Buy your own pet fox puppy–and help save an important experiment

Fox pups from sibfoxLast month’s National Geographic cover featured a fox with the headline “Designing the Perfect Pet” in a story about what we’re learning about domesticating animals. A great deal of what we now know comes from an experiment in Russia that’s been breeding foxes for tameness since 1959. The farm has to sell its excess foxes to support itself. I wrote to the lab to ask how and they gave me the low down on buying your own pet fox.

The NatGeo story mentioned that the translator ended up with a fox pet after learning excess foxes end up on fur farms. The Novosibirsk Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Siberia has been selecting progressively tamer silver foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and each year only 4-5% of males and 20% of females make the cut to breed. The staff is heartbroken when they have to decide which ones are sent to fur farms from the outpost in Novosibirsk, Siberia. So head researcher Lyudmila Trut explained how the adoptions work:

Domesticated foxes only breed once a year (like the wild ones, and unlike dogs). The puppies are born right about now (March-April) and the institute will evaluate them and pick out who stays and who becomes a pet in about 3-5 months. But, you have to get the paperwork going now. It starts with a letter of request from your veterinarian.

You pay the institute $1,500. She estimated that transport costs about $1,500 and all the documentation and permissions may run another $750. “Therefore the minimal cost for obtaining the fox directly from the Institute would be not less than $3,750. We don’t know and can’t include here possible expenses on the import of the fox to the U.S. territory (quarantine etc.),” Trut says.

Don’t get any ideas about becoming a fox breeder yourself: “The Institute distributes only neutered (sterilized) animals,” Trut says.

Contact the institute directly if you’re interested. I also found a company based in Nevada, Sibfox, that says they can handle the paperwork for you and deliver you a fox in 90 days from Siberia. Sibfox says the main barrier is state laws on exotic animals. Mostly the red neck states you expect think that’s fine. Sibfox lists the nine states that let you have one almost without trouble (AL, ID, MO, NV, NC, OH, SC, WV, WI), the 12 where you need a permit (AZ, DE, IN, ME, MS, MT, ND, OK, PA, RI, SD, TX)  and divide the other 29 into hard and impossible. They link to one current but anonymous owner of two pet foxes, who has pictures on her page and says the foxes always sleep on the top of their cages.

Trut herself has kept a fox as a pet and is excited about learning what foxes raised as pets act like (the ones at the farm specifically don’t have human content so they can be judged by their genetic tameness). “They have
shown themselves to be good-tempered creatures, as devoted as dogs but as independent as cats, capable of forming deep-rooted pair bonds with human beings….” she wrote in a 1999 paper in American Scientist. “If our experiment should continue, and if fox pups could be raised and trained the way dog puppies are now, there is no telling what sort of animal they might one day become.”

At the time she also wrote that the center faced a funding crisis and had to cut its population from 700 to 100 in three years. The center was “increasingly dependent on outside funding at a time when shrinking budgets and changes in the grant-awarding system in Russia are making long-term experiments such as ours harder and harder to sustain.” They sold some foxes “to Scandinavian fur breeders, who have been pressured by animal-rights groups to develop animals that do not suffer stress in captivity.” At the time she mentioned the hope of selling the pups as pets, which she said “should lead to some interesting, if informal, experiments in its own right.”

The center seems to have survived. It’s provided invaluable research on domestication: first, that it can happen much quicker than anyone thought, second that tameness seems to have ties to physical traits. The recently domesticated foxes have traits that look more juvenile. They handle stress differently. And they are starting to have elongated and sometimes double breeding cycles.

I’m not a big fan of animal research for frivolous purposes (and have two beagles that were rescued from a research lab.) But research completely changes our understanding of evolution, domestication and the ties between physical appearance and tameness–although many of the details are still being worked out. It also has implications in the reverse: if only animals that are terrified of humans can survive hunting, are we creating more aggressive predators?

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21 comments to Buy your own pet fox puppy–and help save an important experiment

  • lala

    plz can i have 2 foxs :)

  • shay

    The cheapest price is around $500-400, but I dont think the cheap ones are tame.

  • This is sort of a nitpick, but young foxes are kits, not puppies. I would love to have one, I’ve heard they’re lovely pets, but unfortunately due to the importation fees, they are apparently pets only for the wealthy… I can only hope domestication of foxes will be done in the US at some point to let the rest of us have a chance.

  • I have been following the results of this foxfarm domestication process, owned a fox myself,saved fom the hands if a hunter in the mountains in Sicily, many years ago,he has been, living and travelling with my family, sleeping with my 4 years old daughter,going in hotels and to the beach with us,eating at restaurants and walking on a leash. We lived in Brussels in the most beautiful and famous forest where this fox was allowed to go out free from our garden into the forest, wearing a red collar being vaccinated, he used to play in the house with our cat and with the dogs outside..running free, being a wild , not domesticated fox, after a year he mated with a female fox living in the forest, as we have been searching him the forest guards told us they knew him well and that he put up family, for some time he regulary came back home taking his food away (we used to feed whole frozen chickens to our dogs-alaskan malamutes) I am terribly interested in the actual work of Lyudmila Trut and have a great admiration for this person, I wish I could help her .. because I am very worried about the conditions in which these animals have to live and what happens to those than cannot be selected for this programm of domestication. Myself I worked some years with E berhard Trumler (wolfswinkel in Germany ) studying domestication process with wolves and the study of behaviour of the Alaskan Malamute…I would consider adopt a fax as I have only one old dog left over and have so much space and a huhge fenced garden….

    • What an interesting wonderful experience you’ve described with your domesticated fox that you eventually set free I take it. I am really getting interested in aquiring one and going to try adopt a fox and see if it takes me anywhere.

  • Brittany

    What’s the cheapest you can get a baby fox for ? 239-281-5533

  • In your esteemed opinion, what constitutes a “red neck state?”

    What justifies you using a derogatory term to describe a state that allows personal freedom without state interference?

    I ask, because, I am from a red neck state, yet I am a Licensed Federal Rehabber and Licensed State Rehabber in two states, and I am authorized to rehabilitate all wild animals in the Continental United States…my specialty is Raptors and I am also a Master Falconer.

    I have rehabilitated several foxes and released them back into the wild, some were non-aggressive, and enjoyed (to an extent) being taken care of, while some wanted nothing to do with humans. It is a personality trait, which is different in each animal…

  • Sara

    Actually, I read a few articles on this and the experiment was mentioned in my genetics class (I have a BS in Genetics). The foxes rejected from being bred to continue the experiment ARE sold to fur farms. Like all furs, they can be died or bleached I am sure. Anyway, I imagine a fur enthusiast would pay more for such a rare fur. Everyone wants something unique, nowadays.. (thus the fox itself, as a pet). I wanted one, but $500 is pretty much my limit, especially for a neutered one. However, I’ve heard too many horror stories about the cheaper, non-domesticated foxes…

  • For those still interested in adopting a fox kit, we are currently scheduled to return to Novosibirsk in September. While some states have restrictions on pruchasing a fox and keeping it as a pet, some states will allow the fox as a pet with local permits and/or a USDA license. We are happy to explain the process and help complete the paperwork. These are wonderful animals (we have boarded and trained both Anya and Arsi while their owners were completing the license process) – we have fallen in love with these animals so much that in addition to transporting foxes for others who have purchased them, we are bringing two home for us – Prada and Dior. Please email us – featuringanimals@aol.com or visit our website – http://www.featuringanimals.com (domestic fox link) for photos and information. We will be happy to email an application!

  • I have started a petition to try to make these fox legal in every state in the U.S. Please go to http://www.change.org/petitions/domestic-fox-legalization to sign the petition! The more states these fox are legal pets in, the more we can save!

  • crystal

    for you to pay more than the fees it takes and a little bit of fund to keep it running is fine but 4k is a scam. really. you can buy flying squirrels and it is legal and have skunks they are good watch pets you just have to get the stink pack out of them and they are cute…. i want a fox always have but as of now i haven’t found a good place to buy one. I’ve rescued so many animals. me and my family had 10 cats and 20 or more wild. we lived on a farm at one time …. alot of food. all dog also have that instinct to kill my Shepard killed 10 pups ate everything but their heads it was sad every territorial and it was a girl. pit bulls are actually low on the pole of harmful dogs German Shepard and malamute chow chow and dalmatian is the number one. pit bull is like 7th

  • Amanda

    I would soo love to own a fox but I’m not sure of the laws here in ontario

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  • Mitchel Kalmanson – http://www.lkalmanson.com
    Over 20 Years of Insuring and Transporting Animals Worldwide

    We have successfully brought the first Siberian Domestic fox into the US. We are working directly with the Russian Institute to transport these animals worldwide for those owners seeking domestic foxes as pets. There are several colors available – both male and female (all sterilized). We have all necessary permits and licenses to transport these animals worldwide as well as to import into the US – we will work with your state and local authorities to obtain proper permits and licenses prior to importing the animal(s).
    These are wonderful, well socialized animals that make excellent pets as long as you do the research and understand the basic nature of these animals.

    Please feel free to contact us for additional information – featuringanimals@aol.com or contact the institute directly for references.

  • Nicole

    SibFox IS a scam. Do NOT buy from SibFox. Look at any fox owner forum and you will learn this. They have scammed many people and are no longer associated with the Russian facility. Contact the Russian facility directly and you will learn this to be true.

  • 8989If you have the time, and put in the effort, you do not need to mess with genetics at all. I live with a first generation red fox I bought from a breeder in Indiana. For about $500 with the deposit. I actually would like to breed them if I had the funds to do so. You do not have to take my word for it, you can just watch my videos on YouTube. I would really like to make a video of her barking at me while we play next, but kinda hard to do. Yes, they can and do bark, although; it is not like a dogs bark. Its more of a high pitched errf, than a deep ruff like dogs. Its also cute when she calls me for comfort when she is nervous. Its sounds like “er ru ru ru” that’s only when my older brother come around, so its kinda funny. Sorry, I talk to much. Well enjoy the videos.

  • Frank

    According to North Carolina Fish and Wildlife they will not issue permits for any “wild animal” even if raised domestically.

  • We offer a very loving home. Our jack russell will be 13 in Sept. We own two homes in Fl and our dogs travel with us to both homes. the dogs also travel on our 30′ boat. Our 13 is getting old and we have a chihuahua that can keep a puppy entertained.

    We crate train and will work with a trainer

  • As soon as I saw your website and the wonderful article in National Geographic, I wanted to help..I want a fox. I have two dogs, my daughters have two dogs apiece so we are a happy pack of 6 when together. I have seen your tv project and was blown away. Amazing research.

    Thank you for your time!

    I look forward to hearing from you,

    Kim Lafferty
    863-646-4080

  • […] paperwork So, I’ve got more details on how you can get a tame fox puppy from Russia. In an earlier post, I explained how you can buy one directly from the lab in Siberia for about $3,750. Now I’ve […]