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Can A Litter of Puppies Have More Than One Father?

Can A Litter of Puppies Have More Than One Father?

We are currently fostering a canine family consisting of seven puppies (Cosmo, Piper, Pompeii, Sterling, Max, Snoopy and Cheyanne) and their mama, Daisy. Curiously, the puppies look very little like their mama, so we figured they must look a lot like their daddy.  But as they grew, we continued to be quite puzzled as to what daddy might have looked like. Was he a black Scottie dog like Piper and Pompeii? Or more beagle-ish like Snoopy and Cosmo? Was he long-fured and shitzu-ish like fuzzy little Max? Or was he more like Cheyanne and Sterling, who seem to be a mix of terrier and dachshund?

As we considered all of the possible combos of a dad who could have sired so many different looking puppies, someone said “Well, you know, they could have different fathers.” That was news to me. More than one dad per liter? But it made complete sense looking at our diverse tail-waggin’ menagerie.



So, I looked up the breeding ecology of dogs and sure enough, it is common for a litter of pups to share one mama but have different daddies. Female dogs release multiple eggs during ovulation and are thus capable of conceiving every time they mate during this period. Interestingly, the eggs are actually not fully mature upon ovulation. They complete the maturation process in the uterine horns. Furthermore, male canine sperm can cling to the uterine lining for days and then release when viable eggs become available. This scenario often results in multiple fathers for one litter. I double-checked these facts with the Humane Society vet, Dr Paul Chapin, and he said indeed it is true that dogs can conceive every time they mate over the three week period that they are fertile.



However, if the matings happen too far apart, one batch of pups will be ready for birth before the other later-conceived batch and the younger ones may not be viable when the first batch is born.  If the younger pups are viable, then they may be developmentally behind the others. This could have been the case with at least one of our pups, fuzzy Max. We at first thought he was merely the runt, but then when all of the other pups cut their teeth before he even showed one tooth, we realized he may just be a week or so younger than the others.

Prior to 1998, the American Kennel Club did not allow the registration of litters with more than one sire (father). This is no longer the case, however DNA test are required for multiple sired litters, if owners desire the coveted papers proving a pup is a purebred.

For those of us who are not interested in pedigreed lineages, the idea of multiple sired litters is nothing less than fascinating as in the case of Daisy and her seven pups. (Of course, spaying and neutering is entirely preferred as the world has more pups than loving families available!)

For the record, cats also can give birth to a litter with multiple fathers. From an evolutionary perspective it makes a whole lot of sense for a female cat or dog to mate with multiple males and let the best sperm win. Furthermore, a litter of pups or kittens with diverse genetics is more likely to have survivors than a litter with all the same genetics.

So, now that I know one litter can be sired by multiple fathers, I will never look at a litter wondering who the father is, but rather now, how many fathers were there and what did they all look like.


Read more: Adoptable pets, Behavior & Communication, Blogs, Cats, Community, Community Service, Cute Pet Photos, Do Good, Dogs, Feline Muse, Life, Make a Difference, Nature, Nature & Wildlife, Pet Health, Pets, , , , , , , , ,

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Cherise Udell

Cherise Udell is a mom, clean air advocate, anthropologist and feline aficionado with the nomadic habit of taking spontaneous sojourns to unusual destinations. Before her adventures in motherhood, she was an intrepid Amazon jungle guide equipped with a pair of sturdy wellingtons and a 24-inch machete, as well as a volunteer at a rainforest animal rescue center.


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1:10PM PDT on Oct 1, 2014

I knew this about cats a long time ago. I had a cat who had a litter with a long haired kitten and the others were short haired. I asked my vet why and he told me they can have different daddies!

9:37PM PDT on Aug 6, 2014


8:35AM PDT on Jul 27, 2014

Interesting, thanks.

3:15AM PDT on Jul 25, 2014

If your not breeding to improve the breed, you probably shouldn't.

9:50PM PDT on Jul 24, 2014

thanks for sharing the interesting fact. thought only cats could have different fathers from the same litter

7:49PM PDT on Jul 24, 2014


9:26AM PDT on Jul 24, 2014

thanks for sharing

11:49AM PDT on Jul 21, 2014

Thank you

8:40AM PDT on Jul 21, 2014

@ Cathleen K - so true

8:39AM PDT on Jul 21, 2014

FYI - The pups were spayed and neutered last week.

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people are talking

Looks interesting. Thanks.

I can't wait for fall and if CA gets lucky rain. TY for posting.

I too like the idea of being a tourist in your own city. Thank you for the ideas!


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