How to domesticate foxes

Since 1959, a (then) Soviet/(now) Russian geneticist named Dmitry Belyaev has been experimenting with domesticating foxes. He’s bred them over generations, focusing on positive traits like foxes who are docile and friendly, keeping away from negative traits like aggressiveness or skittishness, all the while avoiding the genetic issues involved in inbreeding. Not only has he bred foxes that act similarly to dogs, physical changes in the dogs actually made them look more like dogs. In any case, you can now realize your dream of owning a fox.

The Soviet (and later, Russian) study out there in Siberia did eventually breed a domesticated silver fox (read: a red fox with silver fur) that’s pretty close to our dream fox. It loves and craves attention from people, it’ll lick your face, it’ll cuddle with you, it’ll wag its giant puffy tail when it sees you, it’ll play with toys in your house while you try to take the perfect Instagram picture of it. Wild foxes will not do this; they will either run away from you or attempt to bite your face off. Tame foxes may not flee or attack, but they also won’t cuddle. These domesticated foxes, on the other hand, have between 30 and 35 generations of selective breeding behind them, with careful monitoring to ensure a lack of inbreeding, and they’re not even close to wild–in fact, they probably wouldn’t survive in the wild.
Indiana is something of a promised land for exotic pet farms and owners, a libertarian wonderland where for a mere ten-dollar processing fee you can have a pet grizzly bear. Neighboring Kentucky, hardly a state you’d think would be prude about wild animals, is a fairly typical example of state laws: anything “inherently dangerous,” which includes venomous animals (snakes, lizards), huge animals (hippos, elephants), and animals that would prefer to murder you than let you pat them on the head (big cats, bears, baboons) are all outlawed. But so is any animal that has never naturally lived in Kentucky, mostly to avoid issues with invasive species. Most states simply ban any normally “wild” animal from being kept as a pet.

Via @jwherrman

How to domesticate foxes

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