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Meet Argentina’s Cloned Presidential Mastiffs

Javier Melei intends to govern with his five genetically identical Molossers at his side

I have never been so interested in South American politics.

Then again, I’ve never seen Molossers grab headlines in a presidential election.

Not just any Molossers, of course. We’re talking about five Mastiffs.

And not just any Mastiffs, either.

Five cloned Mastiffs.

The Mastiff owner of this fawn-colored quintet is Javier Milei, now the president of Argentina after an upset victory in that economically struggling republic, which is South America’s second largest country in both size and economy.


Milei at an August press conference.


In truth, owning five Mastiffs should be the least head-turning thing about 53-year-old Milei, a far-right libertarian who took to brandishing a chain saw as a metaphor for his intended approach to government spending. Milei, who wore a Batman costume to rallies and whose mutton-chop sideburns and untamed head of hair earned him the nickname “the Wig,” has espoused some pretty eyebrow-raising ideas during his candidacy. Among them: Eliminate the central bank, replace the peso with the American dollar, and consider allowing people to sell their vital organs.

But all that pales in comparison to Milei’s relationship with his 200-plus-pound pups.


Barbarian at the Gate


Unmarried and childless, Milei acquired his first Mastiff, Conan, in 2004. Referring to him as "literally a son to me,” Melei has reportedly said the supersized canine saved his life, alleviating his loneliness when he spent many Christmas holidays alone without friends or family.

Another assertion reported in the Argentine media: Milei contends he and Conan knew each other in a previous life two millennia ago, when he was a gladiator in the Roman Coliseum, and Conan was the lion who, recognizing their conjoined destiny, refused to battle him. (Last month on Instagram, Milei shared an AI-generated image by a fan that depicted Milei as a lion surrounded by five cartoony Mastiffs of various sizes. 


“Thank you very much … for the family portrait…!!!” read the caption on Milei's Instagram page.


Named after the barbarian of box-office fame, Conan died of spinal cancer at the ripe old age of 15.

Devastated, the following year, in 2018, Milei set out to clone him, to the tune of about $50,000, with the help of Hawaii-based PerPETuate. (Ron Gillespie, who runs the “genetic preservation company,” quipped during the campaign: "I don't have a vote in the Argentine election, but I do have five dogs in the race.”)


Javier Milei appears with his new cloned Mastiffs on an Argentine television show. Source: Youtube.


After Conan’s death, which Milei prefers to call a "physical disappearance" — suggesting that a Conan is still around for consultation, presumably on a metaphorical level — the former television “shock jock” and Rolling Stones tribute-band member enlisted a medium to chat up his dearly departed doggo. It was then, reportedly, that Conan informed Milei that God wanted him to become Argentina’s next president.


Clone, Baby, Clone


Debuting in 1996 with the replication of Dolly the sheep, and breaking into the canine ranks in 2005 with Snuppy, an Afghan Hound re-created in South Korea, cloning mammals is still a new technology that yields variable results. Though more than a dozen fertilized eggs are typically implanted in a surrogate dam, typically only one cloned embryo, if any, makes it.

But the Conan cloning produced a bumper crop of five puppies. Milei gave the name Conan to the puppy that seemed to respond to it (as well as to the original Conan’s favorite TV show). Milei refers to him as his “son” and reportedly does not differentiate Conan 2.0 from the original, given his belief that cloning is “a way of approaching eternity.”

The remaining four puppies — which Milei considers his “grandchildren” — were named after conservative American economists Milton Friedman, Murray Rothbard and Robert Lucas Jr., with the latter’s first and last names each given to a pup. (Some conflicting press reports indicate there was a sixth puppy, Angelito, and still others put the number of Melei Mastiffs at four instead of five, perhaps overlooking the namesake Conan or miscounting the three eponymous economists covering four dogs.)


"The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" posted this spoof of the Melei Mastiffs on Instagram. We had to comment: First, they are not Bullmastiffs, and second, they used red-mask Dogues! Doesn't anyone know dog breeds anymore?


Unsurprisingly, Milei’s Mastiffs became a lightning rod for criticism of him during his campaign. But neither his constant references to them (he would hold up their paintings at rallies before returning to his beloved chainsaw — the dogs themselves were at doggie day care), nor his oddball admissions of their influence (he has admitted to using an animal communicator to talk with them, presumably for advice, as he has called them the “best strategists in the world”) made a dent in his popularity. In fact, Milei won his election with 55 percent of votes cast — the biggest percentage recorded since Argentina returned to democracy 40 years ago.

When asked about his unusual advisors, Milei responded: “What I do with my spiritual life and in my house is my business. If Conan advises me on politics, it means that he is the best consultant of humanity."

Giving credit where he believed it was due, Milei thanked his dogs in a speech after winning the Argentine primary election last summer. And when he was inaugurated, Milei opted not to hold the official presidential baton carved by goldsmith Juan Carols Pallarols; instead, he had one designed with a carving of his five Mastiffs.


The Presidential Pets


After taking the reins of power, Milei naturally wants to keep his “four-legged children” close at hand: They will now move with him into the official presidential residence, Quinta de Olivos, though it will have to be renovated to accommodate them, as the dogs are accustomed to living in their own space.


Quinta de Olivos, Argentina's presidential residence.


Hopefully, they have outgrown their previous precociousness.

“My house is like Kosovo,” Milei said in a 2018 television interview, when the dogs were still puppies. “In two weeks, they’ve eaten almost four armchairs.”

If the Milei menagerie is still chomping, fingers crossed they restrict it to inanimate objects. Some press reports have expressed concern about security, as the dogs have a reputation — shades of President Biden’s German Shepherd, Commander?— for being “problematic,” whatever that means.

As for all the unborn Conans, their future seems assured: Before he was elected, Milei said he would appoint an animal-cloning expert to chair Argentina’s national scientific council. And some of Conan’s harvested cells remain cryogenically frozen, just waiting for their future wake-up call.

You just can’t make this stuff up.


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