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Otterhound Dog Breed Origin and History

All the way back to the twelfth century there was mention of ‘otter dogges’ in England . However, the Otterhound as we know it today did not become this way until sometime in the late eighteenth century. During this time period the otters were a large threat to the food supplies and originally Otterhounds were used as hunting packs to kill the otters.

Later, the breed would be used to hunt for sport as well. King John of the Magna Carta would be reported as saying that the Otterhound was ‘a rough sort of a dog, between a hound and terrier’. The infamous Queen Elizabeth I was the original ‘Lady Master of Otterhounds.’
The modern day Otterhound breed carries the lineage of the Bloodhound along with several lines of the rough-coated French hounds. This breed also carries lineage to the currently extinct Southern Hound. The popular Otterhounds are bred with terriers to form the Airedale Terrier breed.

Otters were hated and hunting them topped its popularity in the years just prior to World War I. It was not uncommon for 500 plus hounds to be a couple dozen packs to go on a otter hunting expedition, even though many of these dogs were not completely true bred Otterhounds. The hunters were notorious for cross-breeding various lines of Otterhounds to achieve the perfect hunting traits.

As a consequence one of the modern day purebred Otterhounds lineage can be traced to the Bloodhoud Griffon Nivernais cross which was done in the year 1958. Water pollution began to control the otter population causing it to no longer be a threat to food supplies and in the year 1978 otter hunting was completely abolished in England with Scotland following suit in 1980. The purebred Otterhounds were no longer needed for otter hunting packs and were distributed to private individual owners, many of which used the dogs for mink hunting.

It would not be until the early twentieth century that the Otterhounds would find their way to the United States , where six of these purebreds were shown on exhibition for the AKC show in the year 1907. Thirty years later a veterinarian, Dr. Hugh Mouat, started the initial comprehensive breeding program for the United States . In fact his couple, Bessie’s Countess and Bessie’s Courageous, from the initial litter were the first AKC champions for the Otterhound breed in the year of 1941. It would be in the year 1960 that the Otterhound Club of America would be founded and hold the Otterhound’s breed first National Specialty in the year of 1981.

Currently, there are less than a thousand Otterhounds world wide, with the UK and US housing the largest of the population. Additional smaller groups can be found in the Netherlands , Scandinavia , Germany , Switzerland , Canada and New Zealand . It is estimated that today there are only about a total of 350 Otterhounds to be found in both the United States and Canada .

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