First Dog-Fox Hybrid Confirmed, Birth Raises Concerns Among Experts About Dangers Of Cross-Breeding

Dogs (Canis familiaris) and foxes (family Vulpus) are both canines but are distant enough genetically that producing offspring should be impossible. However, according to news reports the first such successful wild crossing has occurred in South America. The dog-fox hybrid did not live long after discovery, however.

photo of fox sitting on ground
Photo by Alex Andrews on True foxes of the family Vulpus are common world wide. They were thought to be unable to breed with dogs. But some near-relatives apparently can

The fox in question is a Pampas fox (lycalopex gymnocercus). Although it is called a fox, members of the Lycalopex family are actually closer to jackals and wolves than to true foxes of the family Vulpus. They are distant from dogs too.

Pampas foxes have a wide range in Bolivia and Brazil and other parts pf southern and eastern South America. They are truly omnivorous and about the size of a medium dog They are currently least concern on the IUCN extinction index.

Although very similar in appearance pampas foxes are different enough from true foxes to be in their own family.

According to Men’s Journal the discovery is causing some concern among scientists. The dog-fox hybrid in question was found in Brazil after being injured, possibly by a car. It was taken to a rehabilitation center where unusual features were noted. This occurred in 2021. Recently completed genetic testing proved it was a cross-bred animal. Unfortunately the animal died after rehabilitation leaving many questions unanswered. One of the biggest questions unanswered is whether it was a fertile crossing.

Scientists think that the increasingly close proximity between wildlife and human settlements is leading to more contact between wild and domestic animals. That can lead to cross-breeding and the end of genetically pure species. Scottish wildcats are nearly extinct partly due to cross-breeding with domestic felines. The interbreeding can also introduce diseases between the wild and domestic animals.

Nine Foxes Gathered Around a Tree:
An unlikely gathering.

Researchers are calling the animal a “Dogxim” a portmanteau of dg and the Portueguese name for the pampas fox.

The magazine said:

“According to Dr. Jacqueline Boyd, a senior lecturer in animal science at Nottingham Trent University, the presence of the dogxim likely points to an increase in contact between wild and domestic species. That shouldn’t come a surprise considering the expansion of human settlements in wild habitats. But besides displacing the animals and running the chance of making a non-endangered creature like the Pampas fox endangered, it also increases the risk of disease transmission between species. ” Italics in original.

Dr. Boyd lists the study of canines among here areas of expertise.

Advances in genetic science are leading to re-definition of many species and sub-species. Genetics may help protect endangered animals and lead to de-extinction.

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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