Otterhound most endangered
of all the dog breeds
THE Otterhound is an old British dog breed with bloodhound ancestors and it is one of the ancestors of the Airedale Terrier. It is a large, rough-coated hound that was originally bred for hunting. It has great strength and walks in long, striding steps. This makes it able to perform prolonged hard work. Otterhounds generally weigh between 80 and 120 pounds (36 to 54 kg). They have extremely sensitive noses that make them inquisitive and persevering in investigating scents. They are friendly dogs with a unique bass voice which they use frequently.
The Otterhound hunts its quarry both on land and in the water and it has a combination of characteristics unique among hounds that make it suitable for all terrain; most notably an oily, rough, double coat and substantial webbed feet.
The use of otterhounds to hunt otters by scent ceased in the Britain in 1978 when it became illegal to kill otters, at which point otter hunts switched to hunting mink or coypu.
The breed lives to between 10 and 13 years old, although some have reportedly lived to be 15 or older. The Otterhound requires considerable exercise. They can be good family dogs but need to be kept in a secure property since they can jump fences up to five feet high. There are only an estimated 1000 or so Otterhounds in the world and somewhere between 350 and 400 in the USA. Even in the early 20th Century, when otter hunting was most popular as a sport, Otterhounds were not numerous.
They are now considered the most endangered dog breed in Britain since only 51 were born there in 2006. They are on the list of vulnerable native breeds as identified by the UK Kennel Club and as much as possible is being done to save the breed. Indeed, experts now view otterhounds as more endangered than the giant panda. However, while the domestic dog has many breeds which vary greatly in form and purpose it is important to remember these are all classified as the same sub-species Canis lupus familiaris. This sub-species is in no way endangered, unlike the giant panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca whose entire species has an estimated population of just 1600 in the wild.
Otter hunting is first mentioned in the 12thCentury during the reign of Henry II, but the Otterhound as a specific breed is not mentioned for another 200 years when it is described as "a rough sort of dog between a hound and a terrier", which is very suggestive of the present hound. His ear folds suggest a link with French hounds - they are very similar to those of the Griffon family. It is likely that his ancestors were scenthounds brought in at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. Otter hunting started because of the habit at the time of keeping stew ponds - small lakes with fish - as a kind of living larder. Otters were plundering these and hounds, often just single hounds, were trained to kill the otters.
As house dogs they require to be occupied. It is only a short time ago, in 1978, that the hunts were disbanded and Otterhounds moved into family homes and all those long years of breeding for stamina and endurance do not disappear. Just 43 hounds from the Dumfriesshire pack and 23 from the Kendal pack were registered with the Kennel Club to form the nucleus of today's breed. They can be in any of the recognised hound colours; liver and white is not allowed, or white base colour with separate black and tan patches.