How To Tame A Fox (and Build A Dog): Visionary Scientists And A Siberian Tale Of Jump-started…

Hardcover | April 5, 2017

byLee Alan Dugatkin, Lyudmila Trut

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Tucked away in Siberia, there are furry, four-legged creatures with wagging tails and floppy ears that are as docile and friendly as any lapdog. But, despite appearances, these are not dogs—they are foxes. They are the result of the most astonishing experiment in breeding ever undertaken—imagine speeding up thousands of years of evolution into a few decades. In 1959, biologists Dmitri Belyaev and Lyudmila Trut set out to do just that, by starting with a few dozen silver foxes from fox farms in the USSR and attempting to recreate the evolution of wolves into dogs in real time in order to witness the process of domestication. This is the extraordinary, untold story of this remarkable undertaking.

Most accounts of the natural evolution of wolves place it over a span of about 15,000 years, but within a decade, Belyaev and Trut’s fox breeding experiments had resulted in puppy-like foxes with floppy ears, piebald spots, and curly tails. Along with these physical changes came genetic and behavioral changes, as well. The foxes were bred using selection criteria for tameness, and with each generation, they became increasingly interested in human companionship. Trut has been there the whole time, and has been the lead scientist on this work since Belyaev’s death in 1985, and with Lee Dugatkin, biologist and science writer, she tells the story of the adventure, science, politics, and love behind it all.  In How to Tame a Fox, Dugatkin and Trut take us inside this path-breaking experiment in the midst of the brutal winters of Siberia to reveal how scientific history is made and continues to be made today.

To date, fifty-six generations of foxes have been domesticated, and we continue to learn significant lessons from them about the genetic and behavioral evolution of domesticated animals. How to Tame a Fox offers an incredible tale of scientists at work, while also celebrating the deep attachments that have brought humans and animals together throughout time.

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From the Publisher

Tucked away in Siberia, there are furry, four-legged creatures with wagging tails and floppy ears that are as docile and friendly as any lapdog. But, despite appearances, these are not dogs—they are foxes. They are the result of the most astonishing experiment in breeding ever undertaken—imagine speeding up thousands of years of evolut...

Lee Alan Dugatkin is an evolutionary biologist and historian of science in the department of biology at the University of Louisville. His books include The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness and Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose: Natural History in Early America, the latter also published by the Univ...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:April 5, 2017Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022644418X

ISBN - 13:9780226444185

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Prologue: Why Can’t a Fox Be More like a Dog?
1: A Bold Idea
2: Fire-Breathing Dragons No More
3: Ember’s Tail
4: Dream
5: Happy Family
6: Delicate Interactions
7: The Word and Its Meaning
8: An SOS
9: Clever as a Fox
10: The Commotion in the Genes
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“An excellent book. The writing is clear and makes for fascinating popular science. This book will attract a wide audience, and I know of none other with such a dramatic combination of good science and social history.”