The Breed History
Dating to early in the 1300s, the first tentative records of a dog meeting this description originate in Britain. Described as a mix of hound and terrier, these dogs likely arose from Bloodhound, Welsh terrier and other southern hound mixes, though some evidence points to the inclusion of VendР№Р№ hound of France or French Griffon. Otterhounds are one of the Airedale terrier's ancestors. First imports to the USA occurred around 1900. AKC first recognized the breed in 1907. This is a rare breed.
Breeding for Function
As the name implies, hunting otter was the purpose for which these dogs were developed. They are versatile enough for land or water and excel at scent tracking. The webbed feet of this breed help to ensure good swimming ability.
Height at Withers: females 24" (61 cm), males 27" (68.5 cm)
Weight: female 75-85 lb (34-38.5 kg), male 100-115 lb (45.5-52 kg)
Coat: The rough-coated double oily coat makes him almost waterproof. It sits close, not flat, and the hairs are hard, crisp and broken in texture. The outer coat is 1.5-2" (3.75-5 cm) long though hairs are longer over the back (up to 6" or 15 cm). The undercoat is dense, short and wooly. Blue and white is the favored coat color, but they also commonly appear as black and tan grizzle and many other combinations.
Longevity: 12-13 years
Points of Conformation: These large dogs are noted for their excellent nose and are of sturdy constitution, being both well muscled and boned. The large narrow head is well covered with hair, the stop is not obvious, and the dark eyes are deeply set with minimal nictitans exposure. Long, pendulous ears fold in hound fashion and are low set and close hanging. There is a square muzzle, the flews are deep and the darkly pigmented nose is large. The neck is muscular, and the topline level. The thorax is deep, ribs are well sprung, and chest depth extends well back. The high set tail is tapering, feathered and held up but not over the back when alert; the tail is arched and reaches the tarsus. Limbs are straight boned, fore and rear dewclaws may be removed, the feet are large and broad, and toes webbed. The Otterhound gait is long, low and smooth and appears effortless. The walk is loose and shuffling.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Devoted, energetic (boisterous), playful, friendly but possessing an independent streak. They are vocal dogs, with a well-developed voice and are good watch dogs, not guard dogs. They should only be left off leash in a fenced enclosure. Good with children and other pets if raised with them. Some consider them a bit too active for seniors and infants and they are not recommended for apartment living. They have moderate grooming needs. They may need some hygiene around mealtime since food can be trapped in the beard, ear hair and moustache. Moderate exercise and early obedience training are recommended.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 52.3% affected. Reported at a frequency of 31.9% in the 2003 OHCA Health Survey.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports a high incidence, but very few Otterhounds have been screened to determine an accurate frequency.
Glanzmann's Thrombasthenia (GT): This autosomal recessive defect causes frequent epistaxis, and gingival bleeding during teething in young dogs. Caused by a defect in intrinsic platelet function involving glycoprotein complex IIb-IIIa. Affected dogs have normal platelet numbers, and normal coagulation panels. A genetic test is available.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Otterhounds have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Sebaceous Cysts: Benign accumulation of sebum within plugged hair follicles. OHCA 2003 health survey reports 46.2% of Otterhounds develop sebaceous cysts.
Allergic Dermatitis (Atopy): Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported at a frequency of 15.1% in the 2003 OHCA Health Survey.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 2.3% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 11.8% in the 2003 OHCA Health Survey.
Idiopathic Epilepsy: Inherited seizures can be generalized or partial seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Reported at a frequency of 10.0% in the 2003 OHCA Health Survey.
Gastric Dilation/Volvulus (GDV, Bloat): Life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Reported breed prevalence of 9.0%, and cause of death of 7.4% of Otterhounds in a UK study.
Cataracts: Reported at a frequency of 5.04% in the 2003 OHCA Health Survey.
Ocular Disorders: Not enough Otterhounds have had CERF eye examinations to determine accurate frequencies for ocular disorders.
Brachygnathism, Factor II Deficiency, and Prognathism are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Malignant Lymphoma of the Myocardium: Identified in a male Otterhound and two sibling offspring.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for Glannzmann's thrombasthenia (GT) is available from the Boudreaux Lab: http://www. vetmed.auburn.edu/faculty/pathobiology-faculty/boudreaux (334-844-2692).
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, DNA(blood sample) in OFA/CHIC repository, and genetic test for GT. (See CHIC website; www.caninehealthinfo.org). Recommend elbow radiographs, CERF eye examination, patella evaluation, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: none
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 154 (36 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: The Otterhound Club of America: http://clubs.akc.org/ohca/
The Otterhound Club (UK): www.otterhoundclub.co.uk
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