Choosing an Otterhound

The otterhound is a big shaggy dog that loves to swim. Originally bred to hunt otters, the breed is a wonderful family companion but is a rare breed.

History and Origin

The otterhound originated in Great Britain centuries ago. Although debated, many feel that the breed came from crossing bloodhounds with griffons, harriers and terriers. As the name implies, the breed was developed to hunt otters since the otter population in England was excessive and competed with the fishermen for trout.

The first time the otterhound was mentioned in literature was in the early 14th century during the reign of Edward II. Several Kings have been enthusiasts of the otterhound. By the 1900s, the otter population diminished and so did the popularity of the otterhound. In the mid 1970s, the breed almost became extinct and it was through the efforts of some dedicated breeders that the breed is slowly coming back. The breed is considered a rare breed, with most found in England and the United States.

In 1910, the otterhound was recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of the hound group.

Appearance and Size

The otterhound is a large, scruffy looking dog with a big, slightly narrow head. The eyes are set deep and the ears are long and hang. The chest is deep and the tail long, tapered and feathered.

The coat of the otterhound is distinctive. The outer coat is up to 4 inches long, shorter on the legs. The undercoat is short and wooly. The ears are covered with hair and the tail is feathered. The coat can be any color or combination of colors. The most common colors are grizzle or wheaten with black markings.

The adult otterhound stands around 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weighs about 65 to 110 pounds.


The otterhound is a happy and friendly dog that is a devoted family pet. Although they are intelligent, some can be independent and stubborn. They are calm dogs and may sometimes bay.

Home and Family Relations

The otterhound is a good family dog but he is a large clumsy dog so does best with older children. The breed usually gets along with other dogs and household pets but may chase neighborhood cats.

The otterhound prefers to live in a house with a large fenced yard. He needs plenty of exercise and loves to swim. If kept indoors a lot with inactivity, obesity can be a problem. This breed can live outdoors if given adequate shelter.


Training an otterhound requires patience and a firm but kind hand. Some otterhounds can be stubborn and willful.

Special Concerns

The otterhound's coat requires frequent combing to prevent matting. This dog should not be allowed to roam off leash since he may chase cats. Some may have a tendency to bay and some may dig if left alone outside with nothing to do.

Common Diseases and Disorders

The otterhound is a hardy breed that has few known diseases. Some reported disorders include:

Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.

Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that develops between the ages of 2 to 5 years.

Gastric torsion (bloat) is a life-threatening sudden illness associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.

Glanzmann's thrombasthenic disorder. This is an inherited platelet disorder that can potentially be fatal. Make sure your otterhound has been tested prior to adopting.

The ottehound is also prone to obesity.

The average life span of the otterhound is 10 to 12 years.

We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.