Kids' Animal Station

For kids who love animals by a kid who loves animals

A House Fox?

Recently, I have been reading a book called Domesticated by Richard C. Francis. The book is about domestication (big surprise) of the tame animals we use and see everyday in our lives. Francis explains that domestication refers to the transformation an animal species goes under while being “tamed” by another species. This usually has to do with humans. Each chapter is about a different animal. Some are livestock; some are pets, and some we don’t even think of at all. This post is about the latter.

domesticated

When you think of a pet, foxes do not come to mind. You would think of dogs, cats, hamsters, basically anything but foxes. Strangely enough, the first chapter of this book, and the first blog post in this little series I’m starting, is about house foxes.

As Francis explains, a Russian scientist by the name of Belyaev believed that any animal could be tamed under the right conditions. To prove his theory, he took thirty male foxes and one hundred females from a fur farm. These particular foxes were Silver Foxes; a breed of fox (obviously) that had a different coat color than Red Foxes. The scientists participating only bred the foxes that seemed to have the most tolerance for humans, or the ones that seemed to be the tamest.

The results were astonishing. Over the next couple years (generations of foxes), the foxes started exhibiting strange behavioral changes, such as wagging their tails, licking human’s faces, and sleeping comfortably in human spaces.  There were also physical changes. The fox’s hair turned different colors and got thicker and wavier, their tails curled, their straight ears started to hang down and become floppy ears, and their pointed noses and faces became broader. These special Silver Foxes started to look-and act dog-like.

This means that it would actually be quite easy to start mass-producing (and harming) foxes like we already do to dogs. All you have to do is redo the experiment with some foxes (possibly red), but with the intention of domesticating them, not learning about them. If the experiment started right now, less than 10 years from now, the norm could change, and it could be considered ‘normal’ to have pet foxes.

I don’t consider this a smart thing to do, because in a way, if we were to domesticate foxes, we would be dulling the wry, rawness of foxes that made humans respect them in the first place.

The most interesting thing to me is that, in domesticating foxes, we would actually be creating two entirely different genetic variations. Yes, humans can technically “create” new breeds of animals. Dogs in themselves are more of a man-made creation. I say this because if humans weren’t around, there would be no such thing as a dog. Dogs at their core are basically boring, dumbed down wolves (which isn’t to say they aren’t still pretty awesome). It really makes sense, when you think about it. We often use animals for our own purposes with any regard for the animal.

Anyways, what I was trying to say is that, with the knowledge and ability we have now, it sounds generally easy to make a breed of pet fox. If you carried on doing an experiment like Belyeav for a while it would eventually lead to a divide in foxes. Some would be wild, and some would be pets. This divide would go on for a while before splitting off into two completely different species. One being a fox, and one being: Fox-Dogs. This is all very hypothetical and in no way physically proven, but I would go for what Richard C. Francis and all the other experienced scientists have to say.

This book explains creating new species in a way that sounds considerably easy. I mean, all you need is the blueprints, some spare years, a couple hundred foxes, and anyone could do that in their backyard (don’t get any ideas!). In fact, people seem to have had this idea in mind for a while now. Just check out Anya:

In my view, it’s really not a good idea to bring wild animals into our homes under the false pretense that they are “tamed”. (Even though I secretly want a pet fox … I’m a hypocrite, I know, I know, Shh…)

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You may have noticed the awesome illustration I ran on my home page with this story. It’s from Maha Kamal, whose book I wrote about recently here at KidsAnimalStation.com. Thank you, Maha!

fox

Illustration courtesy of Maha Kamal!

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This entry was posted on September 19, 2015 by in Advice/Reviews, Animal Facts and tagged , , , , , , .

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