Breed Group: Hound

Temperament and Behavior

The Otterhound is known for being amiable, boisterous and even-tempered behavior. The breed is extremely loving with everyone in the family, children included, but he is somewhat clumsy so does not mix well with a toddler or the elderly. Strangers can be greeted with the same affection as family or viewed with caution. They enthusiastically thrive on vigorous outdoor exercise. Bred to hunt in packs, most do well with other dogs; but with non-canines, their prey drive prevents them from amicably coexisting. They have a booming voice that carries great distances and they love to use it. This makes him an above average watchdog but his calm, agreeable nature makes him a below average guard dog. His calm, laid-back manner inside, compliments his slow, shuffling gait. But once an Otterhound is outside it is if they awaken, becoming much more interested in activity. As their name indicates, they were bred to hunt otters and love to swim. If there is no suitable body of water available, splashing in a puddle or dunking their head in their water bowl will do. Like their Bloodhound relatives, they will follow a scent for hours, and they love to romp and wrestle. But they are usually content with a long walk and playtime in the yard. However the yard must be fenced, and when on a walk, they must be on a leash or their a scent hound nose will find an interesting smell and they will follow it to the source with complete disregard for streets or an owner’s commands.

Physical Characteristics

Otterhounds are large dogs. Males measure approximately 27 inches at the withers and weight an average of 115 pounds. Females measure approximately 24 inches at the withers and weigh an average of about 80 pounds. This rough-coated dog has a strong body and a heightened sense of smell. Their coat is made up of short wooly, slightly oily hair making it water-resistant. They come in many colors the most common being black-and-tan, black-and-tan-grizzle, liver-and-tan, wheaten, and tricolor. An Otterhound needs brushing once or twice a week and his beard cleaned daily. He has a heavy seasonal shed with some hair loss year round. They do quite well in all but the most frigid temperatures but do progressively poorly as early spring temperatures turn into warmer humid summer weather.

Trainer's Notes

Otterhounds benefit from average efforts to socialize them. Training the breed takes patience, as do most scent hounds. The Otterhound has a mind of its own and can be quite stubborn. Training should be gentle, but consistent with consistency being key. You must show the Otterhound that you mean what you say. The “iron fist in a velvet glove” approach works well with training this breed. They are not recommended for apartment life, those seeking a jogging partner, those who cherish a beautifully clean house, or first-time owners.

Photo © by Machinecha available from the Public Domain



With just over half of all Otterhounds suffering from Hip Dysplasia they are one of the breeds most affected by the condition. Elbow Dysplasia affects almost 1 in 5 dogs. The breed also suffers from an increased incidence of Bloat and several bleeding disorders. Otterhounds also gain weight easily, and should not be overfed. Their life expectancy is 12 to 14 years.


The Otterhound is one of, if not the rarest of all breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. There are typically fewer than 50 registrations of the breed in a year. Because the Otterhound is a very rare breed, finding a puppy is difficult. Only an average of 4 to 7 litters of Otterhounds are born in the United States each year. With fewer than 1,000 dogs in the world, there are fewer members of the breed than some animals on the endangered species list.

Breed History

The exact origin of the Otterhound is uncertain. They may have originated by crossing Bloodhounds with rough-haired Terriers, Griffons, and Harriers. Their name was given to the breed for its preferred prey, the otter. An old British breed, they were used in packs to find an otter’s den, when afterward, small terriers were used to dispatch the otter which was done in an effort to improve the supply of fish in local streams. The earliest documented packs were kept by King John in 1212. By the second half or the 19th century, there were more than 20 packs of Otterhounds operating in Britain. The Otterhound’s sense of smell is so acute it can tell if an otter passed through water the night before. But as the otter became a protected species during the 20th century, the breed virtually died out. Thanks to the effort of a few dedicated breeders, the Otterhound was saved from extinction and brought to the show ring. In 1995, the Otterhound was officially recognized by the AKC.

Additional Information

The National (US) Breed Club is the Otterhound Club of America.

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