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The hounds took the line of the otter along the bank and across the meadows on the bends; then suddenly they marked at a big tree root, baying and scratching with teeth and paws to get into the hollow tree. The whipper-in came up with the hunt terrier, a short-legged plucky little dog, half the size of an otter. A good terrier will face an otter in his lair—or holt—and force him out of it. But this otter had already gone on upstream and soon the hounds were following his drag again.
They did not have a chance to catch him, for he at once slipped into and under the water and raced off downstream. Sooner or later he had to come up to breathe, and a keen-eyed member of the field saw the otter poke the end of his nose out of the water under the hollow bank. Raising his hat he let out a "holloa" which brought the hounds racing to him.
Once again they picked up the scent, this time plunging in and swimming down the river in close formation, with each hound giving full tongue—a glorious sight and sound.
"DEATH TO DOG OTTERS"
Now the whole valley echoed with their cry as they raced through the tangled undergrowth. The otter was tiring, and some of the field saw him as he slipped over a shallow into the deep salmon pool beyond. A few minutes later he crept silently up the bank and hid in a thick clump of bushes. Then the hounds winded the otter lying on the bank and dashed up in a solid body. Before he had time to slip, they pounced on him and killed him.
Now the field formed a barrier with their poles to hold back the baying hounds, while the master, with the otter at his feet in the meadow, sounded the death knell on his hunting horn.
He suspended the dead animal on a spring balance and weighed it. It was a dog otter of 24 pounds—a fair-sized prize, particularly for Devonshire.
Then the master cut the trophies off the otter. First the rudder, or tail. Then the mask, or head. And finally the four pads, or paws. These were distributed to followers of the hunt.
The corpse of the otter was thrown to the hounds with the cry, "Whoop, tear him and eat him," while the master again sounded his horn, this time in the "worry."
As for the hunters, their day ended shortly after in a rousing toast to the fallen foe—a toast which, strange to modern ears, has been traditional for centuries: "Death to dog otters, long live the little bitches."