Why Get a Guard Dog When a Guard Otter Will Do?

A recent video making the rounds of the internet focuses on one young otter playing defense for his female owner as his male owner playfully tries to tap the other human. While the video is under a minute in length, it more than does its job at amusing us with the otter’s ninja-like silence and focus in stopping the man from touching the woman, whose knees are pulled up in order to share space with the unnamed otter. While the otter occasionally delivers what cat-owners might refer to as a love-bite, it does so without so much as a hiss or a squeak.

The otter is an omnivorous mammal related to weasels, ferrets, badgers, polecats and even the wolverine. Their name is derived from the root word for “water,” likely referencing the affinity that these creatures have for living within watery regions. Gendered names for otters reference both canines and porcine terms; males are known as “boars” or “dogs” and females are known as “sows” or “bitches”-children are uniformly referred to as “pups.” Collective terms for a group of otters include a “bevy,” “family,” “lodge,” “romp,” and a “raft.”

While otters are mammals, their two most memorable features allude to their aquatic activities. Otters possess webbed digits and a seal-like sleekness that gives them superior aquadynamic movement. While the otter in the video often has its mouth open, likely in order to strike at the male owner with its teeth, most species of otter have sharp claws that they use to either tear apart food or soften it up. Different species of otter have different diets, mostly as a result of their environment-some species spend their whole time in the water and are content to feed on fish and invertebrates others will use rocks to crack open clams. One final quality of otters is that they seem to exhibit enough intelligence to create their own toys, playing with rocks or engineering personal water slides.

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