Written by Doris Donnerman (last updated April 3, 2009)
The Otterhound is interestingly unique and individual in appearance and characteristics. He is an old breed, yet his origin remains a matter of considerable conjecture.
The Otterhound looks very much like a Bloodhound wearing the wrong coat. This coat is rough and extremely thick. There is a deep, oily undercoat which enables the dog to withstand long hours of immersion in cold water. There is no better swimmer among dogs, for its webbed feet aid it greatly in this important phase of its work.
The Otterhound seemed to be a favorite of the English monarchs. King Henry II of England was the first known to have possessed this breed of dog. Other reigning English monarchs that have been known were Queen Elizabeth, Kings JOh, Edward II, Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Charles II.
The Otterhound is possessed of a remarkably musical bay, and the sound of a well-rounded pack working an otter's "drag" is music of the Gods to the sportsman. The otter, of course, is in its natural element when in the water, is a powerful swimmer and possesses great powers of endurance. It can swim for long stretches under water, but leaves a tell-tale trail of bubbles in its wake and must "vent" or come up to breathe frequently. The scent of an otter is very strong, but nevertheless it requires a dog of great staying powers, swimming ability, and determination, as well as "nose," to catch and finish off this worthy opponent. Some hunts last an amazingly long time, perhaps the longest on record being ten-and-a-half hours. This was in 1907 by the Carlisle Otterhounds on the Eden River. In May 1908, the Northern Counties Otterhounds ran a "drag" for twenty-three miles, ending with a kill.
Many lovers of the sport of otter hunting in England prefer to cross their Otterhounds with English or Welsh Foxhounds, rather than hunt the purebred. Such a combination is said to increase stamina, perseverance and "drive," although the unique appearance of the Otterhound is naturally somewhat altered. These dogs do not possess the heavy bay of the pure-bred, but their voices are of sufficient volume and beauty to satisfy most.
The Otterhound must possess a great constitution to withstand such rigorous water work without succumbing to such diseases as pneumonia, and it is only natural that many suffer from rheumatism in later life. But, then, his master is also likely to be similarly afflicted if he takes his hunting too seriously.
The Otterhound has never taken the fancy of the American sportsman. Those that have been imported were brought over mainly for the novelty rather than the utility of the breed in American covers or waters. Otters are seldom hunted with hounds in this country.
In the general appearance the Otterhound resembles that of the Bloodhound except for the coat. He is strongly built, hard and enduring, with an unfailing power of scent and a natural antipathy to the game he is bred to pursue. The color is generally that of grizzle or sandy, with black and tan more or less clearly defined.
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