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June 19, 2024

June 19, 1944: Lena, 40-Pound Foxhound, and Her Family of 23 Pups Set a New Dogdom Litter Record

On June 19, 1944, W.N. Ely’s American foxhound, Lena, of Ambler, Pennsylvania, gave birth to 23 healthy puppies. It was her first litter, and it gave her the world record for the largest litter of puppies to survive.

Lena was a young, 40 pound female Foxhound owned by Lieutenant Commander Newbold Ely. Ely had 30 years of experience breeding Foxhounds, but had never come across a litter like Lena’s.
Lena gave birth to 15 sons and 8 daughters (for context, the average American Foxhound litter size is 5-7 puppies). Every one of the puppies was black, white, and tan, like their father.

Ely employed the help of two Foxhound foster moms, Lucy and Lydia, to help nurse the puppies, as well as a few humans to take turns watching the puppies around the clock and ensuring they were all fed. Once the puppies were weaned, they were fed raw hamburger meat, pablum, and diluted canned milk.

Lena visited the Philadelphia Dog Show with all of her puppies when they were 5 months old, and went to New York City when the puppies were 8 months to be at the Westminster Dog Show. Their public appearances raised money for charities, including the Salvation Army, the National War Fund, and several homes for crippled children. Several of the puppies were auctioned off to raise money for the American Red Cross.

Two dogs later tied her record, but not all of their puppies survived. A St. Bernard gave birth to 23 puppies in 1975 and nine of them died, and a Great Dane gave birth to 23 puppies in 1987 and only 16 survived.

The Guinness World Record for the largest litter today is 24 puppies, all of whom were born in 2004 to a Neapolitan mastiff named Tia in the UK. They were born by Caesarean section. One was still born and three died in the first week.

Lena’s large litter was a one time thing, her second litter had only 10 puppies. Today, Lena is known for having had the largest litter of puppies to survive.


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