What if a fox could become your common household pet? How is that even possible and would you even want to have a fox in your home as a trained pet? According to NPR, a recent article called Domesticated Foxes: Man’s New Best Friend believes that foxes have the potential to join the ranks of other household pets and possibly become another one of man’s best friends. Unlike dogs and cats who are now naturally inclined to follow human commands and have had generations to perfect their household manners, the dream to train and breed domesticated foxes has only been around since 1954. A Russian geneticist by the name of Dmitry Belyaev aspired to isolate “the genes that make dogs so easy to train…and set out to do with foxes in one lifetime what took dogs thousands of years” (NPR). Belyaev created a fox farm in Siberia that currently houses around 3,000 foxes in an army barrack type layout. Some can sit, some can fetch, and some just like a good belly scratching, However, science professor Ceiridwen Terrill believes they are genetically designed to crave human contact, but “to prove true domestication, it’s really important that we see it on a large scale” (NPR). Terrill states that socialization between foxes, humans, and other household animals is key, along with intense training. Targeting the genes that make animals domesticated and locating them within foxes could one day lead to saving the fox species, but such research isn’t natural. This project has lasted over 50 years and although the conditions aren’t elaborated in the article, I imagine experimentally raised foxes endure a cramped and inevitably abusive lifestyle. After reading the headline, a domesticated fox farm made me immediately think of puppy mills or fox fur farms, both exploited and abusive. What do you think? Do you agree with Belyaev’s idea of domesticating foxes or do you believe we have enough domesticated cats and dogs in need of loving homes?
Also, if you are interested in this topic, there is a Discovery Channel documentary chronicling the journey of these foxes and basically explains what is being accomplished and why.