When a fox crosses my path, just yards in front of where I stand, I hold my breath and stay as still as possible, hopeful its curiosity will outweigh its fear of me. But after the fox stops and turns to face me eye-to-eye, he eventually prances off, bounding effortlessly to the far reaches a neighbor’s backyard where it is dark and free of human presence.
The fox is shy and does not trust me. I get it. However there is a genetics program that is in its 58th year in Russia (Siberia) where foxes are domesticated and are sold for $9.000 as pets. These foxes are docile, playful and cute as buttons. The story about their domestication is a fascinating one and begins with Dmitry Belyaev, a Russian geneticist, who decided to study domestication by selecting a wild animal to tame through selective breeding.
This new “breed” of foxes have floppy ears, mixed coats, and curlier tails. In addition, they seek out human attention, wagging their tails and licking humans to show their 1) eagerness to interact and 2) affection for humans. What is so cool about this genetics study is that the scientists and researchers were able to create a domesticated breed of foxes in just 10 years. Now 70-80% of the foxes born within the genetics study are considered “elite” or domesticated. Now if I can just find my way to Siberia, all of my fox dreams will come true.