We are often asked what the difference is between "captive bred" and "domesticated" foxes. So I reached out to our friends at 'JAB Canid Education and Conservation Center' who have true Russian domesticated foxes. SAVEAFOX only has, by proper definition, 'captive bred foxes'.
Below, the picture on the left is Maksa, a Red Georgian White Russian Domesticated fox, and on the right is a fur farm captive bred fox at Saveafox.
There often seems to be a lot of confusion about the difference between a domesticated animal, and a tamed one. What is the difference between a fox found in the wild and raised by people, a fox born in a fur farm and, a fox that was born in Russia as part of the domesticated fox program?
Domestication is by definition the process of adapting a plant or animal for human use. This adaptation is accomplished by selective breeding for the trait or traits that are desired. What's important here is that domestication is not something you do to an individual animal, but rather it is done to a population of animals over an extended period of time. It is quite clear that the wild fox would never be considered domesticated.
Captive breeding alone without consistent selection for particular traits will not result in domestication. Fur farm animals were mostly selected for coat color and quality so they could be considered domesticated for agricultural purposes. If the trait being selected is tameness, this would need to occur over a long period of time and a large number of animals. This would apply to Russian domesticated foxes, as such they could be considered domesticated for tameness.
This is all in contrast to taming without domestication, which is done to an individual animal and not a population and is accomplished by habituating the animal to having humans in their environment. This is most effective when done at a very young age before a natural fear of humans takes over. Taming also does not generalize well, meaning a tame fox might be great with a given person, but not all people. The offspring of these animals would not be expected to be any more tame than their non tamed counterparts. The physiological differences between a tamed animal and an animal domesticated for tameness are not entirely known, but current evidence suggests it involves structures involved in emotions, stress, and neural plasticity.
So what are the noticeable personality and biological differences between the Russian Domesticated Fox and Captive bred fox?
For personality differences, the Biggest difference we have seen, is the Russian Domesticated foxes exhibit no neophobia (fear of new things). When we get them at 6mth to one year, they immediately like us and bond to us and show no fear of strangers. The ICG has reported changes in cranial morphology in their domesticated population vs their control/captive population - such as shortened snouts, wider snouts, curly tails, floppy ears- but it is important to remember that these differences are found when looking at the population and not necessarily individuals. Differences have been identified between the domesticated population and captive population on brain morphology and brain biochemistry. Things such as an altered pituitary structure, differences in various brain regions, as well as increased levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin and decreases stress induced cortisol. We call them “hippie foxes” because they are very chill and have a much decreased fight/flight response.
Post credit to JAB Canid Education and Conservation Center Group GO CHECK THEM OUT!