Some time ago, I heard about and watched a show about the taming of wild foxes in Siberia. A Russian geneticist, Dr. Dimitry Belyaev, was asked by Siberian fur farmers to help breed foxes that would be less wild and vicious, and thus more manageable on the fur farm. Starting with 100 female foxes or vixens and 30 male foxes, Dr. Belyaev soon bred more tame foxes simply by allowing only the tamest 5% of fox offspring to breed the next generation.
However, beyond simply becoming more calm, the foxes also began to change appearance and acquired behaviors very different from wild foxes, such as barking and tail-wagging.
These adorable pups are available for adoption right now from the official importer of tame Siberian foxes to America, Sibfox, which is located in Las Vegas. They are so cute! But you can see they have more doglike markings than wild foxes, and much variation in color. Also, they aren't for the casual pet owner - Sibfox says it takes up to 3 months for the pet to arrive after verified purchase, and the price is nearly $6,000. Unlike many individuals associated with exotic animals sold as pets, Sibfox seems like genuine advocates for the foxes and highly responsible and caring.
These foxes, you see, really aren't "wild" animals any longer. They have been truly domesticated.
This is the fox that I am familiar with - the red fox. Most people in Southern California have never seen one, but they are quite widespread. Apparently the local population was introduced for hunting purposes, and the only true native California red foxes are in the Sierra Nevada range. But growing up, I saw a red fox while on one of my many foraging adventure trips in the Santa Ana riverbed and foothills and it remains one of the most beautiful wild animals I've ever seen. It gave me a look much like this picture, then bounded away into the brush.
I don't think it's wrong to try to domesticate animals like the Siberian fur foxes, because they were destined to be killed for their fur, and were being trapped in cages. Being turned into pets is a far more positive outcome for them.
Through the Siberian fox breeding experience, many geneticists believe they have come to understand how the dog, which started out 10,000 years ago as a wolf scavenging around human encampments, has undergone such extreme change. With the incredible variation in dog breeds, from chihuahuas to Great Danes and everything in-between, it is hard to imagine the different breeds actually being genetically almost identical, and all originally descended from wolves who once became tame.