Nice foxes and super-villain rats

Here’s some stuff I recently discovered about genetics and animal breeding ‘research’. Sounds like these people are more interested in breeding a race of super-villain rats to take over the world (that’s assuming that everything I’ve learned about the Soviet Union from Get Smart is true…).

Excerpts from Wikipedia about breeding tame foxes

Domesticated Silver Fox

“The domesticated silver fox (marketed as the Siberian fox) is a domesticated form of the silver morph of the red fox. As a result of selective breeding, the new foxes not only became tamer, but more dog-like as well.

The result of over 50 years of experiments in the Soviet Union and Russia, the breeding project was set up in 1959 by the Soviet scientist Dmitri Belyaev. It continues today at The Institute of Cytology and Genetics at Novosibirsk, under the supervision of Lyudmila Trut.

The Russian researchers have partnered with the American company SibFox to distribute these foxes as pets internationally.

Belyaev believed that the key factor selected for domestication of dogs was not size or reproduction, but behavior; specifically, amenability to domestication, or tameability. He selected for low flight distance, that is, the distance one can approach the animal before it runs away. By selecting this behavior it mimics what happened through natural selection in the ancestral past of dogs.

Following the demise of the Soviet Union, the project has run into serious financial problems.”

Full Wikipedia article here…

Excerpts from a New York Times article about breeding super-villain rats

A Nice Rat

“Studying the genetics of domestication, Dmitri K. Belyaev developed colonies of silver foxes, river otters and minks, as well as rats, starting in 1959. On an animal-breeding farm in Siberia are cages housing two colonies of rats. In one colony, the rats have been bred for tameness in the hope of mimicking the mysterious process by which Neolithic farmers first domesticated an animal still kept today. When a visitor enters the room where the tame rats are kept, they poke their snouts through the bars to be petted.

The other colony of rats has been bred from exactly the same stock, but for aggressiveness instead. These animals are ferocious. When a visitor appears, the rats hurl themselves screaming toward their bars.

“Imagine the most evil supervillain and the nicest, sweetest cartoon animal, and that’s what these two strains of rat are like,” said Tecumseh Fitch, an animal behavior expert at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who several years ago visited the rats at the farm, about six miles from Akademgorodok, near the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.”

Full New York Times article here…

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4 thoughts on “Nice foxes and super-villain rats

  1. That’s so annoying. I heard about these foxes the other day on the radio and was going to write a post about it!

  2. Belayev initially started breeding the foxes for their fur – tameness would make them easier to handle and save the expense of trapping them. Not sure what was with the rats though – just because he could I guess…

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