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Sly Like A (Domesticated) Fox

Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
flickr creative commons

This show originally aired July 26, 2017.

In 1959, Soviet geneticist Dmitri Belyaev started an ambitious experiment to study the origins of domestication: he would attempt to breed domesticated wild foxes by selecting on their behavior alone, a process he imagined our ancestors carried out with dogs thousands of years before.

This hour, a look at the history and progress of this still-ongoing experiment: What can it tell us about our animal companions — and ourselves?

Plus, we catch up with some domesticated fox owners and find out if foxes are good pets in real life.


  • Amy and David Bassett - Founders of the Judith A. Bassett Canid Education and Conservation Center and the owners of several Russian domesticated foxes
  • Lee Dugatkin - Author of How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution
  • Jacob Mikanowski - Writes about science, history, and art

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Colin McEnroe, Jonathan McNicol, Cat Pastor, and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.

Carmen Baskauf was a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show Where We Live, hosted by Lucy Nalpathanchil from 2017-2021. She has also contributed to The Colin McEnroe Show.
Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. Prior to that, Betsy worked as an intensive care registered nurse in several Connecticut hospitals.