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Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Otterhound Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Facts, & Traits

Otterhound Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Facts, & Traits

Otterhound_Lourdes Photography_Shutterstock

The Otterhound may not be a dog breed you’ve ever heard of, even if you work with dogs. This breed has been around since medieval times, though, so why don’t you hear more about it? For starters, the Otterhound is a rare breed that you may not encounter in person in your entire life.

Breed Overview


24 – 27 inches


80 – 115 pounds


10 – 13 years


Black, black and tan, grey, liver and tan, tan, wheaten, blue and cream

Suitable for:

Families with older children, active singles and childless couples, laid-back households, water-related activities, scent work


Affectionate, easygoing, friendly, adaptable, intelligent

That isn’t to say they aren’t a fantastic breed, though! These dogs are loving, affable companions who are just as happy to have a lazy weekend as they are to go for a hike. Here’s everything to know about the easygoing Otterhound.

Otterhound Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Otterhound Puppies

Otterhound puppies playing
Image By: Christian Mueller, Shutterstock

Due to the rarity of the breed, Otterhound puppies are difficult to come by and quite pricey.  Since they’re so rare, breeders are few and far between, so unless you’re one of the lucky few with a breeder nearby, you should expect to spend extra money on transporting the puppy. Be prepared to be on a waiting list for years, if not decades, to score one of these pups.

You might be lucky to find an Otterhound puppy in a rescue or shelter. However, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll happen upon an Otterhound puppy through an organization unless you are looking at a breed-specific rescue. Even then, you’re not likely to find a puppy.

These rare dogs have an amazing combination of being intelligent and affectionate. They’re easy to train and make great companions for anyone who has the chance to have an Otterhound.


Temperament & Intelligence of the Otterhound

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

The Otterhound can be a great family dog, especially in homes with older children who understand proper care and treatment of dogs. It’s important to remember that this breed was bred with functionality in mind for hundreds of years, so some of them may not be great as pets for children, especially young children.

This is a relatively social breed, though, and they tend to be accepting of family and visitors alike. They are not ideal for protection or guard work due to their tendency to be so laidback and social toward everyone. This means that they can often be a good fit for families who frequently have company coming and going from the home.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

When it comes to other dogs, the Otterhound can get along with them well. In fact, many Otterhounds are used to living and hunting in packs. Proper socialization and introductions are the best ways to ensure your Otterhound gets along with other dogs in the household.

The biggest concern with Otterhounds and other pets in the household is that they are scent hound bred for hunting small to moderately sized game. This means that an Otterhound may not be suitable for a home with cats and other small animals. They are primarily scent hounds, which means that they aren’t necessarily going to bolt after the cat every time it does cat stuff, but any type of hunting dog in a home with small pets is a risk.


Things to Know When Owning an Otterhound:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

This is a large breed dog, so they do require quite a bit of food. However, that isn’t a reason to overfeed! Choosing a high-quality dog food and properly portioning your dog’s food based on their age, weight, and activity level will help you keep your Otterhound at a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is important with any dog, but it’s especially important with a large or giant breed dog since they are at risk for developing joint problems when overweight.

Exercise 🐕

The Otterhound is not an overly active breed, but they do need daily activity to burn energy and keep them entertained. For some Otterhounds, a long daily walk will meet their activity needs. For others, more intense exercise may be needed, like swimming or hiking. If your Otterhound is on the lazier side, you may have to find ways to may exercise entertaining and interesting. Scent work is a great way to capture your dog’s attention and get them to exercise without your dog feeling like it’s work.

Training 🎾

This is an intelligent and trainable breed that aims to please. Ideally, training should start while your dog is still young, so they fully understand rules and boundaries. It’s especially important to start training young since you may end up with a 100-pound dog when it’s grown. If you have a large dog that isn’t trained and doesn’t listen to commands, then you’ll have a difficult time. Positive training techniques and keeping training sessions interesting and fun will help you properly train your dog. If you have concerns with attempting to train a dog that will end up being large, you should reach out to a trainer for guidance and support.

Grooming ✂️

Otterhounds have oily, thick coats that require regular brushing to maintain. The breed standard calls for the coat to be kept as close to natural as possible, so haircuts shouldn’t be necessary if the coat is well kept. Baths should only be done as needed since they can strip the coat of its natural oils, which work to keep the dog’s coat waterproofed. Plan to brush your Otterhound once or twice weekly, and plan for all other grooming needs to be on an as-needed basis.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Minor Conditions
  • Ear infections
  • Allergies
  • Sebaceous cysts
Serious Conditions
  • Bloat
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Glanzmann’s thrombasthenia
  • Epilepsy
  • Obesity
  • Hypothyroidism

Male vs Female

Like most dog breeds, male Otterhounds are generally more loving, needy, and outgoing than females. Females, on the other hand, are more protective and independent than males. These aren’t “rules”, though. Since this is such a laidback breed, don’t be surprised if your dog is loving, outgoing, and friendly, regardless of sex.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Otterhound

1. They were bred for exactly what you think they were.

The Otterhound was bred as an otter hunting dog. This practice is no longer legal in England, where the breed originated. However, the purpose of the breed speaks to the hardiness of the Otterhound. The European otter may only reach around 20 pounds, but they are fierce creatures with sharp claws and teeth. It would take nothing less than a sturdy, large dog to hunt otters, not to mention that dog would need to have exceptional swimming skills to track and rumble with an otter.

2. They’re an exceptionally rare breed.

Even though they’ve been around for a very long time, Otterhound numbers are dwindling. In 2017, it was reported that there were around 900 Otterhounds in the entire world. By 2019, that number had dropped to only about 600 dogs. To put this into perspective, there are around 2,000 giant pandas in the world. In 2020, only seven Otterhound puppies were born in the entire world. When you consider that these large dogs typically have a lifespan of less than 13 years, seeing fewer than 10 puppies born per year while older dogs pass on could eventually sign a death warrant for the breed.

3. They were historically quite popular with royalty.

The Otterhound has been a favorite of British royalty practically since the formation of the breed during Medieval times. In the 1100s, Henry II owned Otterhounds and was quite the fan of otter hunting. Multiple British kings were named as Master of Otterhounds, including Henry II, Henry VI, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward II, Edward IV, Richard III, and King John. Only one British queen has been given the title, though. Elizabeth I owned a pack of the dogs, and her title was adjusted to Lady Master of Otterhounds.

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The Otterhound is a fascinating dog that is largely unknown and could become extinct without continuing care to preserve the breed. People who breed Otterhounds are dedicated to maintaining a healthy breed and ensuring its prolonged survival. With a gene pool that is so small, though, it can be quite difficult. If you’re one of the lucky people who is able to get an Otterhound into your home, ask your breeder and the Otterhound breed clubs what you can do to help preserve this old, lovely dog breed.

Featured Image Credit: Lourdes Photography, Shutterstock

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