One Chinese police force has a new asset this month: its first cloned police dog.
The puppy, a Kunming wolfdog called Kunxun, was created using cells from what police described as the “Sherlock Holmes” of canine law enforcement, as part of a program they hope will reduce the training time and cost of police dogs in future.
Kunxun was born on December 19 last year at a healthy 1.19 pounds (540 grams) and 9 inches (23 centimeters) in length, according to Beijing-based Sinogene Biotechnology.
The genetic material used to create Kunxun was taken from a 7-year-old female police sniffer named Huahuangma who has helped bust 12 murder cases and participated in more than 20 other criminal cases. In 2016, she was given the first-class meritorious dog award by China’s Ministry of Public Security.
Sinogene hopes cloning of Huahuangma’s “excellent genes” can protect the breed and be “passed down from generation to generation.” The company is conducting the project along with Yunnan Agricultural University and the Ministry of Public Security, according to Chinese state media.
In September 2018, scientists began cultivating Huahuangma’s cells from a few millimeters of skin samples. The contents of the somatic cell were then implanted into an egg cell that had its nucleus removed. This embryo was then transferred to a surrogate beagle.
Kunxun’s DNA is 99% the same as Huahuangma’s, the state-run Global Times reported.
On March 5, 3-month-old Kunxun flew to the Kunming Police Dog Base in China’s Yunnan province to begin training. She is showing “a better potential” than non-cloned Kuming wolfdogs already, the base’s leading researcher Wan Jiusheng told the Science and Technology Daily.
If Kunxun passes training, she will officially become a police dog at 10-months-old.
China isn’t the first country to enlist cloned police dogs. In 2007, South Korea cloned the country’s first canine and since 2011 has been using an elite army of highly-trained golden Labrador retrievers to search out contraband at Seoul’s Incheon airport.
Serenitie Wang reported from Beijing. Alex Stambaugh reported and wrote from Hong Kong.