As a kid visiting a zoo did you ever wonder what it would be like to pet the tigers? Well as you know wild animals are dangerous and they aren’t meant to be tamed, patted or touched… or are they? According to new studies domestication may not be a learned trait or a trait only found in our dogs, cats, birds and livestock, but a gene that can be bred into wild animals through selective breeding.
In Russia dating back to Stalin’s rule scientists began to wonder if they could breed domestication into a population of animals. They decided to run their experiment, despite the risk of death because of the government’s aversion to studies on genetics, and started out by heading to fur farms and selecting the calmest foxes who showed the least amount of aggression toward humans. They began to breed these friendlier foxes and with each generation they began to get friendlier and friendlier foxes to breed. Today the foxes react to people much like a dog would; they start jumping at the front of their crates and wining for attention and will leap into your arms at the first chance they get. In fact these foxes even resist going back into their cages because they hate to leave human attention that they love so much.
So how do we know that it’s genetic rather than behavior changes in these foxes? The scientists thought of this and they kept a control population, for this population they continually bred the most aggressive foxes and got highly aggressive animals that hated human presence. To test out their theory that this was in fact genetic these scientists took one of the pups bred to be aggressive and gave it to one of the friendly mothers, despite being raised by a mother that loved people this fox remained aggressive to people, as it was bred to do.
Another reason that they are confident that this is genetic is that the foxes physical appearance began to change, they started to look more puppy like for longer, their ears stayed floppy longer, they developed white specs on their coats and their tails curled, all of these traits are typically seen as traits that humans like and that would make the foxes more dog like and more appealing to people.
It may seem hard to believe that a wild animal can be tamed simply through breeding but the reporter of the original article fell so in love with these foxes she now has two sharing her home with her, and her golden retriever. The scientists and now working to get permits that would allow them to sell some of the friendly foxes as pets (to help fund their research), which leads to the question if we are given the chance to buy them would you ever own a Pet Fox?