When the Guinness Book of World Records identified the world’s smallest dog, the Internet went crazy. Miracle Milly, a chihuahua from Puerto Rico, was unbelievably cute and oh-so-tiny. Forget “teacup” dogs. The pet was, at one point, a literal teaspoon dog.
She set the record for the world’s smallest dog in 2013. But a few years later, Milly was part of a stranger and much more controversial record as the world’s most cloned dog.
How did this small wonder become part of one of the strangest scientific scandals in modern history?
Join us as we uncover Milly’s secrets!
Who is the World’s Smallest Dog?
The world’s smallest dog was a chihuahua named Miracle Milly. This tiny pup gained international notoriety when she set the Guinness World Record for the smallest dog by height. Although chihuahuas are already known for being small, she was much smaller than most dogs of her breed.
Miracle Milly’s owner was Vanesa Semler. She and her husband, Edwin Davila, live in Dorado, Puerto Rico. The couple raised their pet there from the time she was a puppy.
From the moment the tiny chihuahua was born, Semler knew she was special. Milly was so small at birth that her survival was, as her name suggests, a miracle. She knew other people would share her love for the tiny dog.
On the Guinness website, Semler said, “People are amazed when they see her because she is so small, and she has a big personality. People love her.”
Facts About the World’s Smallest Dog
Miracle Milly was a female chihuahua. She was dark brown with typical markings, including light brown eyebrows and feet. As Semler noted, she had a big personality. She loved human attention and frequently stuck her tongue out for the cameras.
The pup weighed less than an ounce when she was born and fit in a teaspoon. She was so small that she couldn’t nurse from her mother. Semler fed her using an eyedropper, giving her small amounts of nutrition every few hours. She slept in a doll bed next to Semler’s human bed.
Milly grew and developed into a healthy adult dog despite the odds. At her maximum size, she was only 3.8 inches tall and weighed about one pound. Eventually, the chihuahua graduated to sleeping in a crib intended for infants. And she was indeed her owner’s baby. Semler cooked all of her food from scratch!
How Many Times Was Miracle Milly Cloned?
Miracle Milly doesn’t just hold the record for the world’s smallest dog. She also set the record for the most cloned dog in history.
The pup was cloned 49 times by Sooam Biotech, a company based in Seoul, South Korea. Sooam started in 2006 and has offered cloning services since then. Pet owners pay up to $100,000 to have their companions cloned.
Semler arranged for Milly to be cloned as part of a special arrangement with Sooam. She wanted to clone her beloved pet but couldn’t afford the fee. So, as compensation, she agreed to a joint cloning study between Sooam and four scientists from a Beijing-based research institute. The study would result in ten clones, one for Semler and nine for the research team.
Cloning technology hasn’t changed much since Dolly the sheep became the first successfully cloned animal. Cells are taken from the original animal and implanted into the nucleus of a donor egg from another animal. Once the embryo starts developing, a scientist inserts it into a surrogate.
The Cloning Lawsuit
If Vanesa Semler only agreed to ten clones of her dog, how did she end up with 49? As it turns out, her agreement with Sooam turned into quite a scandal.
Despite agreeing to clone Miracle Milly only ten times, Sooam and their researchers violated their contract without informing Semler. The chihuahua’s mom filed a federal lawsuit against the company in early 2019 for this breach of contract.
Her lawyers argued that Sooam had ulterior motives when agreeing to clone Milly. Although the company said it simply wanted to study the tiny dog’s DNA, the lawsuit claimed that Sooam shared its data with other companies.
Milly’s owner was able to sue not only due to breach of contract but also because the contract named her as an equal owner of the study results.
There’s a tremendous international market for miniature and teacup animals. The secrets of the miracle dog’s existence were undoubtedly valuable to scientists and breeders worldwide.
Is Miracle Milly Still Alive?
The pampering Miracle Milly received in her early years didn’t stop there. The mini chihuahua lived a luxurious, comfortable life with her owners before passing away from natural causes in 2020. She was nine years old.
She may be gone, but many of her clones are still living. Despite the contentious lawsuit with Sooam Biotech, several clones live with Semler and Davila today. The couple owned 12 as of 2018. Their names are all variations of the original Milly.
The beloved pet also lives on in Sooam’s research. Once her clones pass away, Sooam’s researchers will still have access to her genetic information. The factors that made the tiny chihuahua special will likely appear in future animal cloning projects.
Where Can I See Pictures of the World’s Smallest Dog?
Photos of Miracle Milly are available all over the Internet. The best place to ogle the adorable pup is on her Instagram, @miraclemilly_official. The account features dozens of portraits of the tiny dog, many of which include props to show how small she was. The Guinness Book of World Records website also features several photos of her.
The Legacy of the World’s Smallest Dog
Despite passing away in 2020, Miracle Milly still holds the record for being the world’s smallest dog. Only time will tell whether another dog will eventually beat it. In the meantime, her legacy lives on through her clones, and her owners get to enjoy the unconditional love of multiple Millys.
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