The hypothalamic tuberoinfundibular dopaminergic (TIDA) neurones secrete dopamine, which inhibits prolactin secretion. TIDA neurone numbers are deficient in Ames (df/df) and Snell (dw/dw) dwarf mice, which lack prolactin, growth hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone. Prolactin therapy initiated before 21 days maintains normal-sized TIDA neurone numbers in df/df mice and, when initiated as early as 7 days, maintains the maximum TIDA neurone numbers observed in dw/dw development, which are decreased compared to those in normal mice. The present study investigated the effect of prolactin dose and species on TIDA neurone development. Snell dwarf and normal mice were treated with saline, 5 μg of ovine prolactin (oPRL), 50 μg of oPRL, or 50 μg of recombinant mouse prolactin (rmPRL) beginning at 3 days of age. Brains were analysed at 45 days using catecholamine histofluorescence, and immunohistochemistry for tyrosine hydroxylase or bromodeoxyuridine. Normal mice had greater (P ≤ 0.01) TIDA neurones than dw/dw, regardless of treatment. TIDA neurones in 50 μg oPRL-treated dw/dw mice were greater (P ≤ 0.05) than those in 5 μg oPRL- and rmPRL-treated dw/dw mice, which were greater (P ≤ 0.01) than those in saline-treated dw/dw mice. Fifty microgram oPRL-treated dw/dw mice also had greater (P < 0.01) TIDA neurone numbers than the maximum numbers observed in untreated dw/dw mice development. Among saline, 5 μg oPRL and 50 μg oPRL treatments, but not rmPRL, A14 neurone numbers were higher (P ≤ 0.01) in normal compared to in dw/dw mice. The mechanism of TIDA neurone recruitment was investigated using bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) treatment at intervals after 21 days. Mice treated with rmPRL, but not oPRL, had increased BrdU incorporation in the periventricular area surrounding the third ventricle and median eminence and in the arcuate nucleus. The data obtained in the present study indicate that oPRL, but not rmPRL, when given at a high enough dose, induces TIDA neurone differentiation in dw/dw mice. This supports neurotrophic effects of prolactin on TIDA neurones in early postnatal development that extends beyond maintenance of the cell population.