Napa Grass Farmer, who provides pasture-raised chickens, turkeys, and sheep for about 200 families, announced their 3-year-old sheepdog named Stella had puppies. This may not seem like anything out of the ordinary, except it appears that Stella had aspirations of being a “clown car” of puppies: They kept coming and coming and coming.
Napa Valley, California, welcomed 17 of the little white woolly bundles of joy: 11 boys and six girls. The pups are purebred Maremma sheepdogs, an Italian breed known for its protective qualities. Each puppy will mature to tip the scales at 100 pounds, or more.
Heidi Schwartz, a veterinary technician for Barney and Russum Animal Clinic in Fairfield, California, told ABC News that Stella was able to have the first two pups on her own, but then needed help delivering the rest. They were delivered via C-section on January 29, she said. The clinic estimates this to be California’s largest litter of puppies. It is also the largest litter recorded for the breed.
Coverage Mail reported that Stella’s owner, John Costanzo, was astonished by the litter size.
“Six to eight is normal. Seventeen is insane.”
At first he was concerned about how he and his wife were going to handle all these puppies. Poor Stella couldn’t provide enough milk for all of them.
“We really were just expecting maybe 10 at the most. But once the 17th was finally coming out we realized that this was going to be a lot of work. We were going to be feeding morning noon and night.”
Fortunately, he said some of their club members stepped up and took some of the burden off, by volunteering to help feed puppies.
Costanzo told ABC News that the pups are all doing just fine.
“Their personalities are just starting to come out now, and you have some more rambunctious, others more reserved and others that are very loud and boisterous. They’re all being trained to sip milk out of a bowl now.”
He said he may keep one or two of them for himself. The rest, he said, will go to farms that will give the dogs a job.
“It’s really important to us that the pups go to farms and not suburban homes. They’re bred for protection and work and if they’re just in a home setting, they will get bored and restless easily. They love keeping busy and thrive in a farm setting.”
According to the Maremma Sheepdog Club of America, the Maremma sheepdog itself never even considers itself a pet. They were bred for 2000 years to protect livestock, and they transfer the protective instincts to their families.
When Stella’s puppies grow up, they will have the instincts to do their job and watch over the flocks, without any special training. According to Costanzo, having the sheepdogs is part of their Napa Valley lifestyle.
“We’re not professional breeders or anything. We’re just a farm and we have these dogs protecting our livestock.”
Livestock protection dogs are typically large in size, (80-120 pounds), and usually having a thick double coat that can withstand the elements. They are normally white or fawn in color. Their temperament is typically independent and not high energy like a border collie or other herding breeds mentioned in this Inquisitr article. Some of the more readily known livestock guardians include:
- Great Pyrenees
- Anatolian Shepherds (Akbash)
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, livestock guardian dogs can have a positive impact on the environment. They are an aggressive deterrent to predators, and are effective for all types of livestock, including but not limited to sheep. Like the Maremmas, these other breeds usually have litters of about eight to 10 puppies.
The Guinness World record for the largest litter of puppies ever is 24.
[Image via Grezova Olga/Shutterstock]