Description & History

The Otterhound is an English hound that can be traced back to the twelfth century. Its ancestors are probably the Bloodhound, English hound strains and French Griffon breeds.

The Otterhound is a pack hound. It is a rough coated animal, with exceptional scenting and swimming ability. The Otterhound was used to control the population of otters which took large amounts of game fish from the rivers and fisheries maintained by the monasteries.

Otter-hunting was once the sport of royalty and the nobility. Many English monarchs maintained packs of Otterhounds, including John, Edward II and Elizabeth I.

Otter-hunting was never as popular as deer or fox hunting, nevertheless it took place for hundreds of years and reached the height of its popularity at the end of the nineteenth century. Its appeal did not decline until after the Second World War.

In 1978 the otter was placed on the Endangered Species List. This seriously affected a number of packs and brought about the demise of many hounds. Although otter-hunting is now banned, two packs still exist - the Kendal and Dumfriesshire - thus preventing the breed from becoming extinct in the British Isles.

In the latter part of the present century Otterhounds have turned their talents in other directions - they have become show animals and also successfully hunt minks.

Hounds from the Kendal and District Otterhounds starred in the film Tarka the Otter, which was based on Henry Williamson's book.

Rosamund Walters.

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