Narcotic agents have four-legged friends who detect drugs, arson investigators have dogs who can sniff out flammable fluids, and search-and-rescue workers have dogs that find people, living or dead. For decades, drug dogs, arson dogs, search dogs and cadaver dogs have made countless contributions to law enforcement.

Now wildlife officials are getting canines that are specially trained to find animal contraband. Their highly sensitive noses are tuned to the odors of ivory, horns and so on, and they are being used to combat trafficking in illicit byproducts harvested from endangered elephants and rhinos.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials call them “wildlife detector dogs.” I think “horn dogs” has a better ring.

“The recent rapid growth in the global trade in protected wildlife is pushing some species perilously close to extinction. Elephant and rhino populations in particular are declining at alarming rates,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement Deputy Chief Ed Grace. “The battle to stop wildlife smuggling is one we simply cannot afford to lose, and using dogs and their phenomenal sense of smell to catch smugglers will give us a real leg up in this effort.”

The dogs — four retrievers named Viper, Butter, Lancer and Locket — and their handlers completed the 13-week course at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Detector Dog Training Center in Newnan, Ga. They are being placed at key ports of entry around the country. Inspectors examine imports and exports at international airports, ocean ports, border crossings, mail facilities and FedEx and UPS processing centers. The dogs will give inspectors a whole new capacity to quickly scan cargo and packages without having to open each container.

Here are some other pieces on horn trafficking.