When Joanne Hine found out that her dog, a Great Dane and American bulldog cross named Mary Jane (MJ), was expecting, she was told that her pet would likely give birth to six to eight puppies.
However, an examination closer to MJ’s due date showed that the actual number was going to be much higher.
On 20 November, MJ gave birth to 21 puppies, just three short of the 2004 Guinness World Record for the largest litter held by a Neapolitan mastiff from Cambridgeshire named Tia.
But unlike Tia, who required a Caesarean section to deliver the 24 puppies, 20 of which survived, MJ’s litter was born naturally - which may mean the pup broke a new record.
"When the vets told me it would probably be more after they'd said she would have just six to eight I said 'no way!'” Hine recalled. “I’m so proud of her. MJ did it all on her own Annie and Ruth of Jane Callow Veterinary Practice by her side the whole time.”
Unfortunately, six of MJ’s puppies were stillborn and another died soon after the birth.
The remaining 14 puppies, who seem to have inherited their mother’s black and white colouring and their father’s face, a cross between a bullmastiff and a rottweiler, have been named after chocolate bars.
For now, the dogs require constant care from their owner and their mum, as MJ “only has nine nipples and 14 pups so bottle feeding them every two hours is a team effort”, according to Hine.
To ensure that the puppies are getting enough attention, Hine has been sleeping in the kitchen next to a homemade crib that is big enough for MJ and all of her puppies.
When they are old enough, the puppies will be re-homed, according to Hine, with two of the pups already set to go to a family in Rotherham, Yorks.
As for MJ, Hine says she will be neutered after she learned that a dog’s second litter can be bigger than the first.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies