Domesticeringen av silverräv (Vulpes fulvus Desm) : en jämförelse mellan rödräv och silverräv i fångenskap

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Animal Environment and Health

Abstract: Dmitry Belyayev was a geneticist who wanted to know why domesticated animals showed common traits in behaviour and appearance. Belyayev believed that these traits appeared when the animals were selected for tamability alone. Dmitry decided to try his hypothesis and domesticate an animal who was not yet domesticated: The silver fox (Vulpes fulvus Desm). The experiment is known as the farm-fox experiment. The experiment began in 1959 with silver foxes from the fur industry and is still going on to this day. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate the changes that had occurred in the silver fox’s environment, behaviour, appearance, and nutrition caused by being kept in captivity and/or by domestication. Literature was selected by first deciding limitations, these limitations was to not exclude literature based on how old the article were since there was a small amount of relevant literature. To compare the silver fox, information about the red fox was also chosen. After that, search words were used in the databases Google Scholar and ScienceDirect to obtain information. Lastly the references in the scientific literature were looked through for more relevant articles. The results showed that the red fox’s environment usually is large and contains big grass areas where they dig dens in hills or ditches where they mostly live permanently far from humans. When it comes to silver foxes in captivity they were kept in an individual cage or in a breeding cage and were handled by humans. Group holding for silver foxes in captivity has been studied but has not yet been successful. The domesticated silver fox was less aggressive, less fearful and these foxes searched for human’s attention and showed more affection towards humans then their wild relatives. Furthermore, there was a difference in breeding season. The red fox had red coloured fur, pointy ears, a long, small nose, a long tail, and a normal-fox-sized cranium with differences between genders. The silver fox in captivity had lack of pigments in its fur, sometimes floppy ears, a wide, shorter nose, shorter tail, and a smaller cranium with small or no differences between genders. Red foxes usually ate mostly voles, birds, and lagomorphs in the wild while silver foxes in captivity is fed by humans. The silver foxes in captivity were fed a paste made for fur animals or dog food which met their nutritional needs. In conclusion a lot of differences were seen between the red fox and domesticated silver foxes or silver foxes from the fur industry. Furthermore, the study also showed that there is little or no information of the red fox’s behaviour. There is also lack of information about how silver foxes should be held considering the best cage size and enrichment to meet a good welfare which needs to be further investigated to fully understand the fox.

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