Litter size at birth in purebred dogs--a retrospective study of 224 breeds

Theriogenology. 2011 Mar 15;75(5):911-9. doi: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2010.10.034. Epub 2010 Dec 31.


Despite the long history of purebred dogs and the large number of existing breeds, few studies of canine litter size based upon a large number of breeds exist. Previous studies are either old or include only one or a few selected breeds. The aim of this large-scale retrospective study was to estimate the mean litter size in a large population of purebred dogs and to describe some factors that might influence the litter size. A total of 10,810 litters of 224 breeds registered in the Norwegian Kennel Club from 2006 to 2007 were included in the study. The overall mean litter size at birth was 5.4 (± 0.025). A generalized linear mixed model with a random intercept for breed revealed that the litter size was significantly influenced by the size of the breed, the method of mating and the age of the bitch. A significant interaction between breed size and age was detected, in that the expected number of puppies born decreased more for older bitches of large breeds. Mean litter size increased with breed size, from 3.5 (± 0.04) puppies in miniature breeds to 7.1 (± 0.13) puppies in giant breeds. No effect on litter size was found for the season of birth or the parity of the bitch. The large number of breeds and the detail of the registered information on the litters in this study are unique. In conclusion, the size of the breed, the age of the bitch and the method of mating were found to influence litter size in purebred dogs when controlling for breed, with the size of the breed as the strongest determinant.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Body Size
  • Breeding* / methods
  • Dogs / physiology*
  • Female
  • Insemination, Artificial / veterinary
  • Litter Size*
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seasons
  • Species Specificity