Anyone who has a cuddly, friendly dog at home has to have wondered at some stage how they could ever have descended from vicious wild wolves.
Well, one of the world’s longest running experiments has been trying to find out by duplicating the process with the previously untamed, but dog-like, silver fox (note: by “silver fox” we don’t mean your Shaun Micallef or George Clooney – by all accounts they’re already housebroken).
Over 50 years, experimenters from the Institute of Cytology and Genetics at Novosibirsk, currently led by Lyudmila Trut, have been selecting for foxes that are less afraid of humans. The descendants that result have turned out to be very similar to domestic dogs, in behaviour but also in features like floppy ears and wagging tails.
Find out more from the study’s collaborators at Cornell University, or watch the following excerpt from the BBC Horizon program, The Secret Life of the Dog: