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50 Years of Domesticating Foxes For Science 347

gamebittk writes "In 1959, Soviet scientist Dmitri Belyaev set out to breed a tamer fox that would be easier for their handlers in the Russian fur industry to work with. Much to the scientist's shock, changes no one had expected emerged after just 10 generations. The foxes began behaving playfully, were smaller in size, and even changed color — much like dogs." Belyaev died in 1985, but the experiment continued (PDF) in his absence, and to this day provides strong evidence to parts of evolutionary theory. The experiment eventually branched out to involve other species as well.
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50 Years of Domesticating Foxes For Science

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  • cool new pets! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mabhatter654 ( 561290 ) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @11:19AM (#30555902)

    I want one! Foxes are cute and smaller than dogs but clever like cats.

    If they have bred them to be more behaved they would probably be good house pets for urban dwellers. Foxes are pretty adaptable anyway, living off the scraps of society for a few hundred years already. It's mostly people that keep them out of populated places. That's how man started taming dogs and cats.

    • Yes, I would also buy one!
    • by u38cg ( 607297 )
      Hello, fox hunter here. It's been tried, they can be bred and trained, but they are naturally extremely energetic and generally naughty - imagine a two-year old child stuffed with Smarties and given claws and a pair of sharp teeth.
    • The father of Blashford Snell, the British soldier and explorer, was a Church of England clergyman in a small town near Maidenhead, Berks. He somehow acquired a pair of fox cubs whose mother had been killed, and they were raised by one of his cats. He liked to tell the story of how the wife of the local MFH (Master of Fox Hounds) came to tea and suddenly realised what was unusual about the two little "kittens" sleeping by the fire. She took it as a personal insult.

      They are not suitable pets unless they live

  • WNYC's Radiolab recently did a story on this subject too. The program is split into 3 parts, and the last one is about these foxes. To get a better sense of what the program is about, I would suggest listening to the whole episode. An hour well spent. []

  • ...since foxes and dogs are canines, the canine race itself tends to be more docile or easier to tame by humans, that could be an explanation for their playfulness. Their instincts are very similar. Face with good treatment, good food, they tend to become more trusting...
  • ...this [] is the fox we end up with.

    That's fine by me.

  • First, it was a wild fox, quick and smart.

    After a few years, it became playful, domesticated, slow, stupid, and unstable. I'm on Chrome now. ;)

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.