Fascinating Facts About Foxes

The Russian Domestic Fox Experiment

In Russia during the 1950's, some interesting experiments were conducted that effectively produced domestic foxes within only a few generations.

The experiment started with animals that had been bred for fur production, and not with wild-caught stock, but nonetheless, by selective breeding, a domestic animal was produced from a wild animal in a fairly short time span of 8 or 10 generations.

The experiment focused on "tameness" and categorized animals by how desperately they tried to flee human contact, and how aggressive they were while being handled.

Foxes that were least resistant were bred to each other, and the next generation was also selected based on the same criteria. Within just a few generations the foxes not only became quite content with human contact, but sought it out and took comfort and even joy from being petted and played with.

The psychological changes were interesting for sure, but the physical changes were astounding.

The foxes changed color and began to develop patches in their coats, sometimes their tails turned curly and their ears flopped down. It seemed the traits that pushed towards a tamer animal perhaps had strong chemical influences as well.

Most suggest the domesticated version has less adrenalin, and perhaps less testosterone. DNA research done on the foxes showed that major changes had taken place,and that this was basically a new animal, with strong hints of our domestic dog.

Today, the study is no longer funded, and only continues with the sale of the foxes as pets. These domestic foxes, once a form of red fox but now known as "silver foxes" actually make sweet and lovely pets for many in Russia.

Many Beautiful Little Beasts

There are twelve species of foxes in the genus "vulpus" which are known as the "true foxes". Among these, the red fox is the largest and most common, and is also the most wide spread carnivore in the world.

The grey fox, very similar to the red, is also quite large and fairly numerous.

The other species are smaller, ranging from the cat sized cape fox to the chihuahua sized fennec fox. There are also numerous species outside of the "vulpus" genus that are still referred to as foxes.

Many of these are quite rare, and several are severely endangered.

The fox is somewhat fragile in the wild. Even the amazingly capable red fox which can live to 10 years old has a surprisingly short life expectancy of perhaps only 4 years in the wild.

The Arctic Fox

The stunning arctic fox may weigh only about seven pounds, and most of it is fur.

Living in some of the harshest conditions on earth, the little arctic fox blends in perfectly for 9 months of the year in glorious snowy white, and then quickly sheds and replaces its coat with brown fur for the few short spring and summer months.

Amazingly suited to the snow and ice, it has snowshoe like fur on its paws to navigate wintry terrain, and uses its large tail as a muff while it sleeps.

The arctic fox can hear small rodents moving beneath the snow and pinpoint their location. With a few quick pounces the ice is broken and the prey is had.

A Few More Fox Facts

  • The red fox is not always red, but a variety of shades from cream to almost black.
  • A foxes bones are about 30% lighter than the same size bone of a domestic dog.
  • The fox can hear rodents underground.
  • The grey fox has partially retractable claws - almost like a cat.
  • The fox is taxonomically a carnivore, but will eat almost anything, including fruit
  • The "fox hunt" is one of the most common themes in oil paintings, but rarely depicts the fox.
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