This is an Otterhound.

There are fewer than 800 in the world, so it’s understandable if you’ve never heard of them before.

The Otterhound is a large, goofy scent hound. This package – complete with a shaggy coat, webbed feet, very long ears, and extremely powerful nose – culminates into a big dog with a lot of love to give. Ask anyone who has one, or has ever met one, and they’ll tell you: it was love at first sight.

So, why aren’t they more popular?

  • People have never heard of them.
    With so few Otterhounds in the world, most people have never even had the opportunity to know that they exist. These aren’t Labradors or Golden Retrievers. You won’t find them on any street corner or in the average dog park, and the television family’s dog has never been an Otterhound. But with such an iconic, animated look – fur everywhere, huge ears, big tail, big paws, and a constant smile – why wouldn’t they have stolen the spotlight long ago?
    The answer to this requires a look at the breed’s history. The Otterhound is named as such because its purpose was hunting otters, which was popular in England. With their durable, water repelling coats and webbed feet, Otterhounds were bred to be able to follow otters in the rivers.
    Otterhounds were already rare, as huntmasters kept the dogs exclusively for themselves until otter hunting was banned in 1978. With the main purpose of this breed outlawed, huntmasters scattered their packs, allowing private owners to purchase the dogs and introduce them into their own families as pets. A few were brought over to North America during this time, and only a few of these dogs are bred. It’s estimated that there are only about four to seven Otterhound litters in North America a year, meaning that this already rare, typically unheard of breed is even harder to find as there simply aren’t many puppies.

    Otterhound puppies are tiny compared to their parents.

  • They’re huge and slobbery.
    So, what if you have heard of an Otterhound? One extremely important factor to consider is that this is a large dog. Otterhounds are typically anywhere from 24-28 inches tall at the shoulder, and can weigh from 65-115 pounds. Furthermore, they have beards. This doesn’t sound like a problem, until they’ve had a drink of water, as Leona in Illinois, who owns an Otterhound, Nelli, explains:

    The one thing that my friends keep saying they don’t like is the wet beard on their lap!! Otherwise, they find (Nelli) adorable and charming.

    The Otterhound is adorable and charming – but huge! You need a big fence in your backyard to make sure they will stay there. In their minds, it is entirely appropriate to sit on you. Your kitchen counters will not be safe from those big paws and wet beards:scavengeOtterhounds will sometimes forget their size, and can be a danger to your possessions:
    They have excellent temperaments, are extremely friendly, and will consider their human family a part of their pack, but it is still important to remember that there are large, strong dogs, and that is not necessarily the best pet for everyone.

  • Their deep, booming voices.
    To go with that powerful body is a powerful voice. Not everyone is appreciative of this:
    Or this:
    While their deep bark can seem intimidating at times, these are still extremely friendly dogs. Their barking and baying is more about expressing themselves.
  • Their independence.
    Sometimes, the Otterhound can be seen as stubborn. Their most important asset is their nose, which Otterhounds will follow before anything else. If they smell an interesting scent, they’re going to find it, and sometimes, it doesn’t matter whether you want them to or not. They can be difficult to train compared to other dogs, but not impossible. As Ashka of Blue Fairy Otterhounds notes:

    (Our first Otterhound) taught us patience and the art of negotiation during obedience training. … (Otterhounds) are smart and it is your job as an owner/handler to convince them they should follow your lead. You have to earn their trust and respect. Very human quality!

    This independence can lead to Otterhounds simply doing what they want. They are dogs with great personality and character. Leona has some stories about her friend’s, Sally, Otterhound, Maggie:

    (Maggie) is a real character! One day Sally was walking her in the park (in the winter) and some kids were having a snowball fight, building a snowman, etc. Anyway, as Maggie walks by she takes the carrot nose right off the face of the snowman, not skipping a beat in her stride!! Another time at the park, Sally was talking to a lady pushing her grand-baby in a stroller. They were in an interesting conversation and since they were ignoring Maggie, she had taken the bottle from the baby and was playing with it! They certainly do earn the title “clown of hounds”!!

I love them! How do I find an Otterhound?

Here is a map of approximately where roughly 450 – or, potentially a little over half of the known population – Otterhounds are today. Some locations are more popular than others, and it helps to find a breeder close to you.

Here is a map of where the current Otterhound breeders in North America are located. There are not many of them, and they are not always expecting litters. This means that getting an Otterhound sometimes requires patience, but if a breeder determines your home would be perfect for an Otterhound, he or she will work with you in order to get you one.emmettThis is Emmett, an Otterhound puppy born in Calgary, Alberta, but now living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Upon learning about Otterhounds, Emmett’s future owner, Mary, contacted Bev, Emmett’s breeder in Calgary. Bev determined that Mary and her husband would make wonderful owners to Emmett, and arranged to meet at Frank Slide in southern Alberta in order to transfer him over to them. The new family then made their way back home.

With the internet and social media, it is now much easier to find this rare dog breed. However, simply looking at them online does not show you how wonderful and life-changing these dogs can be. Ashka met her first Otterhound at a dog show when she and her husband, Mike, were looking for a new dog breed to own. The Otterhound was everything they were looking for, but they never would have known it without having first met one in person. Now, as a breeder herself, Ashka has some tips for looking for and acquiring an Otterhound puppy:

  1. Do your homework. There is incredible wealth of information online and variety of research tools to connect hounds and people across the country and the world.
  2. Meet an Otterhound in person. Can you handle the size, shaggy coat or wet beard? How about hound personality and temperament? Pictures alone don’t tell the full story.
  3. Before thinking about getting a puppy, talk to the breeder and meet the dam and her puppies. It is important to know how the puppies are raised and socialized from the earliest stages of their lives.
  4. Have a plan for the dog or a puppy when you get it. Otterhounds benefit from early socialization and a tired hound is a happy hound. Regular exercise and scheduled activities such as puppy or basic obedience classes will help create a bond with your new canine companion.

And remember, once you get an Otterhound, it’s hard to stop at just one 🙂

couchSite created by Ari Yanover.
Thanks to Bev Biren, Dana Bostick, Mary Brzica, Teri Goots, Ashka Gordon, Drew Pignatari, Reed Pomeroy, Nancy Scarci, Leona Totosz, and Becky Van Houten for their help with this site!