Domestication of Foxes

by: Timbitom and Waffle_Warrior

Our Research Goals:  The topic we identified for investigation is canine evolution (The Domestication of Foxes).  We were interested in finding out more about the Russian geneticist,  Dmitry K. Belyaev and his attempts to create a tame fox population in the 1950’s.

Dmitry BelyaevLyudmila TrutAnna Kukekova
Selection of Foxes for behaviour was started by Dmitry Belyaev in 1959 at the at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics Trut was so fascinated with Belyey's ideas so she moved from the University of Moscow to join him in his study in Siberia. Genetic research of domestication of foxes in Siberia,continues on with the help of Anna Kukekova.

About the Fox Domestication Study
Belyaev was curious about how dogs first became domesticated. He wanted to explore the domestication of animals by attempting to tame foxes. The study having to do with the  domesticating foxes by Dmitry K. Belyaev and Lyudmila Trut  and was started in 1959.  Their goal was to prove that domestication was genetic, and that physical characteristics are somehow linked genetically to behaviour changes.


Dmitry K. Belyaev’s Hypothesis
His hypothesis was that selection for behaviour, was the most important factor for animal domestication.

Testing his Hypothesis
To test his hypothesis he chose the species, the silver fox, (a variant of the red fox)  which was bred in captivity for about 50 years, but it was never domesticated.  These farmed foxes showed fear and aggression toward humans.  His research team gathered several hundreds of foxes that showed less fearful and aggressive response towards humans from fur farms across the former Soviet Union.  Next they chose foxes that displayed a willingness to interact with humans.

Experiment Procedure
The experiment procedure was conducted the same way each time the foxes were tested.
Experiment results
(Data was collected for over 37 years)
As you can see selection happened very fast.

Click on image to enlarge

After 6 generations the data shows a few individuals started wagging their tails around people.
By 2002, 642 out 902 foxes were considered to be in the elite group for tameness.

The Study Continues
Since 2002, Anna Kukekova has been making annual treks to Novosibirsk. A geneticist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she travels to Siberia each year to collect blood from hundreds of silver foxes to look for genetic changes that produce tame and aggressive behaviours.

Wild FoxTame
Characteristics of Wild Foxes

- aggressive if caged
- bite and lunge at human if approached
-fear humans
-run away
-ears stand up
Characteristics of Tame Foxes

- have floppy ears like domesticated dogs.
- crave attention
- wag their tail
- they whimper to get the attention they want
- some have colouring and spots/patches

Do foxes make good pets?

Did you know you could purchace foxes! All you need is $8,000  or $9,000 and a approval from Kay Fedewa, The exclusive importer of domesticated foxes in the US. Foxes also carry a strong, musky smell that many people dislike. In my opinon I think that tame foxes are not good pets for the following reasons!  Foxes should be wild animals!  They were born wild and should be allowed to stay wild. They would still have there wild instincs such as running away if door was opened.You would need to include a heathy diet such as vitamins, minerals, meat and vegetables. By: Timbitom and Waffle_Warrior

I do also beliueve that there should still be some wild foxes left in the world. You can’t take away al the wild foxes from the wilderness.I think foxes are amazing pets to have as companions because they’ve grown very used to humans and they’re very beautiful creatures. I think foxes will one day become really amazing pets. over time I also believe that many things will change in the foxes like behavioural problems that many people are having right now. The foxes will continue to evolve and they’ll become just as sweet and well-trained as domestic dogs.


CARTA:  Fox Domestication and Genetics of Complex Behaviors by Anna Kukekova (Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). 2014.

There are 3 lectures on Domestication and Evolution. The second one is on Fox Domestication, it starts at 20:40. 

A Soviet Scientist created the only Tame Foxes in the World
by Lucy Jones BBC EARTH, 2016.

Why domesticated foxes are genetically fascinating (and terrible pets)
PBS News, 2017.
DNA evidence is rewriting domestication origin stories by Science News. by Tina Hesman Saey, July 6, 2017.

Photo Credit: Anna Kukekova, University of Illinois.

Photo Credit: Lyudmila Trut. by Vasily Kovaly.
Scientist and Prize Winner Lyudmila Trut’s Research Featured in Major Publications