The mother of all litters: Poppy the St Bernard has 13 pups
The mother of all litters: Poppy the St Bernard has 13 pups | the Daily Mail
At a hefty 12 stone, Poppy the St Bernard is more than big enough to look after herself.
But having to answer to the needs of 13 healthy puppies has left her feeling rushed off her paws.
The two-year-old produced the litter, her first, during eight hours of labour.
Lucky 13 ... Poppy's litter manage to keep still long enough to be photographed
It was a major surprise to her owners, Alan and Angela Bateman, because a vet's scan had suggested there were only three pups.
"It has been a really lovely experience," said mother-offive Mrs Bateman at the family home in Hankham, Pevensey, East Sussex. "There is always a risk with first-time breeding but she has not rejected them. Poppy has been such a good mum - and all the pups are such bundles of fun." Scroll down for more...
Poppy, left and Alfie with the Batemans
The litter of nine males and four females arrived six weeks ago. A 14th was stillborn. Their father, Alfie, is two and a half and tips the scales at 16 stone.
"They're very cute," added Mrs Bateman. "It was such a surprise that Poppy gave birth to 13. We were not expecting it at all.
"From what I can gather - a good litter is normally about six to eight pups.
"Anything over eight is a large litter. To end up with 13 is quite a challenge - you could say it is making us dog tired.
"They have just moved from their mother's milk to semisolid food and both mum and pups are doing well."
She said the family will keep the puppies for another two weeks and will probably sell 11 of them if they can find enough good homes.
St Bernards are the descendants of Swiss hunting dogs and the popular image is of them rescuing stranded climbers while carrying a miniature barrel of brandy around their neck.
Mrs Bateman added: "They are strong and powerful but they are so soppy most of the time. They are very much family pets." A spokesman for the Kennel Club described the litter as "big", saying the average number of puppies was between five and ten. However in exceptional cases it can be up to 20.