Saturday 3 October 2015

RIP the Otterhound

Oh great. So now the Kennel Club is celebrating how endangered the Otterhound is?

Like it's some kind of badge of honour?  Like there's some value in the breed's rarity? 

The sad truth is that the Otterhound is about to be consigned to history and the Kennel Club is doing nothing to stop it. Obscenely, the KC has the bald cheek to compare the Otterhound to the seriously endangered giant panda and white rhino while mustering none of the effort we see conservationists make to save wild species.

And how ironic that KC twitter handle... because if the KC really loved dogs, it would be doing so, so much more to ensure their future.

The population data released by the Kennel Club last week revealed that the Otterhound is on its last legs - only 22 puppies born last year in the UK, and very few born abroad.  They're all horribly inbred.  There is no job for them any more. And no demand for a big, shaggy, sometimes smelly dog which - the KC helpfully reveals in its Discover Dogs lowdown here - has a tendency to kill small furry things and can rarely be let off lead safely.  Oh, and they slobber. 

The breed club in the UK has a good health rep in Judith Ashworth and there is a lot of helpful health info/ongoing surveys on the breed club website (you can find them here). But, goodness, they make for depressing reading. 

The reports suggest that the breed suffers from a high rate of epilepsy, cancer and hip dysplasia. The breed's mean hip score is 46.5 - severely dysplastic. In fact, the Otterhound has the worst hips of any breed in the UK and they are getting worse (if you look at just the last five years, the mean hip score has risen to 51). Breeders are continuing to breed from dogs with hip scores over 100 because there are so few dogs they feel they cannot be fussy. There is an increasing number of reports of low-litter sizes; almost certainly due to inbreeding depression. Average COI has risen almost 2% in the last two years (up from 16% to 17.9%) The breed has an effective population size of 33 - genetically unsustainable.

And while there was some talk a couple of years ago of an outcross to save the breed, that seems to have died a death. Like the breed itself is doing.

In 2012, the breed's UK health rep Judith Ashworth said: “Outcrossing is certainly one option that we are very keen to look at, because we do need to increase the number of dogs that are contributing genetically to the very small population of dogs within our breed. We look forward to working with the Kennel Club and the Animal Health Trust to find solutions that will protect our breed in the future.”

Since then? Nada. Zilch. Nothing. I imagine that however keen Janice may be to explore crossbreeding, she has had little or no support from breeders. It is the equivalent of the zoos of yesteryear - happy to parade highly endangered species for the public to see, while doing nothing to protect and preserve them.

That changed. Why can't this change too?

Why aren't the KC and breeders working with conservationists who understand this stuff and have brought many species back from the brink?   Why aren't there specific breed conservation plans? Why aren't you talking to those who are successfully managing rare livestock breeds? Seriously, in breeds like the Otterhound, we are way beyond softly-softly advice to limit the use of popular sires and encouraging breeders to DNA test.

Am I the only one who feels any sense of panic?

Now, I don't have a problem with the breed going extinct. It's the manner of the Otterhound's extinction that sticks in the craw. The dogs are dying fitting, limping and painfully in the hands of breeders who will look you in the eye and tell you they love the breed but who in reality are the agents of their destruction through their obsession with blood purity and their unwillingness to embrace modern science.

RIP the Otterhound. Like all dogs trapped in closed gene pools under the auspices of kennel clubs... you deserved better. 


  1. I guess the Otterhound is a true working dog and all of the attributes, long hair, size, smell, slobbering (helps scenting I believe), active, strong willed, make it perfect for the job. Thus it would never be really happy as an indoor pet with restricted exercise and brain activity. In essence for such a dog, unable to fulfil it's needs, it is perhaps better to see it fade, it's future unsustainable? Very sad indeed. But there is so much suffering in dogs these days that anyone taking on such a breed would need to have the time and resources to offer more than the average care and consideration. I've noticed recently that the KC are on a mission to promote less recognised, unpopular breeds. In reality they are lovely dogs just not exploited (yet). Cynically I suspect the KC have realised that they have "killed" off the popular breeds and to be able to sustain their income from purebred dogs they feel that this is the right way to go. In their attempt for them to survive the KC are endangering more breeds to the likes of puppy farmers, byb etc etc. I think that we all have to accept that breeds are going to be lost because of the modern world in which we all live it is cruel to believe that breeds like Komondors, Otterhounds, Bloodhounds etc etc etc would be able to live comfortably in a small, over heated, carpeted house alongside humans. Insufficient space in the garden to let off steam, unable to run free because of their free spirits. I'm not saying that there aren't people out there who accommodate breeds of this ilk with every consideration and space but they too are increasingly becoming rare. I did go onto one of the puppy sites and there are an increasing number of advertisements for unregistered puppies of breeds, which makes me think people are realising the worthlessness of the KC as a registry. The breeders know the pedigree of their dogs and this seems to be enough for them, which is fine for the good and honest breeders, but with dogs having to rely on the honesty and integrity of people to be able to survive, the slippery slope of purebred dogs is getting steeper by the day.

    1. Slobber helps with scenting???

    2. I own a dog bred for hunting. He's independent, somewhat challenging, and extremely active. So I exercise him. He makes an excellent housepet.

      If one makes an effort to make these specialized dogs happy, they can easily fit into the home.

    3. Yes anon 16:15 but for high energy, intelligent, big hairy smelly dog it takes a lot of time and energy. I have friends with Beagles, ideal size for the house, tidy coats, can be a bit smelly, definitely head strong, but they hill walk those dogs every day on very long leads. Dedicated. I don't know what breed you have in your life. All dogs are hunters, it's just that some breeds have been bred to be deformed and they can't fulfil their natural instinct. Otterhounds are huge, delightful characters, there used to be a breeder of them near to Bakewell in Derbyshire and whilst they had grounds, time and money they admitted that they were very hard work to keep their hounds happy and healthy.
      Jemima, yes slobbering. I was surprised when I was told but seemingly the more moisture around the mouth helps when a hound is galloping because their open mouths dry out and invariably their tongues hang out too, and when the nose is moist it helps absorb the scenting powers along with longish ears to help guide the scents into the mouth and nose. I am always happy to learn and the person who was a whipper in at a local hunt may have been pulling my leg, but at the time it did seem to make sense. But it is sad that the breeds that we have grown up will start to disappear because of bad breeding practice.

    4. From Wikipedia: "The coat of the Komondor takes about two and a half days to dry after a bath."

      Gosh, I can't think why they're not more popular...

    5. Komondor are also livestock guardian dogs and a correct temperament means they have quite a lot of defensive aggression. They should remain rare, imo.

      I own a 90 lb Catahoula x American Bulldog. He's powerful and big and intense. But, he's a good dog, and as long as he's exercised makes a good pet. Of course, the average owner wants a dog that can be left alone for 10 hours a day and be fine with a 10 minute walk around the block. That is not him.

      The long ears thing is also a myth. It's all just breed myth nonsense. Frankly, I can see why, since drooling is a 'beneficial' breed trait why people wouldn't be so interested in the Otterhound. My own dog is quite dry-mouthed. That beard + slobber just sounds gross.

      For me, I would have no interest, not for character because they do seem like dogs up my alley, but simply because they are so danged unhealthy. That's just not a risk most people are willing to take.

    6. Slobber and long ears helping ‘scenting’ is just another example of total and utter breeder bollockery at its abslouyet best.
      People are making things up about the dogs’ anatomy as they go along. And then people like Georgina hears it from a person in ‘hounds’ and then of course, they must be correct so it becomes ‘true’.
      What a load of utter nonsense gets bandied around. These people have not the slightest education in biology. The canine nose does very well indeed without excess slobber and ridiculously long ears to help ‘stir up and soak up the scent’.

      Read up on some anatomy and physiology and get back to us:

    7. Anon 12:13 Exaggeration of any sort in any animal species is undesirable if it compromises that creatures wellbeing and life quality. I did say that the whipper may have been pulling my leg and the last laugh may be on me, I did not say it was true. However, living with dogs all of my life, gundogs in the main, I think that the whipper in was probably not far off the mark. So, would I believe someone who has physically worked a pack of hounds for a lifetime who has raised hounds who had to be "job worthy" or "fit for purpose" because any breakdown in the model was removed from the pack. Would I believe people who work their dogs up on the moors and believe that slobber and wet noses is desirable because it helps the dog pick up scent more quickly. Yes to both of these, however, someone who is rude and over states what was actually said and concludes incorrectly that I am a breeder and that that person relies on theory based, not practical, evidence my response is no. I agree that there is a lot of nonsense bandied around, that living with dogs is a balanced combination of good husbandary, and an element of science and biology. I agree that breeders focus on one part of a dog, say skin, head, eyes, teeth, whatever, is absolutely undesirable and it is why so many breeds are suffering today.

    8. Georgina, the fact you 'believe' what someone tells you without knowing the facts or even what their education in deriving it is naive. You are very sweet and clearly love dogs but please don’t dismiss scientific understanding as being a mere element. It’s crucial to allow us to gain knowledge and evidence to improve welfare.

      This is akin to myth, housewives tales and folklore that get handed down through the years because one person told someone else and the other believed them. A bit like Santa Claus and all religions.? Priests are experienced in administering and applying religious practises. But are they factually correct in what they tell people? Gwyneth Paltrow believes that if you talk to rice in a bowl in a negative way, it will go off quicker than if you talk nicely to it (no shit, she actually posted this on a website). So must be true huh!?! Of course not! Breeder bollockery firmly lies within this category of fables and fairy tales.

      It's human nature to justify our warped logic like this. We are flawed. It is NOT critical thinking of which science and rationality relies on. There is no scientific study or evidence that I know of that states that loose skin, wrinkle and excess slobber capture scent, and enable the canine olfactory system to be enhanced somehow. The sensitivity of the canine nose, particularly hounds, is incredible and no interference in a dog’s aesthetics to enhance it is required from us at all. That is a result of anatomy and physiology of the nasal organs due to natural selection and also some selective pressure on our behalf. Remember that when selecting for behavioural traits, physical traits are often a side effect.

      Look up Belyaev and foxes.

      Don't forget that when breed standards were written it was Victorian England. We've progressed massively in our understanding. Biology and genetics are not simply elements - they give us evidence and facts!

    9. My guess is that the superior 'scenting' power of some breeds, like Otterhounds and my Springer, is mainly to do with their hunting instinct and determination to keep working, rather than physical traits.

  2. No Jemima, you are certainly not the only one who feels a sense of panic, though I'm sure it feels like that at times....
    This paradigm as you know is indicative of the mindset of many pure breeders: either through ignorance or with the science being willfuly dismissed. It is through worthy work and pointed words such as yours that the issues is being brought into focus. Bravo.
    Dogs everywhere, (those that survive this time in the crucible at any rate), will owe their survival to persons such as your good self.

  3. I don't think there's a market for these dogs, at all. Hunters don't seem to care for them, I couldn't find much if anything at all when I googled for working Otterhounds. As you said it makes a bad pet. Show folks won't be interested in it because it doesn't have flattering looks. Finding a suitable outcross for them would be easy, I would consider Airedale Terrier (they have Otterhound blood in them) and Bloodhound.

    1. Check out Otterhound Lovers group on facebook, then tell me they don't make good pets. They are great to own and have as part of the family. Your comments break my heart !!!!

  4. I feel a sense of terrible sadness that breeders did not care enough about a breeds future to stop concentrating on personal success in competing to open their eyes to look a little further along the way... Every generation says the same thing "we are the guardians of the breed" but guarding a status quo is wrong! We must guard the future not the present. ..

  5. This is only one of the 25% of all Kennel Club recognised breeds with an effective population size of under 50 . Start scratching under the surface of almost any of the small vulnerable breeds and you will find a very similar situation. Denial of the health and genetic problems of a small gene pool, ignorance among breeders and owners about the dangers of inbreeding and lack of genetic diversity, resistance to outcrossing and an irrational fear of losing breed purity , breed clubs insisting that the breed is healthy and has no problems, and complete apathy about changing breeding practices or developing a strategy for breed survival. Victimisation of whistle blowers about the extent of problems, and anybody who wants to change breeding practices. Breeders who care more about perpetuating their own line of dogs than about breed survival. And even where a minority of people in one breed know they have problems, they tend to be unaware that most of the other small vulnerable breeds have the same or similar problems (just different genetic diseases). They actually need to be working together across the boundaries of single breeds to educate and change, and to get the KC to take a more proactive role.

  6. It is certainly possible to do the required outbreeding to save some of these. Look at what a few of the folks in the Dalmatian Heritage breeding program have done. It only took the KC over 37 years and the AKC a bit over fourty year to acknowledge these are truly Dalmatians but without the breed encompasing bladder issues. Good luck getting the "purest" breeders to go along. They would rather see the breed die out altogether.
    After 43 years and over 20 generations they are still yelling about "impure" Dalmatians.

    1. Hi Unknown 1437. I rescued a dalmation who I lost aged 15. She was wonderful. Dalmations for all of their high energy, bouncy natures will come to learn manners and fit in with a family. Otterhounds are completely different, no less loveable, but they are free spirits and huge. There is a very limited number of people who can take on this breed and dedicate their lives, money, and homes to keeping this noble breed satisfied and fulfilled. I'm unsure as to whether it would be morally right to keep a breed going by cross breeding when they could be unintentionally mistreated and misunderstood. And I agree with you that after 43 years etc the idiots are yelling "impure" what they've failed to understand is that without the outcross Dallys would not be around today. But again I would say that Dalmations are a totally different pet proposition from an Otterhound and many other breeds.

    2. That statement "Without the outcross Dalmatians wouldn't be around today" is quite wrong! Here in the UK there is only a handful of LUA breeders... and as yet NOT one mainstream breeder as done an LUA breeding.. stone formers run at about 10% and it seems to me that breeders are happy to allow 10% of the breed to suffer rather than take on inpure blood....

    3. Julie, thanks for your reply and maybe my statement was overstated. However, 10% of what population are stone formers. The breeders should be ashamed of themselves. If they have ever suffered from kidney stones they would understand that this is unacceptable when they could have 0% of the population free of this condition. I know it isn't as simple as this, one health condition goes and another appears, possibly. But to spread a gene pool to reduce any likelihood of any known condition is surely the way to go and I agree with what you say. Others have explained the real danger of closed registries and sadly their concerns appear to be coming to fruition.

  7. What a wonderful opportunity to impress friends and neighbors by with brags about supporting an endangered breed, not to mention demonstrating how much you love your dog by spending five figure sums on healthcare!
    More seriously, the small number of registrations speaks for itself. Wave the breed goodbye and be done with it.

    1. Mmmm agree. The UK KC come up with some crackers, thoughtless comments. Like the one today where they are promoting Mini Pins, and start the article "For single ladies". Unintelligent, pointless remark - what sex, colour, background, preference has to do with adding a dog to one's family leaves me speechless.....................

  8. This tweet reveals the ignorance of the KC, or their audience, or both. There is no comparing endangered species like pandas or white rhinos, or even subspecies, to rare domestic breeds. I'm amazed at how many people I've heard refer to wild species as "breeds," or to breeds as "species." Of course, that is completely wrong. Species have diverged from other animals hundreds of thousands to millions of years ago. In contrast, domestic breeds are merely populations within a single species that have been selected for certain traits, and have only been separated for a few centuries. They are not even as unique as landraces of domestic animals, which harbor many more unique and adaptive genes.

    If somebody tweeted that the Congolese hunting dog or Nenets herding laika were endangered, that would be cause for concern, because these are ancient landraces of dog that are superbly adapted to their environments. However, the isolated pure breeds that come from these populations (the basenji and Samoyed, respectively) were selected to conform to some arbitrary breed standard, and are now sadly inbred, with high incidences of several genetic disorders. If these breeds were to go extinct, it would just be the death of an inbred population. If their parent landraces were to die out, then that would be a tragedy.

    And so it goes with the otterhound. Like most breeds, it was separated from a once healthy, functional population. Today, it is in a genetic dead end. If the otterhound were to go extinct, that would not be so sad as if the type of dog it belongs to - a northern scent hound - were to disappear. Let them rejoin their brethren once more, and live on.

  9. What a wonderful opportunity to impress friends and neighbors by with brags about supporting an endangered breed, not to mention demonstrating how much you love your dog by spending five figure sums on healthcare!
    More seriously, the small number of registrations speaks for itself. Wave the breed goodbye and be done with it.

  10. Even if the KC, AKC, and other registries waved their magic wands and declared outcrossing to be perfectly legal and acceptable, how many breeders would jump at the opportunity? You'd think breeders and breed clubs would be the ones lighting a fire under the KC to allow them to bring in new blood, instead of waiting for the KC to make changes nobody will follow, not even to save their own breed. Using the Dalmatian Backcross Program as an example: In the USA and the UK, the greatest obstacle to allowing Dalmatians who were descended from the original outcross to be registered was from the breed clubs themselves. You can't give the people what they don't want. Well, for those who care more about the history and purity of their breed than the future, perhaps they should picture their precious pedigrees being ripped in half and thrown to the fire, because that's how useful they'll be when the breed has died out and all that history and heritage is gone.

    1. "Even if the KC, AKC, and other registries waved their magic wands and declared outcrossing to be perfectly legal and acceptable,"
      It is acceptable and legal in the UK KC... The biggest opponents are the breed clubs themselves! Sometimes I think too much blame is directed at them (and I'm no fan I must add) but it's the BREED CLUBS that are the so called 'guardians' of a breeds status quo. .. they will not look to the future... no matter what they think they must keep the dogs exactly as they are...pure in blood... regardless of science and genetics even regardless of suffering !

    2. I agree with Julie, it's the breed clubs and the show breeders who run them who are the biggest obstacles to changing breeding practices and outcrossing. Not the KC who have a system in place for registering outcrossed dogs, and in September quietly posted on their website that anybody interested in outcrossing should contact them for advice. And gave examples of breeds where outcrossed dogs have been registered.

  11. I have owned several Otterhounds. I owned 2 when I lived in a small cottage. The house didn't smell, nor did they. They were regularly bathed, as all should be when living indoors. They had long walks OFF-LEAD! Always in safe places, away from roads. One had hip scores of 106 and ran herself ragged every day, but never had a limp! She lived a long life without health problems. It doesn't affect them as it does Labradors or G.D.s. Who needs an overheated house? I have always hated that T shirt look in Winter. Put a jumper on and keep the hounds happy AND help save the planet. The problem is too many people bragging about how much their cocker-poos or some such thing, cost them, which was far more than any Otterhound, but they "fashionable", very expensive cross-breeds. After all, the smaller they are the less walking they will need and a quick walk 'around the block' is enough & then back to the computer or mobile! Have none of you heard of the expression "LAZY HOUND"? THAT IS WHAT OTTERHOUNDS ARE WHEN THEY HAVE HAD A WALK! They don't yap all day, they haven't time - they prefer to sleep.
    I can't say I have ever heard an owner of an endangered breed bragging about it, but I am sick of listening to the hearing the bragging about the thousands they spend on electronic goods for every member of the family! Why pass an opinion on a breed some of you obviously have never known. (I am not a breeder and nor do I "show" or hunt!

  12. I dont see the need to talk down the breed in this way. Slobber and smell? That's how I see most todlers. But they'r moms see past that and love them all the same. What would you do if one individual of this "useless" dog landed at you're door - throw it in the trash? Target the breeding practice, the health problems, the suffering. But please don't bully the dogs for being "smelly " and "slobbeting" and fond of running.

    1. Right. So it's OK for you to say that you think most toddlers slobber and smell... but I am *bullying* Otterhounds by saying it?

      I imagine with all that inbreeding, they're not going to be smart enough to read.

      Odour and slobber are breed features often mentioned by Otterhound breeders themselves.

    2. Ingvild, if a dog is in need regardless of the jacket it is wearing, believe me you're slating the wrong person.
      Regardless of breed, dogs that have long, wiry coats smell. They can't help it, and boy when they get wet the smell is overpowering. Those of us with wiry coated dogs bath them regularly and mainly because that breed is of a size that is manageable. A heavy, hairy breed like O.H. would be difficult to wash and dry, the drying being the main concern. The coat is waterproof, deep, and of several layers I believe. As someone pointed out it takes 2 days for a Komodor to dry out, that could be a real health hazard for a dog, chills in the main. I'm not saying don't have an OH, I am saying make sure that for the lifetime of that dog possibly 10 years, you really can give him all of the things he needs to be happy, an intelligent breed that needs more than the average dog. About which of course "the average dog" has learned to adapt to our life styles but in reality is that fair to the dogs, without intending to cause stress, I think we do by forcing our needs on to our dogs. Dogs are just the most wonderful creatures and we should remember that without them the world would be a sterile environment.

  13. Worth pulling the report on the Otterhound (previous PDE post, link at the end of the article). A few comments based on that
    The otterhound was not listed in the previous post as a breed with effective population size > 50 . . . yet the data in the report gives an effective population size of 33.9.
    22 puppies last year is not real meaningful. If you look at the chart of numbers of pups per year over time, you'll see that the numbers bounce around a lot and last year the number of pups was the lowest seen for decades.
    The inbreeding numbers look pretty bad . . . but aren't the worst you'll find. Somehow I doubt that there are a lot of imports in the UK population, so the numbers are probably somewhat accurate.

  14. Im terribly saddened.

    Lets hope they are recorded with as much love and enthuisiam as they deserve.


  15. I think there are a lot of dog breeds that could go extinct, and I don't see the problem with that. If the dog has no work to do, no purpose for its breed, if its horribly inbred, why bother? Why keep breeds alive against their OWN best interests? Most dogs don't do the work they were BRED and designed for anymore, they're just pet animals. The black and tan terrier went extinct, do you ever hear anyone piss and moan about not being able to have one? NO. Because there are dozens of 'terriers' and hundreds of other breeds to choose from.

  16. I went otter hunting years ago, on the River Avon in Hampshire, before the ban. The dogs did not catch and otter but it was a good day out. There were Otterhounds, some that looked like Welsh Foxhounds, Foxhounds...a mixed bag.
    When the ban came, or even before, the Otterhound was registered with the KC. that is the death knell for any working breed.....

  17. I wonder, If breeding were left to these who USED the dogs, for some thing other than show, would these endangered breeds still be in such dire straights? Or would they have evolved with the times? Maybe changed and with a new purpose?

    Some I guess would die out, some changed to better suit modern day expectations, and other types be created as people find new purposes for including dogs in their lives.

    Sadly, The only purpose supported by the K.Cs is an illusion. A picture of an idealized history is all they want.

    Any other real world purpose is not supported simply because it exists outside of their pedigree system and is too often at odds with standards of predictability they have achieved . It does not match the illusion.

    What few trials are run by the K.Cs are ineffective to retain purpose, because
    a) they are open only to pedigrees of particular breeds, so you aren't getting a true picture of the best that can be, possibilities, only of the capabilities contained in a reduced gene pool at any given time.
    b) No matter how well thought out, trials can't show case true ability in real life scenarios. They can't showcase a dogs adaptability and response to get a job done. They show instead what predictable qualities are required to run a course, and the training methods to take advantage of those traits. Fixing type and traits again and removing independent adaptability and responses. Not to suit a purpose, but a training method.

    And dogs become more a specialist field to be kept out of the hands of the ignorant.
    Instead of a dog who displays his benefits to ordinary people every day, so they can see his value and understand for them selves when he might have some thing worth contributing or preserving. To some one else if not most.
    So people are taught to recognize possibilities, and not just failures.

    With out the K.Cs claiming ownership of the right to lead in dog breeding, We COULD take responsibility at an individual level for direction welfare and understanding of the species. According to our needs at any given time.

    Responding to possibilities instead of set standards of predictability that have nothing to do with adaptation to needs, or purpose outside of K.C sanctioned events.

    Pet ownership has plummeted in Australia, and I believe with out doubt that unless we take back ownership of the species as one held in common, the trend will continue around the world.
    Where are we, the common man, able to see a demonstration of the value or benefits to pet ownership, so that we as a society can recognize our own, individual responsibility to build on those values when we find them?

    The K.Cs constitution is not only damaging to the breeds they represent. It can only lead to their end. But it also alters society and its expectations, to demand predictability from life and discard imperfection. To achieve perfection through elimination of the imperfect, rather than allowing for adaptation, possibilities and response.

    THAT is what happens when an organization or group attempts to share space in exclusivity. Intolerance, victimization and elimination of all that particular space holds. Its no longer valued. No one is responsible for it. Its always an outside influence that will be blamed instead of an individual responsibility to be taken.

  18. What anon @ 2.31 says!!! Bang on the nail...

  19. Judith Ashworth. Not Janice.


  20. Yes,Its an attempt to replace Responsibility for Predictability. Through censure and elimination, in this case, for both the species dog, and the culture/society that hold them.

    This is what happens when an organization or group rules against its environment and claims "right of way".

  21. UrbanCollieChick6 October 2015 at 15:57

    If hunters thought they did a great job for what is hunted today, they'd be using the otterhound. Nobody seems to.

    There are other hairy dogs used like GWPs and Griffons. Even Griffons are not that common but they still have use in hunting.

    I never hear that with Otterhounds.

    Let them go gracefully. I doubt any breeders will even want to outcross to help other breeds if Otterhounds are that plagued with HD, etc. It's hard enough to convince anyone to outcross as it is.

  22. Unless someone comes forward with outcrosses or less likely otter-hunting with dogs hits a resurgence of popularity and legality, this dog is doomed. Reminds me of how Norwegian Lundehund had to be saved at the zero-hour before the breed slipped into total oblivion slowly coming about by weak, inbred, neurotic examples being forced into the world with every whelping.

  23. JH, you say: "The dogs are dying fitting, limping and painfully in the hands of breeders who will look you in the eye and tell you they love the breed but who in reality are the agents of their destruction through their obsession with blood purity and their unwillingness to embrace modern science."
    Note that if there are people out there who have cross bred their otterhounds to increase genetic diversity, the KC would not register their pups and they would not be counted in the numbers you cite.

    1. Actually, there are two recent litters of outcrossed Otterhounds, as it happens (albeit both sired by the same dog...). Wasn't aware of it as it hasn't been publicised and now waiting for more info. However, I do know that the pups are registered under the asterisk system and I think will have been included in the effective population size data - which explains the slight recent decrease in the rate of inbreeding (if not overall breed COI). The issue, however, is going to be if these outcrossed dogs will be bred from.

    2. It is a mistake to assume that the KC wont register outcrossed dogs. In fact they have a system for registering outcrosses, and in recent years they have quietly registered outcrosses in several breeds. I have registered two litters of outcross setters in 2014 and 2015. Now they are going a little more public and two weeks ago they posted on their website inviting anybody interested in outcrossing to contact them for advice. It is not going to be an easy thing to do, you will have to put up a very good case for outcrossing and how you are going about it. But it is certainly possible.

  24. I was hoping some otterhound owners and breeders would post here. I know some of them are aware of Jemima's blog and feel that it is an unfairly negative view of their breed. As a breeder in another small vulnerable breed, I would very much like to know more about what they are doing about problems like epilepsy and hip dysplasia, and apparently there has been a recent outcross, which suggests some breeders are trying to widen the gene pool. At the moment , most small breeds seem to remain in relative isolation, keeping their problems to themselves and not looking for solutions by sharing their concerns or knowledge with other breeds. Only the KC has an overview of all the small vulnerable breeds and they don't seem to doing anything much about bringing them together to share ideas about how to save the breeds. I'm quite sure if some of the breeds communicated better with each other, we could learn how to develop strategies for survival more quickly. I know in my breed it took us six years to work out a plan for outcrossing, we could have saved a lot of time , if we had known of other breeds facing similar problems. I know I have learned a lot from the Dalmatian and Clumber breeders who have outcrossed

    1. I have had Otterhounds from 1983 through 2017, in the U.S. Hip dysplasia scores have improved a great deal over that time and we have a few with "excellent" ratings now--that said I have had hounds with moderate and mild dysplasia that lived to 13 and 14 years old and were still getting around in good form, as another poster mentioned above. I have not seen the latest health survey, but, anecdotally, I have had 6 Otterhounds for their life times and they lived 12-14 plus years, two pups I whelped made it to 16. I always thought Otterhounds were pretty healthy for a large breed. There is some seizuring in the breed, but breeders are working on it. I too would suggest visiting the Otterhound Lovers page on Facebook to see how they handle being family dogs. They can be bright, funny, sweet companions and will sleep with the cat if raised with the cat.

  25. Out crossing may not be impossible, but the way it must be brought about thru' the K.Cs is too limited, takes too much time, meets too much resistance and its benefits way too minor. And usualy happens only AFTER the breed in question is recognized to be too far gone with out.
    And is also as far I know, only done with another closed registry breed. There is still no 'environmental" input .
    The new addition adds slight benefits each time its used in the "Old" previously unadultrated line, but after that the decline continues. The way its done through K.C sanction can only buy time, not solve the problems.

    While the majority of pedigree dogs are still declining in response-ability and fixing genetic make-up, None as far as I know have considered what this is doing to populations of NON pedigree dogs, who seldom breed more than a generation or 2 before a pure breed is again infused.
    Cross breeds are also losing genetic diversity and viability.

    A pure breed may benefit from the out cross. What of the dog who contributes its own healthy genes to that? Are its offspring improved? Uh Uh.

    No, going back as far as needed to find the root cause of these problems is the only way to address them. A slight change for the better in our own life times is not good enough to save the species for future generations

  26. There appear to be some very negative assumptions about outcrossing in KC registered breeds. Only to other KC registered breeds? The otterhound cross has used a non KC registered otterhound that goes back to pack hounds. The KC also encouraged bloodhound breeders to outcross to non KC registered pack bloodhounds. Too limited? The Irish Red and White Setter outcross has had five F! matings , at least six or seven second generation litters so far, and a couple of third generation litter and still continues with end date set for closing the programme . The outcross dogs are now spread over six countries and Ireland a substantial number of registrations this year have outcross dogs in their pedigrees. Takes too much time? it does take time for planning well, but once the breeding starts , it proceeds at the same pace as any other breeding. Declining effects? yes, if one has a one off mating, but if a registry allows outcrossing to continue at intervals, the diversity can be maintained. Done too late when the breed is too far gone? The Irish Kennel Club allowed the IRWS outcross to happen to prevent further loss of diversity and avoid health problems, rather than to clean up after the problems happen.
    Outcrossing can be done through kennel clubs , and done well. The big advantage is that the outcrossed dogs who are KC registered become part of the gene pool of that breed and are part of the breeding stock for the future. Outcrossing done outside of kennel clubs tends to have short lived results

    1. "Outcrossing done outside of kennel clubs tends to have short lived results" What utter bullshit. Terrier breeds and hound breeds that are not registered with the KC have been using outcrossing and crossbreeding for centuries and they are still going and they are now being used to clean up the big mess the KC have made of hound breeds in their supposed care. Hounds that have handed most of their breeding over to the KC like the Ottterhound have all suffered massive declines in genetic spread and health. There are several other dog breeds that have been here before the KC and will probably still be here after the KC that use outcrossing and crossbreeding.
      I'm doing a crossbreeding to improve health in a breed, rather than just outcrossing (which often is crossing back to the gene pool the breed originated from, so often is not opening the gene pool much). To be allowed on the register my dogs will have to have every test recommended for the breeds I use and then be assessed by a panel, unlike a purebreed that can just be bred without any health tests or assessment and registered with the KC.

    2. I don't know what you are using with the IRWS, maybe another setter, I think that was what was suggested in the past. I would imagine the orange and white Brittany dna checked that it does not carry bobtail, would be an ideal cross. It is thought that setters are in the Brittany.
      Mind you I can never understand why dog breeders can't get their heads around type rather than breed.
      There are a whole load of pointing breeds that could be bred to type rather than breed, same could be said for spaniels and so on and so on. I have a mixed spaniel breed dog, that does his work as well as any purebreed spaniel when out on a shoot.

      Dogs seemed to manage being bred to type for thousands of years before we invented the ideology of breed.

    3. 9:53

      I've done a cross breeding too, for both health and working ability.

      In a breed whos purpose was high jacked by the K.Cs to the extent that any trial is all but closed to cross breeds and ability is ONLY recognized through trials. Which, I might add, are finding it HARDER to identify proven lines and breeders.My own breed is nearly extinct in a working capacity.
      It was done in desperation in my search for dogs that could work safely in the environment I live in, and serve as utility and companions as well, since that was the way the breed standard has been promoted, what I expected, and knew to be possible through experience.

      The dogs I bred only for our own use blew apart all the reasoning put out by the K.Cs against cross breeding.They have won a following including vets who have said they were looking at 'superior specimens" with excellent hips and elbows, added longevity, larger litter sizes, and working traits and abilities I am still told are impossible.
      Because they are unheard of in the current generation of trainers and breeders who have never seen what the breed used to be capable of, and don't fit the fixed traits trainers have adapted their methods to, and seek for that reason.

      Breeders are trying to rejuvenate the breed with imports from working lines, with very limited success. There are dogs here who could provide an excellent source of rejuvenation.
      There is no avenue to show what they can offer with events restricting the participation of dogs with no pedigree. Certainly dogs with unknown ancestry are unable to compete.

      Meanwhile, the purpose that once was able to be enjoyed and promoted by "every man and his dog" becomes more an isolated niche requiring specialist training and breeding to accomodate modern and fixed expectation. And another purpose for dogs is dying out along with the dogs who excelled at its demonstration.

      I am into 3rd generation from this cross. Traits I sought have kept integrity so far. I know the mothers breeding of the dog I used, the father was a mystery. What do we test for in a dog thats now out lived the breed average by 4 years so far, with no health issues? Or her offspring who who have excellent health and agility, still actively working a year past the average life span?

      The K.Cs have nothing to offer my needs or the buyers of my pups needs. Yet have created the expectation that to have a dog to suit a purpose, it must be recognizable as a breed, or at the very least, predominantly recognizable. Or that purpose has no validity in the minds of those who might want to make use of it.

      So, If we decide to try for 4th generation, we need to look to a pure breed that has consistently failed to find a suitable mate. After ensuring hes been tested for health, we can try to assess working ability.In situations these dogs have most likely never been exposed to.

      Asking for a service IF we manage to get that far? Thats going to be fun considering its against the rules and there is no venue that will allow, or is able, to assess these dogs. They are outside of anything they know or understand.

      The K.Cs constitution, rules and regs do not recognize the environment that sustains them.
      With out responsibility to the environment, the species, domestic dog, lose purpose. With out purpose there is no value.

      Specialization and predictability as the only accepted goal will only continue to shrink the available environment able to hold the species.

    4. Do I know about this cross? Would love to know more...!

  27. Dalriach,

    I AM heartened to hear of these out crosses, and admit I was unaware of them.

    But I still say its treating the symptoms and not the cause. These are a few of many, many breeds and the actions of a few people dealing the best they can with the legacy they have been left with. They are dealing with todays problems, but not by tackling the cause that brought us to this.

    The fixed messages that the organization sends to its members and the people outside of that org. The environment. Its taken many generations of breeders and many,many more generations of dogs to bring us to this point, on that message.

    Because this generation can see problems caused by that, and treat them, doesn't change the message. The core message the K.C members act on over generations is all they CAN act on and have been acting on.
    And its doing far more damage than you seem able to recognize.

    Yes, I'll agree that out crossing done outside of the K.Cs tends to be short lived, WHEN the breeders have no purpose they are actively able to promote with their dogs. Hunting, scenting, pointing.... All these breeds are still used for their original purpose to some degree so that purpose and the dogs able to fill it are still valued.

    If they weren't, then where would these 'back yard bred" dogs have come from that have been used to rejuvenate those breeds?
    The values of their breeders are the very thing that gave rise to pedigree dogs. They gave us the 'Root stock' used in your examples to rejuvenate these breeds and they are condemned for those values because they have not considered a pedigree recorded under the K.Cs as the proof of value.

    While I applaud the initiative of those breeders you mention, I find it ironic that the K.Cs have been forced to go back to the values they refuse to recognize in order to re-invigorate their breeds.
    Unless the there is a change in the messages being sent from the K.Cs to their environment, I doubt that option will be available much longer.

  28. dalriach,

    If the K.Cs allowed their members to breed unregistered Cross's, with out having to consult with The K.Cs 1st, there would be an environmental influence on the breed.

    What PEOPLE want in a dog would have some bearing on what is being kept to breed from. Not just the K.Cs show world. Gene pools would widen.

    Only then can ordinary people can be responsible for their own expectations and values, that shape a species.

    It would not be such a mess of the unknown and unfamiliar finding suitable out crosses. Your own breeders could be seeing dogs in front of them and hearing reports of whats working best to help make the right choices on shown merit.

  29. to DALRIACH 6/10
    An Otterhound owner has already replied on 3/10.
    I also have them - for 20 years & have no problem drying them after a bath or shower. They love the hair dryer!
    Epilepsy is not common in the breed, because breeders study lines carefully. there is much more epilepsy in other breeds, but as they are numerous, they don't seem to be mentioned.. O.H.s don't end-up crippled with H.D, as stated in the 6th Oct reply.. I think more O.H. owners haven't replied because there seems to be so much nonsense written about the breed by people who don't know O.H.s

    1. More breeder nonsense - 'people who don't know the breed.'

      They're dogs in case you didn't realise? You speak of the dogs as if they are all the same!! They are all individuals even within a breed and dogs have to get used to hair dryers before they actually love them! SO, the fact that they are on their last legs genetically is something you'll just omit to discuss because it is an inconvenient truth then?


    2. 1. Otterhound is not an ancient breed, it waes created some time in the beginning of the 20th century. At the end of the 19th century Sabanyeyev (, in Russian though) described otterhounds as being of various sizes and looks. Henry Williamson described Deadlock, the enemy of Tarka (who is an otter) as being a staghound, short haired and not even usual hound colours. More, in mid-20 century a Grifon Nivernalis - Bloodhound cross was a popular sire.
      2. This is another victim of relevant people - breeders, judges and buyers, all of them - having poor eyesight. For them a dog's exterior must be stretched to the exstreme to be visible. If a hunting hound breed is seen to have longer ears then the average dog, they think that the ears have to be extremely long to be appropriate. Same for legs lenght - first some hounds appeared thad had shorter legs, which made them less likely to chase deer and more easy to follow on foot, so now we have legless dachunds and bassets. Same for hair lenght, height etc. This is also how the bulldogs and some toy breeds got their faces smashed in and how some mastiff types got too much skin - one could go on and on. It has proved over and over that it is easier to breed for the extremes than trying to maintain the average.
      3. The outcrossing or crossbreeding is different in dogs than in other species. A cross bred chicken, if it turns not to be what was intended, can be eaten. A crossbred horse if it fails in the races or whatever, can still be a working horse, even a crossbred cat can catch mice as well as any other; but if a crossbred dog does not win (and how many would?) any awards it becomes a burden - it cannot be sold after it is more than a couple of months old, so a failed one can either be sent to the shelter or be killed or be kept ba the breeder and fed and cared for all of his life, which will (I have seen something like this several times over) stop his breeder from breeding anything any more.
      4. The solution might be in breed clubs organizing such crossings (for Otterhound, said Grifon Nivernalis and other grifons are obvious choice) and taking care that all dogs eventually go to the suitable homes. This would mean working closer with breed rescues, but in the present situation of overabundance of unwanted purebreeds, sorry, I do not see any bright future.

  30. I have never read so much tosh. Nice to know there are so many so called experts out there. How many of those who comment here has lived or even met an Otterhound?
    I live with four of them. All at varying life stages, from 3 years up to 10 years of age. It would seem that people think they smell and slobber. What rubbish. They all live in the house are fed a high quality diet and are groomed regularly. None have suffered with major health issues. Yes they like bringing the great outdoors indoors. Yes they like drying off by walking down that nice painted wall. If that is not for you then go and buy a designer crossbreed.
    In the first instance those who wish to know more about the health of the Otterhound should make contact with any committee member of the Otterhound Club. Please do your homework and understand the breed.

  31. Too bad a dog that is in every dog book is about to go extinct. Outcrosses would help boast the genetic diversity and shouldn't be too hard : there are plenty of wire Foxhounds. Griffon, Airedale and working Bloodhounds might be a good option too. Maybe they don't make great pets but the government should try and preservate the breed.