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The Otterhound

The Otterhound is a descendant of the old Southern Hound, and there

is reason to believe that all hounds hunting their quarry by nose

had a similar source. Why the breed was first called the Southern

Hound, or when his use became practical in Great Britain, must be

subjects of conjecture; but that there was a hound good enough to

hold a line for many hours is accredited in history that goes very

far back into past cent
ries. The hound required three centuries ago

even was all the better esteemed for being slow and unswerving on

a line of scent, and in many parts of the Kingdom, up to within half

that period, the so-called Southern Hound had been especially

employed. In Devonshire and Wales the last sign of him in his purity

was perhaps when Captain Hopwood hunted a small pack of hounds very

similar in character on the fitch or pole-cat; the modus operandi

being to find the foraging grounds of the animal, and then on a line

that might be two days old hunt him to his lair, often enough ten

or twelve miles off.

When this sort of hunting disappeared, and improved ideas of

fox-hunting came into vogue, there was nothing left for the Southern

Hound to do but to hunt the otter. He may have done this before at

various periods, but history rather tends to show that otter-hunting

was originally associated with a mixed pack, and some of Sir Walter

Scott's pages seem to indicate that the Dandie Dinmont and kindred

Scottish terriers had a good deal to do with the sport. It is more

than probable that the rough-coated terrier is identical with the

now recognised Otterhound as an offshoot of the Southern Hound; but

be that as it may, there has been a special breed of Otterhound for

the last eighty years, very carefully bred and gradually much improved

in point of appearance. They are beautiful hounds to-day, with heads

as typical as those of Bloodhounds, legs and feet that would do for

Foxhounds, a unique coat of their own, and they are exactly suitable

for hunting the otter, as everyone knows who has had the enjoyment

of a day's sport on river or brook.

The greatest otter hunter of the last century may have been the Hon.

Geoffrey Hill, a younger brother of the late Lord Hill. A powerful

athlete of over six feet, Major Hill was an ideal sportsman in

appearance, and he was noted for the long distances he would travel

on foot with his hounds. They were mostly of the pure rough sort,

not very big; the dogs he reckoned at about 23-1/2 inches, bitches

22: beautiful Bloodhound type of heads, coats of thick, hard hair,

big in ribs and bones, and good legs and feet.

Major Hill seldom exhibited his hounds. They were seen now and then

at Birmingham; but, hunting as hard as they did through Shropshire,

Staffordshire, Cheshire, and into Wales, where they got their best

water, there was not much time for showing. Their famous Master has

been dead now many years, but his pack is still going, and shows great

sport as the Hawkstone under the Mastership of Mr. H. P. Wardell,

the kennels being at Ludlow race-course, Bromfield.

The leading pack in the Kingdom for the last sixty years, at any rate,

has been the Carlisle when in the hands of Mr. J. C. Carrick, who

was famous both for the sport he showed and for his breed of

Otterhound, so well represented at all the important shows. Such

hounds as Lottery and Lucifer were very typical specimens; but of

late years the entries of Otterhounds have not been very numerous

at the great exhibitions, and this can well be explained by the fact

that they are wanted in greater numbers for active service, there

being many more packs than formerly--in all, twenty-one for the

United Kingdom.

The sport of otter-hunting is decidedly increasing, as there have

been several hunts started within the last six years. There can well

be many more, as, according to the opinion of that excellent

authority, the late Rev. Otter Davies, as he was always called,

there are otters on every river; but, owing to the nocturnal and

mysterious habits of the animals, their whereabouts or existence is

seldom known, or even suspected. Hunting them is a very beautiful

sport, and the question arises as to whether the pure Otterhounds

should not be more generally used than they are at present. It is

often asserted that their continued exposure to water has caused a

good deal of rheumatism in the breed, that they show age sooner than

others, and that the puppies are difficult to rear. There are,

however, many advantages in having a pure breed, and there is much

to say for the perfect work of the Otterhound. The scent of the otter

is possibly the sweetest of all trails left by animals. One cannot

understand how it is that an animal swimming two or three feet from

the bottom of a river-bed and the same from the surface should leave

a clean line of burning scent that may remain for twelve or eighteen

hours. The supposition must be that the scent from the animal at first

descends and is then always rising. At any rate, the oldest Foxhound

or Harrier that has never touched otter is at once in ravishing

excitement on it, and all dogs will hunt it. The terrier is never

keener than when he hits on such a line.

The Foxhound, so wonderful in his forward dash, may have too much

of it for otter hunting. The otter is so wary. His holt can very well

be passed, his delicious scent may be overrun; but the pure-bred

Otterhound is equal to all occasions. He is terribly certain on the

trail when he finds it. Nothing can throw him off it, and when his

deep note swells into a sort of savage howl, as he lifts his head

towards the roots of some old pollard, there is a meaning in it--no

mistake has been made. In every part of a run it is the same; the

otter dodges up stream and down, lands for a moment, returns to his

holt; but his adversaries are always with him, and as one sees their

steady work the impression becomes stronger and stronger that for

the real sport of otter-hunting there is nothing as good as the

pure-bred Otterhound. There is something so dignified and noble about

the hound of unsullied strain that if you once see a good one you

will not soon forget him. He is a large hound, as he well needs to

be, for the varmint who is his customary quarry is the wildest,

most vicious, and, for its size, the most powerful of all British

wild animals, the inveterate poacher of our salmon streams, and

consequently to be mercilessly slaughtered, although always in

sporting fashion. To be equal to such prey, the hound must have a

Bulldog's courage, a Newfoundland's strength in water, a Pointer's

nose, a Retriever's sagacity, the stamina of the Foxhound, the

patience of a Beagle, the intelligence of a Collie.

* * * * *

THE PERFECT OTTERHOUND: HEAD--The head, which has been described as

something between that of a Bloodhound and that of a Foxhound, is

more hard and rugged than either. With a narrow forehead, ascending

to a moderate peak. EARS--The ears are long and sweeping, but not

feathered down to the tips, set low and lying flat to the cheeks.

EYES--The eyes are large, dark and deeply set, having a peculiarly

thoughtful expression. They show a considerable amount of the haw.

NOSE--The nose is large and well developed, the nostrils expanding.

MUZZLE--The muzzle well protected from wiry hair. The jaw very

powerful with deep flews. NECK--The neck is strong and muscular, but

rather long. The dewlap is loose and folded. CHEST--The chest, deep

and capacious, but not too wide. BACK--The back is strong, wide and

arched. SHOULDERS--The shoulders ought to be sloping, the arms and

thighs substantial and muscular. FEET--The feet, fairly large and

spreading, with firm pads and strong nails to resist sharp rocks.

STERN--The stern when the hound is at work is carried gaily, like

that of a rough Welsh Harrier. It is thick and well covered, to serve

as a rudder. COAT--The coat is wiry, hard, long and close at the

roots, impervious to water. COLOUR--Grey, or buff, or yellowish, or

black, or rufus red, mixed with black or grey. HEIGHT--22 to 24