When a heavily pregnant Irish wolfhound was brought to Rant en Dal Animal Hospital in Mogale City, staff were in for a big surprise!
The poor mamma wolfhound, Reve, had an unusual swelling in her uterus, and veterinarian Dr Kurt de Cramer, who performs roughly 900 dog C-sections every year, knew there was something unusual about Reve's litter.
And he was right! When he operated, Dr de Cramer saw something he'd never seen before -- two foetuses attached by their umbilical cords to the same placenta!
“When I realised that the puppies were of the same gender and that they had very similar markings, I also immediately suspected that they might be identical twins having originated from the splitting of an embryo,” he told BBC.
And DNA tests when they were six weeks old confirmed it. The male puppies -- who've been named Cullen and Romulus -- are identical twins!
The adorable pair are believed to be the first genetically identical set to be confirmed in the dog species.
Reve's owner Dawn Barnard had no idea what was happening amidst all the excitement at Rant en Dal Animal Hospital.
"I was actually shocked, everyone was running around and the doctor said to me, 'Don’t panic, they are fine'," she told YOU.
"I remember them getting cameras to take pictures of the puppies and that’s when I was told they are actually twins."
"It felt pretty cool, but I didn’t have a clue at the time it would be the first in the world to be proven."
While placenta-sharing puppies don't have a high chance of survival due to complications, Reve safely delivered Cullen, Romulus and their five brothers and sisters in a two-hour surgery.
In a study subsequently published in the journal Reproduction in Domestic Animals, authors Carolynne Joone from the James Cook University in Australia and Johan Nöthling from the University of Pretoria wrote: “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of monozygotic twinning in the dog confirmed using DNA profiling."
"The twins looked very similar," Joone added.
"But pups from the same litter often do, [and] there were small differences in the white markings on their paws, chests and the tips of their tails. I wasn't sure they were monozygotic [identical] at all initially."
Unfortunately, Dawn wasn't able to keep Cullen and Romulus.
"I already have eight [dogs] and to keep two boys from the litter would’ve been a terrible idea. I sold them to my friends, one lives in Johannesburg and the other one in Natal."
"I hope to get them together again for a 10-month photoshoot because they were very cute when they were puppies."