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Sly like a (domesticated) fox

A young red fox licking the side of his mouth, with one of the eyes closed
Picture by Tambako the Jaguar/Getty Images
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A (possibly sly) fox.

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, which originally aired July 26, 2017.

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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. She served as the Senior Producer for 'The Colin McEnroe Show' for several years before stepping down in 2021 and returning to her previous career as a registered nurse. She still produces shows with Colin and the team when her schedule allows.
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