This section is from the book "All About Dogs - A Book For Doggy People", by Charles Henry Lane. Also available from Amazon: All About Dogs: A Book For Doggy People.
I should like just to say a few words about this picturesque breed, made familiar to us by the paintings of Landseer, Ansdell, Noble, and Frederick Tayler, and of which I had some beautiful specimens before me at the National Dog Show at Birmingham, in November 1898. The colours are, usually, dark and light browns and tans, mixed with grizzle, the general appearance somewhat like rough-coated Bloodhounds, with just a dash of an overgrown Dandie about them; very rugged and unsophisticated they look, but quite charming to an artistic eye, and convey the idea that, when they know what they are wanted to do, they will not hesitate to do it, whatever it may be. Any animals that have to contend with such a wily, active, and resourceful foe as the Otter, either on land, or where he is still more "at home," in water, have to be pretty "spry" if they would give a good account of him. Of course, these hounds are usually kept in packs, and do not, as a rule, enjoy much human company, except connected with their training for their work, and the exercise of it, but would be an ornament to any establishment, and, if I mistake not, were prime favourites of his Royal Highness, the lamented Prince Consort, whose ability as a sportsman, and taste as a connoisseur of all relating to art and things beautiful, are well known to his many admirers.
I remember seeing the engraving of a beautiful picture, I presume in the possession of H. M. the Queen, either by Richard Ansdell, R. A., or the late Frederick Tayler, R. W. S., showing his Royal Highness in a rough, wide bottomed boat, crossing a Highland loch, with a packof these beautiful hounds, some in the boat, some on the bank, and some in the water, either just starting for, or just returning from, an Otter hunt, and it impressed me very much. I may say, that it is very usual to have some Dandies, Skyes, or other Scottish terriers, associated with a pack of Otter Hounds, to assist in dislodging the quarry, when it takes refuge amongst the boulders and rocks, so often met in the haunts of the graceful Otter. The packs of these dogs are chiefly in Dumfrieshire, Cumberland, Devon, and some parts of Wales, both North and South.
OTTERHOUND CH.'SAFETY". DUMFRIESSHIRE OTTER HUNT.
I have come across such a detailed account of the Otter, and rules for hunting it, in a book more than three hundred years old, but which show the writer to be well informed on the subject, and a man of such keen observation, that I venture to quote it in the quaint, original language, hoping it may be interesting to some of the "sportsmen" amongst my readers: - "The Otter is a beast well-knowne - she feedeth on fishe, and lyeth neareunto Ryvers, Brookes, Pooles, and Fishpondes, or Weares. Hir lying in, commonly, is under the roots of trees, and, sometymes, I have seene them lying in a hollowe Tree, foure, or five, foote, above the grounde. Even as a Foxe, Polcat, Wylde Cat, or Badgerd, will destroye a Warren, so wyll the Otter destroye all the Fishe in your Pondes, if she once have founde the waye to them. She dyveth, and hunt-eth, under the water, after a wonderfull mannere, so that, no Fishe can escape hir, unlesse they be verie great, and swyfte. A lytter of Otteres, will destroye you, all the Fishe, in a Ryver, in two myles lengthe.
There is great cunninge, in the Hunting of them, as shalle be saide in the next Chaptere; and also, it is possible, to take them, under the Water, and by the Ryver's syde, both in trappes, and in snares, as you may take a Hare, with hare-pypes, or such lyke gynnes. Theye byte sore, and venomouslye, and de-fende themselves stoutlye. I wyll not speake much more of their nature, but, onely, that they are footed lyke a Goose. I meane, they have a webbe betweene theyr clawes, and have no heeles, but, onely, a rounde balle, under theyr soale, of theyr foote, and theyr tracke is called the 'Marke' of an Otter, as we saye the 'Slot' of an Harte. An Otter, abydeth not muche, nor longe, in one place, but, if she be befrayde, or finde any faulte (as they are verie perfectlye of smellinge, and hearinge,) they wyll forsake theyr couche, and shifte a myle, or two, up, or doune, a Ryver. The lyke, wyll she do, if she have once destroyed the store of Fishe, and finde no plentie of feedinge. From a Ponde-Garden, or goode store of Fish-Pondes, she wyl not, lytely, be removed, as long as there is store of fishe in them; for therein, fishes are takene, with more ease, than in the Ryveres, or greatere wateres, but, inough of theyr natures.
When, a Huntsman, woulde hunt the Otter, he shoulde, first, sende foure Servantes, or Varlets, with Bloodehoundes, or suche Houndes as wyl drawe in the game, and lette hym sende them, two up the Ryver, and two doune the Ryver, the one couple of them, on that one syde, and the other on that other syde of the water. And so, you shalle be sure to finde, if there be an Otter in the quarter, for, an Otter, cannot longe abide in the water, but muste come forthe, in the nyghte, to feede on grasse, and herbes, by the waters syde. If, any of theyr Houndes, finde of an Otter, lette the Huntsman looke, in the softe groundes, and moyst places, to see, which way he bente the heade, up, or doune, the Ryver. And, if he finde not the Otter, quicklye, he may then judge, that he is gonne to couche, somewhere, further offe from the water; for an Otter, wyl, sometymes, seeke hys feede, a myle, or lyttle lesse, from hys couche, and place of reste. Commonlye, he will rather go up the Ryver, than doune, for, goyng up the Streame, the Streame bryngeth him sente of the Fishes, that are above hym, and bearynge hys nose into the wynde, he shall the soonere finde any faulte, that is above hym.
Also, you shoulde make an Assemblye, for the Otter, as you do for the Harte, and it is a note, to be observed, that all such chaces, as you drawe after, before you finde them, lodge them, or harbor them, you shoulde make a solemne Assemblye, to heare all re-portes, before you undertake to hunte them, and then, he whyche have founde of an Otter, or so drawen towardes hys couche, that he can undertake to brynge you unto hym, shall cause hys Houndes to be uncou-plede, a bowshotte, or twyane, before he come to the place, where, he thynketh, that the Otter lyeth. Because, they may caste aboute a whyle, until they have cooled theyr baulinge and hainsicke-toyes, which all Houndes do, lykely, use at the fyrst uncouplinge. Then, the Varlets of the Kennell, shall seeke, by the Ryversyde, and beate the bankes, with theyr Houndes, untill some of them chance upon the Otter. Remember, alwayes, to set out, some upwardes, and some doune, the Streames, and everye man hys Otter Speare, or forked staffe, in hys hande, and, if they misse, them, shall they runne up, or doune, the Streame, as they see the Otter bende, until they may, at laste, give hym a blowe.
For, if the Houndes, be good Otter-Houndes, and perfectlye enterede, they wyl come chauntinge, and traylinge, alongst by the Ryversyde, and will beate, every tree-roote, every holme, every osier-bedde, and tufte of bullrushes; yea, sometymes, also, they wyl take the Ryver, and beate it, lyke a Water-Spaniell, so that, it shalle not be possible for the Otter to escape, but that eyther, the Houndes shall lyte upon hym, or els, some of the Hunts men shalle stryke hym, and, thusse, you maye have excellente sporte, and pastyme, in hunting of the Otter, if the Houndes be goode and that the Ryveres be not over greate. Where the Ryv-eres be greate, some use to have a lyne, thrwen over-thwart the Ryvere, the whyche, two of the Huntsmen shalle holde, by eche ende, one on the one syde of the Ryvere, and the othere, on that othere. And, lette them holde the lyne so slacke, that it may, alwayes, be underneathe the watere. And, if the Otter come dy-vynge, under the watere, he shalle, of necesstie, touche theyr lyne, and so, they shall feele, and knowe, whyche waye he is passed, the whyche shalle make hym be taken the soonere. An Otter's Skynne, is very good furre, and his grease, wyll make a medycyne, to make fishes turn uppe theyr bellies, as if they weare deade.
A goode Otter Hounde may prove an excellente good Bucke Hounde, if he be not olde, before he be en-terred." Another writer, of about twenty-five years since, in speaking of the Otterhound, says: "He is bred to stand wet or rheumatism, to hunt by eye, as well as scent, to mark the 'bubbles' when his quarry is 'down,' and join in the chase, in the Otter's element. Failing that, he has to stoop to the scent again. He must be undistracted by whoops and halloos of the attending multitude, observing the huntsman only, and answering his horn and cheer. With many a blank day and disappointment, he must resolutely hunt and face a 'water demon.' The points of the breed are laid down as follows: - The head should, in shape, be something between that of the Bloodhound and Foxhound. It should show much of the gravity, and dignity of the former, but rather flatter and harder in character; forehead long and narrow; eyes rather sunken, shewing the 'haw,' but large and dark in colour; nostrils large and roomy, nose itself, black, and a good size, with rough-haired muzzle and full, hanging lips; ears coated with coarse hair, without feathering at edges, but very large, thin, and pendulous; neck fairly throaty, muscular, and of a good length; chest more deep than wide; rather loose back ribs, but strong, deep, long and straight; feet large, not close, and well webbed between toes; muscular thighs; powerful sloping shoulders, with elbows well let down; tail carried in a sloping position, fairly coated with hair, decreasing towards the end; coat not short, but dense, hard and wiry, very weather resisting in character; colours may be black, dull white and creamy tan, or black and tan, black and white, grizzled pied, buff, or shades of brown, or brownish tan".