Chihuahua becomes the smallest police dog in world

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A long-haired Chihuahua named "Momo" – or "Peach" in translation – has passed exams to become a police dog in the western Japanese prefecture of Nara, in what is a first for Japan and perhaps even the entire world.

Standing just 10in tall and weighing in at a light 6lbs, the perky brown-and-white Momo was one of 32 successful candidates out of 70 dogs.

She passed a search-and-rescue test by finding someone within five minutes after merely sniffing the person's cap.

A Nara police spokesman said: "Any breed of dog can be entered to become a police dog in the search-and-rescue division."

But he admitted that news a Chihuahua had been entered may still come as a surprise to many people. "It's quite unusual," he said. Television footage showed the seven-year-old Momo bounding across grass or sitting proudly, her long hair blowing in the breeze.

Momo will be used for rescue operations during disasters such as earthquakes, in the hope that she may be able to squeeze her tiny frame into places too narrow for the more common rescue dogs, which tend to be German Shepherds and, sometimes, Border Collies.

The public response to the news of Momo's selection took police by surprise, the spokesman said.

He added: "The phone's been ringing all afternoon."