The beginnings of the Otterhound are uncertain, although it is first referenced as early as 1175, making it amongst the ancient breeds. River otters were a progressive nuisance for fishermen in Medieval England as they competed for the fish stock. For this reason, packs of Otterhounds were utilised in hunting the otters and reducing their numbers. Several factors contributed to the decline of the breed, with water pollution being the leading cause before the sport of otter hunting was outlawed in 1978. It is thought that the Otterhound derives from the Bloodhound and French Griffon, with or without the contribution of Harrier blood. The modern Otterhound evolved in the 18th century, and remains today the most endangered dog native to Britain. Recognised by the AKC in 1909.
One of the ancestral breeds of the Airedale Terrier, the Otterhound bears a striking resemblance to its supposed forebears. With a large, rectangular frame, boasting strong legs, a relatively narrow head, large pendant ears and a straight topline, the Otterhound is proportioned and distinctive. The Otterhound coat is weatherproof, rendering it suitable for swimming, and is a combination of soft and coarse hairs. Common colours include variations of wheaten and grizzle, usually with black markings. The Otterhound boasts an acute sense of smell and has a natural affinity with water, being a confident and enthusiastic swimmer. Can also be observed hunting mink, bear and raccoons in some parts of the world.
A typical hound, the Otterhound boasts sharp sight and smell senses, as well as vigilance and stamina. Despite its early usage, the modern breed is commonly observed as a companion dog, showcased for its gentle and easy temperament. Inherently energetic and curious, the Otterhound requires careful management, but its fun-loving nature makes it the ideal breed choice for families or the dedicated sole owner. On average, a healthy Otterhound will weigh between 30-52 kg, with a life expectancy of 10-15 years when shown appropriate love and care.
Despite being generally healthy and robust, various health afflictions are identified in the breed. These range from mild to more serious. As with most canines, hip and elbow dysplasia, arthritis and associated orthopedic complaints are well documented in the breed, and the Otterhound is also susceptible to epilepsy and seizures, with ear infections being prevalent in the breed. Most large-size, deep-chested breeds are prone to bloat and gastric tortion, two potentially fatal conditions if left untreated for any length of time.