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World Otter Day
"It is utterly, notterly, possibly true
that my otter you’ll find at your local zoo.
My otter is totally, otterly wild,
I’m afraid you may never see him, my child."
~ Wild Otter, Joanna Marple
Amongst other famous literary otters (such as Kenneth Grahame's "Otter" from The Wind in the Willows and Henry Williamson's "Tarka") including those who made it to the silver screen, there is one species of Scottish otter that has been immortalized in both literature and in zoological nomenclature! Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli - an Iraqi subspecies of a smooth-coated otter - is named for Scottish author and naturalist Gavin Maxwell, who chronicled his time on the west coast of Scotland with his wild otter "Mijbil" in his 1960 book, Ring of Bright Water, later released as a film of the same name in 1969. The colours of this tartan represent otters and the lochs, streams and seas where they live and play. Known for their amusing antics, a group of otters is called a bevy, family, lodge, or romp (or when in water, a raft). 🦦
The word otter derives from the Old English word otor or oter, which ultimately stems from the same word which gave rise to the English word "water."
There are great number of otter species adapted to their particular environments in the ocean or rivers, but a large number of species are now extinct.
Norse mythology tells of the dwarf Ótr habitually taking the form of an otter. The myth of "Otter's Ransom" is the starting point of the Volsunga saga.
In Irish mythology, the character Lí Ban was turned from a woman into a mermaid, half human and half salmon, and given three hundred years of life to roam the oceans. Her lapdog assumed the form of an otter and shared her prolonged lifetime and her extensive wanderings.
In some Native American cultures, otters are considered totem animals.
And in popular Korean mythology, it is told that people who see an otter (soodal) will attract 'rain clouds' for the rest of their lives!
In Japanese folklore, clever otters fool humans in the same way as foxes.
An otter's den is called a holt or couch. Male otters are called dogs or boars, females are called bitches or sows, and their offspring are called pups. A group of otters are known as bevy, family, lodge, romp (being descriptive of their often playful nature) or, when in water, raft!
For more on these fascinating creatures, click the otters!