You otter know

A recent mental floss piece on underrated dog breeds includes these uncommon hounds:

Soon, the Otterhound may join the ranks of the Paisley Terrier and Braque du Puy as an extinct dog breed. Fewer than 1000 of the rough-coated hounds are presently accounted for, making the breed rarer than the Giant Panda.

Their origins can be traced back to Medieval England. During that time, most English families relied on stream-caught fish as a dietary cornerstone. Any decline in the local fish stock could spell disaster for entire communities — so, naturally, carnivorous river otters weren’t too popular. Enter the Otterhound. Bred with webbed feet and powerful tails that could act as rudders, the dogs were great amphibious hunters. Also, their keen sense of smell made them expert otter-trackers. (Other traits are less utilitarian: Many keepers have commented that otterhounds have a habit of sleeping with all four paws in the air.) When the English government banned otter-hunting in 1982, the breed became scarce and its long-term survival is now very uncertain. As owner Betsy Conway put it to The New York Times, “You’re talking about an ancient breed that no longer has a job.”

Here, Ms Conway shows you one of these critters:

I’ve seen only one Otterhound in my entire life, and that was a quarter-century ago. Six of them made it to Westminster this year.

Of the 189 breeds currently recognized by the American Kennel Club, the Otterhound ranks 160th, meaning there are 30 breeds even rarer, at least according to their records. Of the three at the bottom, two are foxhounds, in American and English versions. You don’t see a lot of fox hunting these days, either.


  1. ETat »

    29 August 2017 · 7:04 am

    That would mean, surely, otter and fox population exploded after 1982? Maybe it’s time for some rigorous hunting?

  2. nightfly »

    29 August 2017 · 10:03 am

    Your link to the Mental Floss piece instead goes to Rush’s “The Trees.” Luckily I like to rock out.

  3. CGHill »

    29 August 2017 · 10:15 am

    I need somehow to persuade myself I can’t multitask.

  4. Holly H »

    29 August 2017 · 11:17 am

    No otter hunting, please! And certainly no fox hunting!

    If humans create a breed, then maybe it’s OK to let it expire. Otherwise I’d be all for saving it.

  5. CGHill »

    29 August 2017 · 12:17 pm

    The British currently ban fox hunting with hounds, though you’re free (within the usual limitations) to hunt fox without canine help.

  6. Holly H »

    30 August 2017 · 9:41 am

    Really? They still allow fox-hunting? eegads, that is appalling.

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