The first record of Otterhounds goes back to the days of King John in the 1100’s. The kings always had a pack of Otterhounds, although they probably didn't look at all like those of today. As Otter hunting was always done on foot, when there was a young king on the throne, blood from a speedier hound breed was introduced to the pack. Likewise, when the king was getting older, they introduced the blood of a slower hound.
Queen Elizabeth the 1st was the first lady ever recorded at Mast of Hounds and it was to a pack of Otterhounds.
Although it is said to be Britain’s oldest breed, there are no records of the bloodlines used to arrive at the Otterhound, but the now extinct Southern Hound is said to be one contributor, together with the some French rough-coated hounds. One we do know about is the Griffon Nivernais and at some point the Bloodhound and the Irish wolfhound are said to have had a contribution, as well as some kind of Harrier.
When Otter hunting was banned in 1978 the only two packs kept were the Kendal and the Dumfriesshire. These two packs were offered to breeders who were interested in perpetuating the Otterhound breed and a Breed Standard was created. These hounds were then K.C. registered.
Due to the small gene-pool, the breed could still become extinct in a few years.
The Otterhound is a large, chunky scent hound, whose life is dominated by its nose. Because they hunted their quarry in water, their nose is said to be even keener than the Bloodhound’s.
They have webbed feet and should be good swimmers, but some only like to wade and wallow like a hippo; then there are a few who hate water!
What makes them so interesting is that they come in a variety of colours All hound colours are acceptable. Most popular being black and tan; red or wheaten; then there is the parti-colour, which is a white background with patches of black, tan or wheaten which intermingle. The colours of many of them lighten as they reach adulthood.
Their top coat is wiry, with a woolly undercoat. It is an oily coat which repels water and keeps out the cold, thus enabling them to spend hours in the water. This also means they dry much quicker than most breeds.
Their long ears with the characteristic fold hang down to their nose when they are on a scent and this helps them in their work, but it means their ears do turn-off and they are deaf when on a trail. Do not be mislead and think it is ‘selective deafness’. For this reason many people always keep them on an extending lead, because if they were on a scent which crossed a road, they would be oblivious to the noise of traffic.
Great patience is needed by anyone who does let them off the lead, but they will usually eventually use their nose to find you. Never let one off the lead if you are in a hurry!
If you are extremely house-proud, then perhaps an Otterhound isn't for you. They usually love to drink from a bucket; many submerge their faces up to their eyes and drink underwater. This means a very wet hairy face to dry before it gets back into the house.
After a walk, they will become couch-potatoes, if allowed and sleep for hours. They love to think they are a ‘toy’ breed and try to sit on your knee while you watch TV.
Some of them delight in digging holes in the lawn, but not all of them. They do have a sense of humour, love the whole world and are very good with children and other dogs (as well as cats, if introduced properly).
Apart from just taking them for walks, you could take up tracking with them, which is great fun and most of them love it.
All in all they are an adorable, fun breed to own.
When buying an Otterhound puppy you must make sure the parents have both been hip and elbow scored. The Average hip score of an Otterhound is 40, which would be far too high in most breeds, but in the Otterhound it is normal. Hip dysplasia is not usually debilitating or life-threatening, as it is in so many breeds.
As with most breeds with oily coats, some Otterhounds can be prone to sebaceous cysts, yet others can lead a long life without ever having one. Intervention isn't necessary, unless they are bothering the hound.
As the gene pool is so small, great care must be taken by breeders to study the bloodlines before planning a litter. Sadly, as yet there isn't a test to isolate the epileptic gene, but the Otterhound Club, with the help of the K.C. Charitable Trust is paying for this research to be done. No breeder ever wants to produce an epileptic hound, but sadly it can occasionally happen even when the greatest care is taken to avoid it. Luckily it is a rare occurrence, but there are no guarantees.