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Chinese Company Clones Police Dog

Kunming, China —(Map)

China has used DNA to make a copy of a police dog famous for its abilities. The company that did the work hopes the clone will be as talented as the original dog, which they called the “Sherlock Holmes of police dogs”.

Every living thing has DNA – a special code that tells it how to grow. Usually an animal gets half of its DNA from its father, and the other half from its mother. Cloning is a complicated scientific process that uses the DNA of one living thing to create a new creature that is a copy of the original.

A close-up of Dolly in her stuffed form.
Cloning is a complicated scientific process that uses the DNA of one living thing to create a new creature that is a copy of the original. In 1996, a scientist cloned a sheep, called “Dolly”. The picture shows Dolly’s body in a museum after she died.
(Source: Toni Barros[CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

For a long time, the idea of cloning was understood, but it was hard to carry out for many animals. But in 1996, a scientist cloned a sheep, called “Dolly”. Since then, many other animals have also been cloned. The first pet was cloned in the US in 2001. It was a cat called “CC” for “CopyCat”. South Korea cloned the first dog in 2005.

CC with her owner
The first pet was cloned in the US in 2001. It was a cat called “CC” for “CopyCat”. In this picture, CC is shown with her owner.
(Source: Pschemp [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

The work of cloning a police dog is being done by a company in Beijing, China called Sinogene. Sinogene has had success in cloning other pets. Now they are working with the government of the city of Kunming, China to see if they can learn to easily clone good police dogs.

The cloned puppy, called Kunxun, was born in December. Kunxun is a Kunming wolfdog – a kind of dog similar to a German Shepherd. The newspaper Xinhua reports that Kunxun is cloned from a seven-year-old police dog called Huahuangma. Huahuangma is famous for having helped solve many important cases for the police.

Kunming Dog
This picture shows a Kunming wolfdog – a kind of dog similar to a German Shepherd. Kunxun is cloned from a seven-year-old Kunming wolfdog that works with the police.
(Source: Bigsteeve[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Kunxun is now just three months old. As she grows up, she is being trained. But she is already showing strong abilities. “She has scored a couple of A’s,” says Wan Jiusheng, who is training her. When she is 10 to 12 months old she will officially become a police dog.

Police around the world have long used dogs in their work. Dogs can help police track down missing people and sniff out dangerous things like bombs or drugs. Animal experts in China say that it normally takes about five years to train a police dog. This training can cost over $75,000.

Police Dog in Tokyo, Japan
Police around the world have long used dogs in their work. Dogs can help police track down missing people and sniff out dangerous things like bombs or drugs. This police officer and police dog are in Tokyo, Japan.
(Source: Dick Thomas Johnson from Tokyo, Japan [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

The high cost of training is the main reason to experiment with cloning police dogs. Cloning also costs a lot of money – Sinogene charges around $55,000 to clone an animal. But the company hopes the cloned dogs may have skills which will allow them to be trained much more quickly than other dogs. If the company gets good at cheaply producing cloned police dogs, they think it will be a good business.

West Midlands Police - Dog handlers receive awards
It can take a long time and a lot of money to train police dogs. The high cost of training is the main reason to experiment with cloning police dogs.
(Source: West Midlands Police, via Flickr.com.)

But this is not a sure thing. Some scientists report that animals’ abilities depend as much on how they grow up as what kind of DNA they have. Zhang Song, who trains police dogs, believes we’ll have to wait to see how good Kunxun becomes. “We are not sure about her future,” he says. “I hope she can fully develop her abilities in training.”

Kunming, China


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