Britain’s rarest breed of dog may have been saved after 19 of the endangered puppies were born in Herefordshire.

There are less then 1,000 British otterhounds left in the world, with only 20 born in the UK last year, making them more scarce than the giant panda and the white rhino.

But Maria Lerego, from Ocle Pychard near Bromyard, is doing her bit to help their survival and was delighted when bitches Calista and Symphony gave birth to 19 puppies.

British otterhounds date back to the 12th Century and records state that both King John and Elizabeth I were owners.

They were originally used to hunt otters, but that became illegal in 1978.

Experts fear that they could be extinct within 10 years, but Maria hopes that she can keep the figures up.

“They will never be as popular as labradors or spaniels, but it would be nice to increase the population,” she said.

“There were only 20 puppies born and registered in Britain last year, so for 19 to be born here is quite a feat.

“I take them to game fairs to really get them among the public as not many people have heard about them, but they are British.

“They are lovely pets, very laid back and good with children, but they are quite a handful,” she said.

“My friend says that they are like looking after a five-year-old boy.”