Intelligent Shaggy Dog Is Friendly to Everyone

With a tousled, shaggy coat, the Otterhound is a very old breed that was used for hunting otter in Great Britain. However, as a result of the outlawing of otter hunting as a sport in 1978, the breed experienced a major decline. While still extremely rare today, the Otterhound is a friendly, shaggy and rowdy dog. Although quite enamored of children, this dog may be a little too rambunctious around small children which without supervision could jeopardize their safety. However, this "big, lovable lunk" is certainly not intentionally harmful.


Because ravenous river otters posed a major threat to the fishing industry in medieval England, the breed of Otterhound was developed to keep otters controlled, which would protect the availability of fish and allow fishermen to make their living. The first references to the Otterhound appear in literature dating to 1175 when the Otterhound was called the "otter doggie." Hunter William Twici said that the dog was "a rough sort of dog between Hound and a Terrier."

Hunting with this breed became a sport as well as a way to protect the economy. Queen Elizabeth I became the first "Lady Master of Otterhounds."

While these earliest Otterhounds have unknown ancestry, the modern dogs have origins in the 18th century. Known predecessors are bloodhounds, rough-coated French breeds including the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen from whom it has inherited its rough-coated look, as well as the rare Griffon Nivernais and the Old Southern Hound, which is now extinct. Today’s Otterhounds trace back to a cross made in 1958 between a Griffon Vendeen and a Bloodhound.

The sport of otter hunting was popular for a long time, but water pollution began to decimate the otter population without the help of the Otterhound. The sport was finally banned in 1978 in England and in 1980 in Scotland. Otterhound packs were disbanded, began to hunt mink, or were used for "drag hunting," where they followed artificial trails.

The breed came to the United States around 1907 where it was exhibited at a dog show in Claremont, Oklahoma. The American Kennel Club recognized the Otterhound in 1909, and in 1960, the Otterhound Club of America was established. Today, the Otterhound is 173rd in breed rank among registered AKC breeds and is part of its Hound Group.


The Otterhound is a scent hound, with a shaggy coat most reminiscent of the Griffon Vendeen. It has bushy eyebrows over deep-set eyes, which complement the coat – dark for dark coat colors and hazel for those that are liver or slate. Large and strong, this breed is equally at home on land and in water because of its development to hunt otters. Although it is a hound, its physical characteristics are unique as compared with other hound breeds. It has a rough, oily, double coat and webbed feet. The coat can be of any hound color, including wheaten with black markings or grizzle. The tail is high and thicker at the base, tapering to a point.

In adulthood, the Otterhound stands 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weighs 66 to 115 pounds.


Rowdy, friendly, and a shaggy "big lug," the Otterhound is amicable with just about everyone, humans or pets. Although a good companion for older children, this "big puppy" is probably a little too energetic for toddlers. Not that such a friendly dog is dangerous on purpose – just a little too big and ungainly for such little ones. Independent just like any hound, this dog won’t mind if you leave it alone sometimes. Although a good watchdog, the Otterhound is not a guard dog – unless attacked. Then, it will fight.

As with any hound, the Otterhound has a deep, baying voice. If you're a hound lover, you'll love it – but your neighbors may not. Therefore, make sure you keep it under control and let your "great communicator" talk to you, with its vocalizations of grumbles, motors, groans, grunts, and size. Truly, you're talking to a canine "personality" with plenty of heart.

If you don't want an "explorer," rethink the Otterhound. This big lummox loves to eat and doesn't have any manners when it comes to breaking into whatever might contain food – refrigerators, trash cans, pantries, cabinets, drawers… and nothing much is going to keep it out. This dog can escape from just about anything, including baby gates, crates, screen doors, yard gates, and over – or under – fences. Your yard must be securely fenced, and you shouldn't use an electronic fence. The shock of one won't necessarily stop a very determined Otterhound.

In spite of all of this rambunctiousness, the Otterhound is actually pretty calm and easygoing in terms of actual personality. A long daily walk or run on a leash is a perfect pastime, and obedience, agility, tracking, and rallying exercises are another beneficial option with vet approval required.

Although fairly relaxed as a breed, this dog is also stubborn, and wants to do things – as most hounds do – its own way. Positive reinforcement, including bribery with food, is essential to training – and some cunning, too, since this dog is by no means stupid. Start training when your pet is a puppy, when still impressionable, so that you can win it over with consistent approval.

Proper Environment

This is not a dog that will thrive well in an apartment. It needs a large yard and plenty of room to move around inside.


Although quite healthy, the Otterhound is prone to hip dysplasia and bloat, as are most large breeds; bloat is especially dangerous and can be deadly very quickly. It happens when the dog's stomach fills with food, gas, or fluid because it has rotated or twisted. It cuts off blood supply to the stomach lining and heart. If your pet begins to exhibit signs of depression, tries to vomit but fails, has a hard or distended stomach, appears restless, drools, or paces, get to a vet immediately. Surgery can usually correct the condition, but dogs have died very shortly after exhibiting the first symptoms. Immediate action is mandatory.

The breed is also prone to elbow dysplasia, as well as blood disorders of thrombocytopenia and hemophilia. Feed your pet modest meals, as this is a breed that can gain weight easily. Life expectancy is 10 to 12 years on average.


Comb and brush your pet's thick, weather-resistant coat at least weekly, as it mats easily. Wash the beard, which can tend to get dirty, frequently. The coat should not be clipped, in order to keep a natural look.


Dog Bloat: How to Protect Your Pup.

Retrieved July 11, 2015.


Retrieved July 11, 2015.


Retrieved July 11, 2015.


Retrieved July 11, 2015.


Retrieved July 11, 2015.

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