There is much mystery associated with the exact origin of the Otterhound. Many aficionados believe that the dog has been around since ancient times. Pictures of hounds were found drawn on cave walls in Mesopotamia. According to the writings of John Mammoth, the Southern Hound known to be the direct ancestor of the Otterhound is believed to have been transported to Brittany.
However the British are most associated with Otterhounds since most of recorded history places them in the United Kingdom circa 1100's.
Otterhounds in the Arts
Otterhounds are depicted as the classic hunting dog on the English Moors in many a fine painting of days gone by. Famous paintings of Otterhounds include the Samuel Howitt collections from the 1700 and 1800s, Louis Agassiz Fuertes and Walter Hunt's paintings of the early 1900s and paintings by John Sargent Noble and Maud Earl.
Otterhounds in Literature
We first come across Otterhounds in literature when we are told that King John owned a pack of Otterhounds in the year 1212. We have other mention of royalty owning Otterhounds as well. Richard III, Charles II, Edward II and IV, Henry II, VI, VII and VIII and Elizabeth I had Otterhounds affording them the elusive title of "Master of Otterhounds," though not much mention of these dogs other than vague descriptions have been documented by Otterhound historians. For example, we know that one of King Edward's huntsman, a man by the name of William Twici, described the Otterhound as ďa rough sort of dog."
In his book about sporting dog breeds, the noted expert and authority on hounds, Croxton Smith states that the Otterhound, is a direct decent of the rough coated Griffon Vendeen of France.
Honorable Geoffrey Hill's famous Hawkstone pack of Otterhounds eliminated 700 Otters in a period of 20 years during the 1800's. Squire Lomax of Clitheroe's famous pack would take hand signals from him as cues for the pursuit, they were so well trained. Many of these famous packs of the 1800's were not only well trained and great hunters they won show awards as well; the Carlisle and Kendall packs are but two examples. The Carlisle pack was in fact the leading pack of the United Kingdom for over a period of sixty years. Lottery and Lucifer were two of his star Otterhounds noted for their skill and showmanship.
It is said that William Shakespeare borrowed on the works of William Chaucer's Knights Tales for his depicture of Otterhounds and hounds in general in his various sonnets and plays. Both Chaucer and Shakespeare were well aware of these famous dogs.
The imagery of hounds is further embedded in our memories from such classic tales as Sir Author Conan Doyle's, The Hounds of The Baskervilles, published in 1902.
It is hard to find modern day Otterhounds and their owners since there is less than 1,000 left of this breed today, but we found Fezziwig and Zuzu two playful 5-year-old Otterhounds owned by Professor Kimberly White of York University, faculty of Fine Arts. These lucky dogs get to spend two weeks each year at Happy Trails, a luxury pet Resort.