The Otter (Lutra vulgaris), Fig. 12, is included in the family of the Mustelidae or Weasels, but is of aquatic tastes, for which the possession of webbed feet admirably adapts it. The body is of elongated shape, about 2 1/2 ft. in length, the tail somewhat tapering, compressed from above downwards, and serving as a rudder to guide the swimming movements of the animal. The legs are short, muscular and mobile, each foot having five webbed toes. Lips, whiskered; ears, short; eyes, large. Under fur, short, closely set, woolly; outer covering composed of coarser, longer, dark-brown hairs.

The Otter.

Fig. 12. - The Otter.

The otter is chiefly nocturnal, swimming about at night in quest of food, and preys mainly on fishes, leaving many mangled after eating part of the victim, though largely subsisting on freshwater cray-fish, and destroying more eels - deadly enemies to trout streams or salmon rivers - than other fish. The burrow is constructed near the water's edge, and the nest situated at some distance in the bank of the river, being lined with grass and leaves, wherein from four to five young are produced in June. The otter inhabits Europe generally, and is a well-known denizen of Scotch and Welsh rivers and streams, also some English ones, being hunted for sport by means of dogs known as otter-hounds, which are specially bred and trained to the work. By diving, biting and hiding, with great tenacity of life, it often gives the hunters no little trouble to secure it. Although of an untamable and somewhat ferocious disposition, the otter can occasionally be domesticated to a very perfect extent, and trained to fish for the tamer.