The large size of this canine, weighing up to 125 pounds, and tremendous strength makes the Otterhound a good hunting dog for anything from small mink and raccoon to bear and mountain lion. Though the Otterhound can hunt alone, it usually hunts in packs.
The Otterhound has a thick course outer coat that serves as a protection from shrubs and bushes. The Otterhound is also known for its long strides which he can keep up for hours on the hunt.
But as the name suggests, the original Otterhound was bred for the specific purpose of hunting otters which were destroying the trout population in rivers and streams in the United Kingdom. The fishermen could not afford to have their livelihood jeopardized in this fashion and so the Otterhound was selected to rid the fisherman of this pest. Besides having a nose that could pick up a scent well over a day old on water, the Otterhound has the ability to swim for hours and go right under the water to fish out their prey. The undercoat of the Otterhound is oily and waterproof, protecting the hound from cold water. The Otterhound has web footing for water and strong nails to protect against rock. These rather unique features make him different from any other kind of hound or terrier used in hunts today. To track a scent by water is called wash a scent. While tracking the otter scent on land is called dragging a scent or drag hunting.
Though the Otterhound has been around and on the job since the 13th century, their popularity diminished after the Second World War. Furthermore, hunting Otters was banned in England in 1982. Otters were placed on the endangered species list due to the diminishing population. Prior to the disbandment, several debates about the cruelty and barbarism of the sport surfaced. Yet, in the past few years the sport of otter hunting has somewhat revived in England.
For the most part hunting otters had been replaced with hunting mink for the traditional Otterhound. But hunting minks are not as popular for the true English hunting aficionado. Hunting Otters used to be an all day affair and the Otterhound had to work hard to find his prey below the water. Minks live in underground burrows and generally do not venture very far from their dens. The hunt is shorter and not as exciting.
Otterhounds came to North America around the 1900s though they were bred in England as far back as the 13th century. On this side of the Atlantic, Otterhounds are used to hunt and track raccoons, bears and mountain lions. The possibilities seem endless for these amazing hunting dogs who love to track and love to swim.