The evolution of dogs and foxes
Wolves (the original Canis), undoubtedly, as well as jackals, coyotes, and various other creatures are present in the Canidae lineage. This genetic separation of the two groups took place more than 7 million years ago! The prevalent species of foxes are located within the Vulpes group, while dogs are part of the Canis group, descending the evolutionary hierarchy. Foxes are classified into several other genera. Although their evolutionary paths diverged in the past, both foxes and dogs are members of the Canidae family.
Dogs and foxes are closely related, which is a widely held myth. This may be because certain dog breeds, such as the long-haired Chihuahua and the Shiba Inu, somewhat resemble foxes. Foxes have shorter legs, longer bodies, flatter skulls, and generally smaller sizes compared to dogs; they are quite different from dogs in terms of physical characteristics. They are also genetically very diverse.
With the exception of a broad level, this does not indicate a specific genetic proximity and encompasses a vast array of creatures, despite belonging to the same family. It is not surprising that they have diverged significantly in terms of genetics over the course of millions of years, leading to distinct evolutionary paths for each species.
The vast chromosomal difference between dogs and foxes makes it unlikely for them to be genetically similar enough to produce fertile offspring and successfully mate. This affects the potential breeding of two individuals massively! Dogs have 78 chromosomes, whereas foxes have 34 chromosomes. This means that their genetic material is not similar to each other, as they belong to different genera.
In confinement, there are typically informal accounts involving a male fox and female dog, but there are no scientifically confirmed dog-fox (“dox”) hybrids on record.
The Grosvenor Museum in Chester, UK, supposedly has a display of a ‘dox’, which is said to be a female dog mating with a male fox on a canal boat. However, there is no evidence to support this claim, and it has not been genetically examined to determine its makeup.
An example involving the Munich Zoo Hellabrunn’s director in 1932 describes a successful hybrid, a female Spitz dog crossed with a common fox, where there is no lasting evidence but genuine accounts appear. Another zoo example involves the birth of four offspring, all of which died within a few days. Director Wilhelm Niemeyer of Zoo Hannover gives an account of a litter of dog-fox hybrids bred under captive conditions in the 19th Century.
There are many anecdotal accounts in history and literature of dogs and foxes mating, but none of these have been scientifically verified as producing viable offspring. However, it is likely that most of these accounts, whether pure fiction or embellished, are accurate.
Are any dog hybrids possible?
Foxes and dogs are genetically closer to each other than they are to other species. Coyotes and jackals have 78 chromosomes, while dogs (including feral versions like dingoes) have either 80 or 78 chromosomes. Dogs have been known to mate with other members of the Canis genus, such as wolves. When two species have similar numbers of chromosomes, it usually means that they are genetically close enough to produce successful hybrids. However, these hybrids are often infertile, even if they are genetically compatible. In certain cases, animals from different species can produce offspring and mate with each other.
What would happen if a fox tried to breed with a dog?
If a fox and a dog were to mate, it is highly unlikely that a successful pregnancy would occur. The only probable complication would be injury to either one or both of the animals. Foxes and dogs are more inclined to live together peacefully as competitors and have no reason not to protect their respective habitats from one another.
Foxes and dogs are too genetically different to successfully mate. The likelihood of a fox and dog mating is very low because of their significant genetic variations. While there is no concrete evidence to support this, there have been a few anecdotal accounts of a successful hybrid called a ‘dox’ resulting from the mating of a fox and a dog.