- A Look Into the History of the Irish Otterhound
- General Appearance
The Irish Otterhound is a rare variation of the Hound Group. Also known as the hunter, this dog is part of the list of vulnerable native breeds, and only around 600 remain worldwide.
Although it can be challenging to find even a breeder of this dog, they do exist. So all you need to do is search thoroughly! But once you do get lucky enough to get one, you get one of the most loyal and loving dogs out there.
With that said, here’s everything you need to know about Irish Otterhounds.
A Look Into the History of the Irish Otterhound
Like the English Otterhound, the Irish Otterhound has a mysterious origin.
Experts believe this breed might have originated from France due to its similarity to the French Vendeen hound. However, there are also other breeds experts consider. These include the Welsh Harrier and Bloodhound.
Regardless, people discovered this breed first in the early 1900s. Irish Otterhounds are scent hound hunters, and they would use their noses to find otters. Hence, their name.
Irish Otterhounds are scent and pack hounds. That means they weren’t necessarily trained to kill prey. Instead, they chased smaller animals and drove them into a corner. And once these dogs lock their nose into a prey’s scent, they’ll follow them no matter what!
Moreover, this breed is naturally strong and athletic. For this reason, this dog could last for long periods during rigorous hunting trips. So it’s only natural that Irish Otterhounds like to hunt and trail.
These dogs have some of the keenest noses, allowing them to track otters even underwater! This breed was good at the job that they almost made river otters extinct. That’s why years after their discovery, authorities outlawed otter hunting.
In addition, the breed found its way outside of its native land to the US after WWII. But it wasn’t until the 20th century when the American Kennel Club recognized the breed.
Now, this breed remains to be one of the rarest globally. And as of now, only a few hundred are scattered worldwide.
The Irish Otterhound is a larger-than-average and rough-coated dog. This specific branch of the breed has darker fur with a grand head, showing dignity and strength. Also, they have naturally strong bodies and keen noses, made for hunting! Moreover, since this dog hunts prey on land and water, they have uniquely webbed feet.
With that said, here’s a more in-depth view of each of the dog’s physical traits:
The head of an Irish Otterhound is larger-than-average, narrow, and covered with fur! Generally, this dog’s head measures up to 11 or 12 inches. Measurements start from the tip of the dog’s nose to the occiput. From there, all the way to the withers, the combination of the dog’s skull and muzzle should be around 26 inches.
Also, this breed’s neck is powerful, blending smoothly to the shoulders. Meanwhile, their chest is deep. But despite this, they still have a well-sprung rib cage extending toward their rears. And they have short loins despite being large.
But most importantly, Irish Otterhounds have an abundance of fur! Their top line is level from the withers to the base of their tail.
The Irish Otterhound’s coat is crucial as they’re bred to hunt in all kinds of conditions. From marching to heavy rains to swimming to rough currents, this dog is capable! And the thick layer of waterproof coating helps them endure these harsh conditions.
The coat usually consists of a coarse outer coating and a soft and wool-like undercoat. Additionally, this undercoat has an oily layer, protecting the dog from cold waters. And though this breed has a naturally coarse and tough coat, the fur on their head and lower legs are soft!
Finally, their ears and tail are also full of fur.
🐕 Tail and Hindquarters
The thighs of this breed are large, broad, and muscular. Moreover, their legs also have bent stifles with defined hocks. And these are rigid and don’t turn in or not. Finally, when you look at this dog from the rear, you’ll see they’re parallel on a standing hound.
🐕 Legs and Feet
The paw pads of an Irish Otterhound provide ample traction over rough terrains. And this dog’s feet are larger in the front than the back. However, the back part of the paws has deep pads and arched toes. With this, they can withstand harsh conditions for long periods.
Also, this breed is web-footed, helping them swim in any currents with ease. And to top everything off, their legs are big-boned, supporting this active breed with ease.
Friendliness is a shared trait in otterhounds, and that includes the Irish Otterhound! Unfortunately, although these dogs are great at hunting, they’re usually too gentle to be watchdogs. That means if you’re looking to get a dog to guard your home or property, look somewhere else.
Generally, this dog’s gentle temperament makes them perfect for families with kids. Plus, they’re also ideal for older owners. And the best part is even though these dogs are naturally large, they’re easy to train. That means even first-time owners should have an effortless time raising this dog.
Irish Otterhounds will hold their special bonds with all family members. However, the only issue here is that you need to be an active owner since they have high energy levels. If not, this dog will pick up bad habits, leading to several health complications like obesity.
Fortunately, these dogs are naturally independent. So you don’t need to be continually on your feet every minute. Additionally, otterhound pups are boisterous and may require constant attention. But as they get older, they’ll become more relaxed and sleep more.
But regardless of their age, this breed can be cheeky, especially when it comes to food! It can grab attention fast, and this can be beneficial for training. Just remember to give treats in moderation since this breed is prone to weight gain.
Generally, the Irish Otterhound is healthy. However, like most purebred dogs, they can develop many health conditions. Keep in mind not all otterhounds will get these diseases. But it’s best to be aware of them early on in case you’re considering adopting one.
If you’re purchasing an otterhound puppy, make sure to find a responsible breeder. That refers to breeders that are transparent and will show everything to you. From health clearances to other certifications, this can confirm your dog’s health. After all, these prove that the dog has undergone the necessary tests.
To give you a better idea, you must seek health clearances from major organizations for Irish Otterhounds. For instance, a clearance from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals clears the dog from hip dysplasia. Also, this clearance clears your dog for other conditions like elbow dysplasia and von Willebrand’s disease.
Meanwhile, clearances from Auburn University and Canine Eye Registry Foundation are also crucial. Each clears the dog for thrombophilia and certifying their eyes are normal, respectively.
For your convenience, here are the common health issues in Irish Otterhounds you need to keep an eye on:
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (Bloat)
For otterhounds, this can be a life-threatening condition. And this is especially true if they develop it through specific situations. These include eating one massive meal a day, drinking large volumes of water after a meal, or vigorously playing after eating.
This condition is more common among older otterhounds. And this can happen when dogs can’t vomit to reduce the excess air in their stomachs. Due to this, the regular returning of blood flow to their heart gets impeded. When this happens, the dog’s blood pressure can drop, resulting in shock.
Unfortunately, without immediate medical attention, your otterhound can die.
So it would be best if you were attentive to your dog. Generally, when your dog salivates excessively or retches without barfing, take action. Also, if you begin to see your dog being restless or lethargic, bring them to the vet immediately!
This medical condition is inherited, meaning your pup can get it from their parents. Hip Dysplasia happens when the thighbone doesn’t snugly fit into the dog’s hip joint. Some signs of this condition are the dog showing pain and lameness on their rear legs. But there are also cases where these dogs don’t display any outward signs of discomfort.
Canine Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia
Canine Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia is a medical condition stemming from an immune system disorder. And this is when dogs don’t have enough platelets in their systems. Symptoms may include excessive bleeding under their skin or gums.
Generally, Canine Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia is more common in female otterhounds than males. Plus, it runs in limited Otterhound lines.
Due to the Irish Otterhound’s large size and high energy levels, they need ample space. So that makes these dogs perfect for active families who can keep up with their energy.
This breed can survive in most conditions and stay out in temperate and cool climates. However, remember to provide your dog with an appropriate shelter! And though they can survive outdoors, it’s best to keep otterhounds close. After all, this breed loves being near family despite their natural independence.
Moreover, training and socializing your otterhound is crucial. And it’s best to start them young! You can do this by adding socialization to their training. An excellent way to start this is by taking your otterhound with you everywhere that’s safe for them. Whether it’s the dog park or pet supply store, expose your pup to the great outdoors!
Generally, any area where there are plenty of people and other dogs to meet should do. Never let your otterhound loose without a leash because they have instincts to follow their nose. When you pair this with their natural sense of independence, your otterhound will run!
Finally, when it comes to grooming, these dogs need careful attention. After all, they have thick and coarse fur that needs constant care. It’s best to give your Irish Otterhound a thorough brushing every 1 to 2 weeks. Meanwhile, for baths, only give it to them when necessary.
Q: What was the Irish Otterhound bred for?
A: Otterhounds are large dogs bred in England to hunt otters, and since then, plenty of variations have been developed, including the Irish Otterhound. Regardless, all otterhounds have natural hunting capabilities that shine through, even if most of them are domesticated.
Q: Is an Irish Otterhound a good pet?
A: Irish Otterhounds are some of the liveliest and loving dogs out there, so they make good pets for all kinds of people. The only issue with these dogs is that it’s best always to supervise them due to their size and clumsiness. But generally, if you train and socialize them early on, they’ll likely learn their limits.
Q: Is the Irish Otterhound aggressive?
A: Although otterhounds were initially bred to hunt otters, surprisingly, they aren’t that aggressive. And primarily since this breed isn’t used for hunting anymore, they’ve become even more gentle. The only issue is that sometimes to can become stubborn.
Q: How to groom an Irish Otterhound?
A: Since otterhounds are naturally large dogs with thick and long coats, grooming them can be challenging, but it is doable. You can start by brushing your dog’s fur every week and at least wash their lower legs, ears, and beard when you can. It’s best only to use water and towels when washing an otterhound.
Q: Why are Irish Otterhounds going extinct?
A: Otterhounds, in general, are endangered due to scarce breeding. After all, these dogs were initially bred to hunt otters. And now that it’s outlawed in several countries, many breeders decided only to breed these dogs when in demand. Hence, they’ve become a protected species.
These are everything you need to know about the Irish Otterhound. Now that you know the importance and rarity behind this breed, remember always to ask questions before adopting or buying one! Once you get one, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best and most loyal companions long-term.
Do you think this otterhound is for you? Consider adopting!