Man’s [Next] Best Friend?

MJ3d24TFor weeks, my son Jack has been demanding why our blog has not covered one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of our generation: the domesticated fox. Despite skeptical siblings, Jack insisted that foxes have been domesticated and may be purchased as pets. Finally, our crack team of researchers was assigned to the question and sure enough mad scientists in Russian have developed a domesticated fox out of the Siberian white fox (the picture above is just a red fox someone met and put on YouTube). The real pets are shown below and they are awfully cute.

The story below reports that the domestication of the fox actually began in 1959 with a Soviet geneticist named Dmitry K. Belyaev who was interested in understanding the science behind domestication. His work with foxes is now continuing at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics at Novosibirsk, Siberia. I know that that sounds like the scene of a sinister plot in a 007 movie, but the facility has been breeding generation of foxes to develop a fox that is . . . well more like a dog. That is the different between taming and domestication, the later being a process of genetics and generational breeding.

The domesticated foxes love people, crave petting, and love to cuddle. It is not clear how they act around chickens. Then there is the current price tag for your pet fox: $8000. That is a lot of Labradoodles.

My first reaction to the effort was negative. It is not unclear why we want to change a beautiful wild animal. Moreover I am a bit worried about the confusion children will have when confronted by a fox and not knowing if it is domesticated or wild. However, domestication has occurred in other species, albeit for food or labor as opposed to companionship. It is not like the wild fox population is being harmed. The foxes used in the experiment are coming from Russian fur ranches not wild captured foxes.

Yet, there is that unease about converting a wild animal. What do you think?


25 thoughts on “Man’s [Next] Best Friend?”

  1. for individual animals i’ll agree with you raff. if some people want to take a group, not the entire species, and breed them for domestication or as a food source i’d have no problems with it. our ancestors did it.

    stick with selective breeding though. gene splicing is another matter.

  2. I have been to Amsterdam in a prior life, fairly recent, as a human, and stayed at Hotel My Home on Haarlemerstratt.
    There was a tame bear there from Russia who actually lived in a single room with his Russian owner. The bear was walked on a leash and he and the owner had some gig going as a comedy act in nightclubs. That city is a lot of fun for man or beast. They got a cathouse there for dogs but I was not a dog when I was visiting. I am a reincarnated dog. A good human gets to come back as a dog. Probably the same thing as this Fox in the article or the bear in Amsterdam. I think that BarkinDog also visited Amsterdam and can tell you more about the cathouse but not about the bear.

  3. Foxes are wonderful wild animals that will work the perameters of a farmhouse and eat things out of the chicken yard or trash cans. We have a regular guy named Elmo who comes by our marina and although definitely shy could well be a domestic guy if he was born one. Leave em wild but enjoy them if you can. They are characters.

  4. “Moreover I am a bit worried about the confusion children will have when confronted by a fox and not knowing if it is domesticated or wild.”


    Well,we have examples of wolves “domesticating” humans why not let their biological cousins in on some reverse domesticating. As for the concern about kids not recognizing the difference, I grew up in the sticks and hunted for many decades. Never saw a fox who didn’t want to be seen. That’s why they call them foxes.

  5. I love it, the “desert chihuahua”! Seriously, if the fox is endangered, and this is the only viable option, then do it. If not, please let them roam wild.

  6. long as they don’t endanger the wild populations. have to remember most if not all domesticated dogs are descended from wolves. that’s why they can interbreed.

    if nothing else maybe they’ll get a warm spot in the corner instead of hanging in the closet.

  7. Years ago we had a neighbor that had a silver fox as a pet. It was not only gorgeous, it was friendly, loving and a wonderful companion for her. It almost made me want to have one. But then I realized it was really a wild animal & deserved to be in the wild.

  8. We’re perfectly happy with our pussycats, thanks, but the grandkids can’t take the dander, and they don’t make very good coats when they croak. Do foxes shed? Is there a vet to take them to? Vaccinations? Insurance? Lots of questions, few answers.

  9. Why didn’t they try domesticating Russians during 25 generations? That would have been more useful.

  10. Sure, this is a great idea. Where is my miniature, tamed lion? Elephant? Giraffe? Will they bring back the dinosaurs next?

  11. The project was like the Russian nesting dolls. The fur farms wanted an easier to handle fox and the geneticist wanted to prove a theory. Not commonly known, that in addition to making the fox domestic, he also made an extra aggressive version. Proving the selection could go both ways. He also stumbled upon epigenetics independently from the west. The domesticated fox responds to oxytocin flooding the same way dogs do. ( humans also) They hold their tail differently, The ears change and they vocalize differently. The major changes happened within 25 generations.
    Colorization and pattern changes also. This has been known in cattle for a while. Piebald cattle are more calm but if there is to much white, they get nervous easily. Similar to the deafness gene being closely involve with white on dogs.

  12. Leave ’em wild. Insure their habitat.

    Not everything has to be subject to man’s vanity.

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