The Ministry for Primary Industries is still assessing the likely means of entry of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis, following its discovery on two dairy farms in the Morven area near Oamaru.
MPI detector beagle Clara gave birth to three male and three female puppies on November 24. The sire was Morley, a harrier hound. Both dogs work for MPI at airports and ports to sniff out food and plant materials that pose biosecurity risk to New Zealand.
"It’s the first time anyone in the world has crossed a beagle and a harrier for detection work and we have very high expectations for this super-breed," says MPI Detection Technology Manager Brett Hickman.
"The idea is to combine the height of the harrier with the proven biosecurity qualities of the beagles we have been breeding for nearly 20 years. The result could be the perfect sniffing machine to keep unwanted pests out of New Zealand."
He says the new dogs will be about the size of a labrador.
"Their extra height will make it easier for them to sniff backpacks carried by travellers or airport baggage stacked on trolleys."
MPI started using harriers as detector dogs last year. It has employed beagles in this role since 1996.
Collectively known as H-litter, the new puppies were bred under MPI’s detector dog breeding programme. This programme has bred 36 litters since 1996. Of these, nearly 80% of the puppies have gone on to become successful biosecurity dogs.
Hickman says MPI will team up with Auckland’s Starship Hospital to choose naming options for one of the new puppies.
"The plan is for Starship children to vote on names suggested by the public through our facebook page."