World Otter Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"You otter be in pictures ... you're wonderful to see!"
~ with apologies to Seuss & Heyman, 1934, "You Oughta Be in Pictures"
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, one species of otter has even has been immortalized 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.
Otters in Kenick Burn
World Otter Day celebrates these aquatic, marine, and semi-aquatic animals, known for their thick fur, back floating habits, and playful nature.
The otter (Lutra lutra) was lost from most of England and Wales between the 1950s and the 1970s because of pesticide pollution of waterways but survived in Scotland’s cleanest bodies of water in the north and west.
Today, the species is flourishing across Scotland, and recovering well across the UK as waterways are cleaned up.
Otters are playful animals and appear to engage in various behaviors for sheer enjoyment, such as making waterslides and then sliding on them into the water.
Otters can have up to one million hairs per square inch! There are two layers of fur - an undercoat and then longer visible hairs . The layers trap air next to the otter’s skin, which keeps the otters dry and warm and also helps with buoyancy - otter pups have so much air trapped in their fur, they can’t dive under water until older.
The collective nouns for otters are bevy, family, lodge, romp (being descriptive of their often playful nature) or, when in water, raft.
Notes from Murrough Langdon, devisor:
"This dance, Otters In Kenick Burn, was inspired on 14 May 2015 by seeing a pair of otters darting around in the pools and cascades of Kenick Burn (in the grounds of Laurieston Hall) with first one, then the other catching and eating a fish before swimming off downstream.
I believe alternating tandem reels were first invented for dolphins but they do very nicely for otters as well. Here 1st couple are the otters. The supporting couples are rocks in the pools for bars 1-8, then fish being chased in bars 9-24 (lucky 2nd couple escape but the hapless 3rd couple get caught, metaphorically eaten and their remains neatly discarded in the corner - sorry!) and finally in bars 25-32 they are flotsam eddying with little vortices in the wake of the departing otters."
An otter of note entered the literary canon of Scottish otters through the book Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell which detailed his life in a remote house in coastal Scotland where he kept several wild otters as pets.
The book describes how Maxwell brought a smooth-coated otter back from Iraq and raised it at "Camusfeàrna" (the name he used for his house at Sandaig near Glenelg), on the west coast of Scotland. He took the otter, called Mijbil, to the London Zoological Society, where it was decided that this was a previously unknown subspecies, and it was named after him: Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli (or colloquially, "Maxwell's otter").
See below for a video for the dance, and for famous literary otters, click the otter!