We know you are looking for amazing otter facts and you are at the right place. Otters are super cute. The moment you see them, you feel like taking them in your arms and cuddle them with lots of love.
But don’t go by their looks because they are extremely intelligent animals and fun-loving. If you read what they do and how they behave, you will be in awe and see them in a different light. Go on, read these amazing otter facts and enjoy!
Otter Scientific Classification
Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Chordata
Class – Mammalia
Order – Carnivora
Family – Mustelidae
Subfamily – Lutrinae
Otter Facts: 13 Otter Species
Unlike for other animals, otters have several genera and species. The 13 species are listed below:
Congo clawless otter (Aonyx congicus)
African clawless otter (Aonyx capensis). It is also known as swamp otter, African small-clawed otter.
Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus)
Sea otter (Enhydra lutris)
Marine otter (Lontra felina)
North American river otter (Lontra canadensis)
Amazonian river otter (Lontra longicaudis). It is also known as neotropical river otter, a long-tailed otter.
Large river otter (Lontra provocax). It is also known as the Southern river otter and river wolf.
Japanese otter (Lutra nippon). It is considered extinct. According to IUCN, it may not be a separate species at all.
Hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana)
European otter or Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra)
Smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)
Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)
Now that we know different genera and species, let us dive into the amazing otter facts that we have to offer to you.
Etymology of Otter
The word ‘otter’ is derived from ‘otor’ or ‘oter’ both of which are Old English words.
This word and other words of Indo-European languages stemmed from *wódr̥, a proto-Indo-European language. The word water is also derived from *wódr̥.
Otter Facts: Description
Otter has a long and slim body and short limbs. It has powerful webbed feet which are used for swimming.
It has seal-like abilities that help in holding breath underwater. It usually has sharp claws.
In general, otters of different species have muscular and long tails. The only exception is the sea otter.
When it comes to its weight and length, there is a great variation between different species. On average, the size ranges from 0.6 meters to 1.8 meters (2 feet to 5.9 feet) in length and from 2.2 lbs to 99.2 lbs (1 kilogram to 45 kilograms) in weight.
The smallest otter species is the Asian small-clawed otter. The largest otter species are the giant otter and sea otter.
Another amazing otter fact is that an otter has soft and inflated fur. This fur is protected by long guard hair. The long hair traps air and this keeps the fur warm, dry and helps the otter to float on water in a minute way.
Most of the otter species are seen in cold countries. These species have high metabolic rates to keep their bodies warm.
One of the interesting otter facts is that European otters eat 15% of their body weight every day and sea otters consume around 20 to 25% of their body weight each day.
In warm waters (with a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit), an otter has to catch a minimum of 100 grams of fish an hour to survive.
Otters hunt for 3 to 5 hours a day every day and otters which are nursing spend around 8 hours a day for hunting.
Otter Habitat and Terminology
The otters live near freshwater, rivers, lakes, seas, etc. habitats. Other habitats include dens which are built by otters just like beavers. They have many channels and dry inner chambers.
Den of an otter is called couch or holt. Male otters are generally called boars or dogs and females are called sows or bitches. Offspring of otters are called pups or kits or kittens.
A group of otters is called a lodge, family, bevy, romp (because of their playful nature), raft (when they are in water), etc.
This otter fact may be a bit odd but the fecal matter of an otter is called spraint. The smell may vary from freshly mown hay to rotten fish.
Otter Facts: Life Cycle
Female otters reach sexual maturity when they are around two years old. Male otters reach sexual maturity at the age of three years.
The gestation period is 2 months for smaller species and 5 months for larger species. The pups live in holt and the mother, father and elder siblings take care of the newborns.
The mother gives birth to 1 to 5 offspring in one litter. Usually, otters give birth to 2 babies once.
The holts are built under cairn or tree roots. These holts are most commonly seen in Scotland. The holts are lined with grass and moss.
The pup leaves the holt after a month when they can open their eyes and after two months, the pups are able to swim.
They weigh around 128 grams or 4.5 ounces at birth for small species and the pups of bigger species weigh 2.3 kilograms or 5 lbs at birth. Pups live for around one year with their family.
The otters live up to 16 years.
Otter Facts: Hunting, Feeding, and Entertainment
Otters are carnivores. The most common staple food of otters is fish. Other foods include frogs, crabs, small mammals, birds, clams, urchins, shellfish, and crayfish.
You may not believe this but one of the otter facts for kids is that otters are masters in using stones to break open the shellfish. The young learn this skill from their elders.
Otters carry a stone in a pouch that is present under their forearm which they use for breaking open the shellfish.
Most of the otter species are active hunters and they hunt at night (they are nocturnal as well). They (especially river otters) enter waters only when they have to hunt. Else, they stay on land just to protect their fur from waterlogging.
This probably is one of the most interesting otter facts! Otters are so fun-loving that they build waterslides and slide on them and dive into the water!
They are also seen playing with small stones. However, it must be noted that each species behave differently. Some species may be extremely social whereas others may be solitary.
Otters spend a lot of time grooming themselves just like cats. They rub and scratch their bodies with rocks, grass, logs, etc.
Brief Description of a Few Species of Otters
Also known as the Eurasian otter. They are seen in Europe, Asia and the northern part of Africa. They were earlier seen in the British Isles as well but because of habitat loss and water pollution, they have become rare. Thankfully, with several programs running to protect otters, the population has been on the rise.
They are classified as marine animals. They are usually seen on the Pacific coast of North America. Earlier they were seen in Bering Strait, Kamchatka. They were present even in Japan.
The giant otter is present in the Amazon River basin in South America. Just like other species of otters and other wild animals, they are extremely rare to find because of habitat loss and poaching.
North American River Otter
This species is usually seen in North America and Europe. In some of the areas, it is a protected species.
Basic Differences Between River Otters and Sea Otters
River otters weigh less than sea otters. Sea otters weigh 66 kilograms whereas river otters’ weight ranges from 5 to 15 kilograms.
River otters’ maximum length is 1 meter and sea otters are around 1 to 1.5 meters in length.
River otters are not considered as marine mammals and sea otters are considered as marine mammals.
River otters enter into waters only when they have to hunt whereas sea otters spend most of their time in waters.
River otters can swim at a speed of 11 kilometers per hour and sea otters swim at a speed of 9 kilometers per hour.
Otter and Human Relationship
Humans have hunted otters since the 1700s. They used a lot of methods to hunt otters. Dogs that were used to hunt otters were called otterhounds.
The fur of otters was worn by royalty and high stature people. The fur was used to make belts, hats, etc.
Hunters wore penis bone of otters as tie pin!
One of the fantastic otter facts is that fishermen of Bangladesh use otters to catch fish!
Otters in Different Cultures
Otters were present in Norse mythology. Volsunga saga started with the myth of Otter’s Ransom.
In Japanese culture, they are called Kawauso. They are considered as cunning just like foxes in Japanese culture.
There are many stories in Japan relating to otters. There are some stories where otters shapeshift themselves into beautiful women or children. Some stories even have a darker side. The otters shapeshift into women and invite males and eventually kill and eat them.
Other stories have a similar storyline but here the otters shapeshift to males and go to the houses of beautiful ladies and try to kill them or forcefully marry them.
Chinese have more or less the same story as Japanese regarding otters.
According to Zoroastrians, otters belong to Ahura Mazda and are considered sacred and are revered.
Native American cultures believe otters as totem animals or sacred animals.
In Korean mythology, when a person finds an otter it is said that the person will attract ‘rain clouds’ all his/her life.
Otter Facts: Conservation Status
As per IUCN, most of the otter species are either near threatened, vulnerable or endangered.
The only exception to this is the North American river otter. Their population is considered stable and IUCN lists it as ‘least concern’.
The most threatened species of otters are the hairy-nosed otters. They are found in Asia. It is believed that only 86 of them are present in this world now.
Other Otter Facts
90% of the sea otters are present on the coast of Alaska
Sea otters can hold their breath for as long as 8 minutes.
When otters sleep they wrap seaweed around them and sleep holding each other’s hands. As mentioned earlier in the article, a group of otters that are resting is called a raft.
Giant otters can swim at a speed of 14 kilometers per hour.
The otters, especially sea otters are so good with rocks that they can happily juggle 3 to 4 rocks and they usually lay down and throw rocks in the air and catch them and roll them with ease even with their eyes closed!
One fo the jawdropping otter facts is that their enamel is stronger than ours. But their bite force is not that high.
Did you know that sea otters can have a million hair cells per square inch of their skin? This makes sea otters’ fur the densest in this animal world!
Another interesting otter fact is that the female sea otters give birth in the waters!
Otters belong to a family of animals like wolverines, skunks, weasels, badgers, etc.
Otters are present in most of the continents except Australia and Antarctica.
Sea otters play a key role in indicating the health of kelp forests. In the same way, river otters indicate the health of riparian habitats. If the otters are not thriving in their habitats, it means that the habitats are not healthy.
Otters sometimes use other animals’ homes as their homes. They happily use homes of beavers, muskrat dens, etc. They even take the dens of foxes, rabbits, and badgers. They take the dens only when they are not used by other animals.
A sea otter can live in waters throughout its life.
One of the most fascinating otter facts is that sea otters can actually flip over the boulders on the sea bed. It is also the only animal to catch fish with its forearms but not with its mouth.
The raft that sea otters make ranges from 10 individuals to 1000 otters.
Sea otters are considered as keystone species i.e., species that are key in maintaining the whole ecosystem.
Conclusion: This sums up our interesting otter facts for you. We bet you didn’t know a lot of them and in case if you have any other interesting facts related to otters, do share with us. We would also love to know other facts about otters!