How different are dogs and foxes?

By Judith Sansregret

We know that all dogs, even chatty little lap sitters like the Pekingese, are descended from wolves. And all dogs, from the dignified mastiff to the Pomeranian, share such similar genetics, you couldn’t tell them apart from their DNA strings.

But the fox looks like a dog! Except for malamutes and huskies, most dogs look more like foxes than they look like wolves.

So I decided to do a little research. I soon discovered a Russian experiment on domestication of silver foxes that began in the 1950s and is still running.animal-1248899__340

No right-thinking animal rights advocate could possibly support this experiment. The experiment is currently funded by the sale of tame foxes and fox fur. However, the results suggest something interesting: foxes could just as easily have become man’s best friend.

At the beginning, foxes in this experiment were bred for not biting the researchers and not fleeing the researchers. Eventually, they were bred for allowing themselves to be petted and fed by hand. As they were bred for tameness, their physiques changed. They got floppier ears, curlier tails, and some of them sported spots on their fur.

Though they were not bred for cuteness, they acquired dog-like cuteness as they got tamer.

Within just ten generations, twenty percent of the foxes in the experiment acted just like dogs. They wagged their tales, approached people they didn’t know without fear, and interacted joyfully with humans, preferring their company to that of other foxes. A recent article on this experiment shows a fox sleeping on the lap of a human.

It appears that foxes could have become dogs about as easily as wolves did. So it may be just a quirk of history that dogs were bred from wolves.

So there is your answer: any fox might be only ten generations away from being a dog.

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