In earlier days this breed was sometimes referred to simply as the Otter Dog, reflecting its sole purpose in life — the pursuit of the elusive river otter.


This ancient breed is a stocky, shaggy, usually fawn-coloured scenthound with a highly sensitive nose housed in a body that is amazingly insensitive to cold. In pursuit of river otters, this dog is prepared to plunge into even the most freezing waters. It has a shambling walk, large, webbed feet and strangely folded ears. Its coat, so important when hunting in water, is dense, rough and weatherproof.

The history of this breed can be traced back to the 13th century, when King John hunted with a pack. In the 14th century, Edward II held among his many titles that of the first Master of Otterhounds. Other British monarchs to hold the title of Master of Otterhounds were Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII, Henry VIII and Charles II.


Otterhounds are boisterous and amiable. Being pack animals, they are tolerant of other dogs and are warm and affectionate with people. They are naturally good natured, but if attacked, they will respond with ferocity. They are not guard dogs in the traditional sense but have a loud and melodious voice which they will use if they hear strange noises. Being hounds, they are intelligent yet independent — even stubborn. Young hounds, especially, are active and energetic and need room to exercise and explore the world. These are large dogs and they can be awkward when young. Naturally, they love water and, since they retain their hunting instincts, must be kept in a fenced yard.


The Otterhound should have the qualities and appearance of a hunter. It has an athlete’s body, lean and well muscled, and it is covered from nose to tail and all around with a rough, crisp water-shedding outer coat and a warm undercoat. Since the Otterhound swims, it must have large webbed feet. Its face is majestic, large, fairly narrow, but long with a large, sensitive nose. It shows great strength and dignity. Its ears are long and pendulous and, like the rest of its head, are covered with hair. Its jaws have a punishing grip, with a scissors bite, and its eyes are dark.

This is a large breed: males stand about 26 inches/66 cm at the shoulders and females about 24 inches/60 cm. Its weight ranges from a minimum of 65 pounds/29 kg for a small female to 115 pounds/52 kg for a large, substantial male. The Otterhound is slightly longer than it is tall, with a strong body and a long, easy stride, rendering the breed capable of a long day’s work on land and water if it is required to do so.


The breed is relatively healthy but it is large and hip dysplasia can occur. Dedicated breeders are working to overcome the problem. It is wise to take precautions against gastric torsion. The Otterhound needs good exercise, either taking brisk walks or romping safely in a large fenced yard. When it is mature, it will enjoy road working about three times a week behind a bicycle or slowly moving car on quiet roads.

Special Care and Training

The breed’s coat is quite easy to maintain with a weekly brushing, which will keep shedding to a bare minimum. Dirt brushes out easily. The teeth and toenails need weekly attention as soon as the puppy can be easily handled. If there are any irregularities in its scissors bite, a vet should be consulted. The Otterhound may need to have its coat stripped — it should not be clipped — by having the dead loose hair pulled out in the direction of the hair growth. The ears should be looked after and kept clean. If there are any signs of odor or irritation, the vet should be consulted.


Even though the Otterhound has been a hunter for generations, its appealing countenance and affectionate nature have made its transition to house pet an easy one, provided that the home is run on a casual basis. Its hairy face and love of water can easily undo an immaculate living room.

Gallery of Otterhound