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rec.pets.dogs: Otterhounds Breed-FAQ
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 01 Aug 1997
There are nearly 100 FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
listing of these, get the "Complete List of RPD FAQs". This article
is posted bimonthly in rec.pets.dogs, and is available via anonymous ftp
to rtfm.mit.edu under pub/usenet/news.answers/dogs-faq/faq-list, via
the Web at http://www.zmall.com/pet_talk/dog-fa.../faq-list.html, or
via email by sending your message to with
in the body of the message.
This article is Copyright 1996 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
alteration provided that this copyright notice is not removed.
It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
than the URL listed above without the permission of the Author(s).
This article may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in other
documents without he Author(s)'s permission and is provided "as is"
without express or implied warranty.
The Otterhound Home Page
* Otterhounds as Pets
* History of the Otterhound
* Physical Description
* As Watch Dogs, and What About the Neighbors?
* Feeding and Exercise
* Training, Intelligence and Activities
* What's Special About Otterhounds
* Finding an Otterhound
* The Otterhound Club of America
* For More Information...
Otterhounds as Pets
Otterhounds make great pets, if -
- you have a sense of humor (and a fair amount of patience).
- you aren't obsessed with keeping your house/clothes spotless.
- you have a fenced yard.
- you just love that hound voice (and so do your neighbors!).
- you are looking for a pet and watchdog - but NOT a guard dog.
History of the Otterhound
The Otterhound is an old British breed, with references dating back to
the 12th century. They were used in large packs to hunt river otter.
King John of England hunted otter with large, shaggy hounds, as did
Queen Elizabeth I. The modern Otterhound has Bloodhound in his
background, and is in turn one of the ancestors of the Airedale
Terrier. The first Otterhounds were brought to the US very early in
the 20th century, with official AKC recognition in 1907. There are
fewer than 1000 Otterhounds world wide, with the largest numbers in
the UK and US, and smaller populations in Scandinavia, the Netherlands
and the rest of Europe, Canada, and Australia.
For details please refer to the complete AKC breed standard.
The Otterhound is a large, strong breed (with a considerable size
range within the breed). Males are generally in the 95 to 115 pound
range and 26-28 inches at the shoulder, with females 65 to 100 pounds
and 24-26 inches at the shoulder. The length of the outer coat varies
from 2 to 6 inches, with a woolly undercoat. Otterhounds come in
several different color combinations, with the most common being some
variation on black and tan grizzle.
The Otterhound standard says that the breed is "amiable, boisterous
and even tempered". Basically these are big friendly dogs, but with a
mind of their own. Otterhounds are affectionate, but don't demand
attention all the time. They are generally good with other dogs and
with other animals if they are raised with them or introduced to them
carefully. Many Otterhound owners also have cats, and contrary to what
some sources may lead you to believe, they get along well; these
hounds are quite willing to include most two and four legged members
of the household in their notion of their "pack". Otterhounds are good
with kids, too, but a young Otterhound is big and likely to be klutzy
and may not be the best companion for a wobbly toddler or a frail
Otterhounds have a relatively long life span of 10 to 13 years with
some living to 15 or older. Like most large breeds, they are subject
to hip dysplasia and bloat. There have been a few records of
Otterhounds with bleeding disorders. The Otterhound Club of America is
in the process of completing a health survey of the breed in the US
and preliminary information indicates major health problems are
uncommon. This breed is usually quite slow to mature, both physically
Though some Otterhounds do have a fair amount of coat they do not shed
a great deal. Expect to brush an OH on a weekly basis to keep the coat
from matting. Otterhounds have big hairy feet that are attracted to
mud. Most OHs aren't slobbery dogs, but they've got beards and long
hairy ears that get into their water bowls, food dishes, etc., and
then act as transport mechanisms to spread water, food, etc. around.
Though an Otterhound's undercoat should be somewhat oily, they don't
seem to develop the strong "doggy" odor that some oily coated dogs do.
Unless you are actively showing the dog, frequent baths should not be
necessary. You will probably need to clean ears on a regular basis.
As Watch Dogs, and What About the Neighbors?
Otterhounds have a deep bay, a lovely melodious sound, which carries
amazingly well. (A hound voice is probably an acquired taste.) Some
OHs are fairly quiet, and some seem to like the sound of their own
voice. Many of them seem to be "mutterers"; they grunt, groan, sigh,
etc. Otterhounds are also talented "singers" and will happily vocalize
with other Otterhounds or with people. Listening to the "music" made
by a large pack of Otterhounds was considered one of the special
pleasures of the hunt.
As a large dog with an impressively deep voice, an Otterhound can make
a good watch dog, but their friendly nature makes them poor candidates
as guard dogs. They'll "woof" or bay at an unusual noise, but you'd
have a hard time training them for "attack" work.
Food and Exercise
What you feed an Otterhound depends on the dog and what you are doing
with it. There are two things to consider. An Otterhound is large dog
and will be more expensive to feed than a smaller dog. Some also may
be prone to bloat - which makes multiple smaller meals a day
preferable to one large meal. It's also a bad idea to feed the dog
immediately before or after vigorous exercise.
Otterhounds need and want a fair amount of exercise, particularly when
young, so though you don't need a huge yard, you do need a fenced area
for them, and if it isn't big, you'd better like long walks or dog
jogging. Otterhounds are not good candidates for walking off leash.
Like many scent hounds, the desire to follow a scent may overcome the
desire to obey their owner, with potentially fatal consequences.
Training, Intelligence and Activities
Training OHs takes some patience, as they are stubborn - but generally
good humored about it - "Aw, Mom, let's do it THIS way!". Their
considerable size makes training something you DO NOT want to ignore.
Don't let that wistful, sad looking puppy con you in to not training
it; you'll regret it when the pup is your size and twice as strong.
Many Otterhounds seem to be rather "soft" dogs, and just don't
understand harsh corrections. Like many of the hounds, OHs are not
natural retrievers - so if you really want a great "Frisbee" dog, look
Otterhounds can be very bright dogs - at least when it comes to
getting something they want. If it's food, they WILL smell it, and
where there's a will... There are reliable reports of Otterhounds who
learn to open the gate to their yard, as well as the screen door, the
door to the house and the refrigerator door.
Otterhounds compete successfully in obedience, some take on agility,
and they excel as tracking dogs. These silly looking sweethearts can
also be great therapy dogs.
What's Special About Otterhounds
So what is the special attraction of Otterhounds? For many, it's the
great personality. You need a sense of humor to live with an
Otterhound, but you'll be living with a dog that has a pronounced
sense of humor of its own. These dogs can look noble, even mournful,
but along the lines of the "class clown" trying VERY HARD to be good.
The standard says an Otterhound head shows great dignity; it doesn't
point out that looks can be wildly deceiving! Think of the teacher or
grandparent who you loved, very dignified in appearance, who had the
heart of a joyful child, and you've glimpsed the Otterhound
personality. To assess whether you could live happily with an
Otterhound, ask yourself if you can love and perhaps admire an
independent dog who will love you, but will NOT worship the ground you
Finding an Otterhound
If you decide that an Otterhound is really the dog for you, finding
one can prove to be quite challenging, There are generally 4 to 7
litters born a year in the U.S. Occasionally older OHs need new homes.
The Otterhound Club of America can refer you to breeders or to the
OHCA rescue coordinator in your area.
The Otterhound Club of America
The Otterhound Club of America was founded in 1960, and is recognized
by the American Kennel Club as the official "parent" club of the
Otterhound in the United States. All OHCA members agree to abide by a
Code of Ethical Conduct. The Club publishes a bi-monthly newsletter
and holds a National Specialty every year, which "floats" to different
parts of the country. The 1996 National Specialty was held in San
Diego in November. The 1997 Specialty will be held in Manitowoc
Wisconsin September 13th.
The OHCA also sponsors a Regional Specialty in Louisville Kentucky
every March, and occasionally supports entries in other shows. These
Specialties and supported entries are good chances to meet several
Otterhounds and their people. Otterhounds are only represented at
approximately 1/3 of all AKC all-breed dog shows.
For more Information...
* Other Otterhound Web Sites
* General Guidelines for Considering and Selecting a Purebred Dog
* Cindy Tittle Moore's Dog "Frequently Asked Questions"
* Dog Owner's Guide Home Page
* Videotape, _The Otterhound_ --available from the American Kennel
Club, 51 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10010
* Videotape, _The Hunt Video_ -- available from the Otterhound Club
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