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Posts Tagged ‘dog-fox hybrid’

From Brehms’s Life of Animals (1896):

[T]he Striped Wolf (Canis adustus) [is] an mediate Species, animal resembling both the Wolf and the Jackal. The body is elongated; the head of a conical shape, pointed toward the snout, not unlike that of the Fox; the eyes have a slanting position; the ears are widely separated, like those of the Jackal, and rounded; the legs are strikingly long and slender. The tail reaches to the ground.

“The Striped Wolf,” says Pechuel-Loesche, who observed him in Lower Guinea, especially in Loango, in the wilderness as well as tamed, “is statelier and has longer legs than the Fox. He has the same sly expression of the face, but suggests also a decidedly better disposition and has a more aristocratic bearing. These Wolves are remarkably agile, lithe animals,freedom. Not only did he run around in the enclosure and visit our rooms, but he prowled around for hours in our plantations and the forests of the neighborhood. He searched for Beetles and Grasshoppers, playfully jumping after those that whirred away, and also caught many an unwary little mammal or bird. Unfortunately he did not catch the Rats which had become quite a plague in our camp. He left the poultry alone after once having received a slight castigation for catching a Hen. When after this he regarded some forbidden dainty with covetous eyes, a mild word or a slight remonstrance was sufficient to turn him from his evil way. Sometimes he strayed from the enclosure and remained away all day, but he always made his appearance in the dining-room at night to receive a few scraps. If he was forgotten for a longer time than he deemed proper, he pushed his nose against the leg of some one present, or, like and it affords one great pleasure to observe their movements. They come quite close to human dwellings, for the village Dogs never think of picking a quarrel with them; neither do the natives, who callthem ‘Mbulu,’ harm them. The Mbulu utters his shrill, long-drawn yelp in the morning and evening all the year round; it is so loud that a newcomer may be quite startled when he hears it in the immediate proximity of a village or encampment. The piteous cries of a Mbulu once brought us to the edge of a bushy little forest just in time to rescue the animal from a huge Snake which was strangling it.

We frequently kept half-grown Striped Wolf. One of them grew to be a very stately animal, and was so tame and docile that he was given unlimited [attention?] a Dog, put his head on somebody’s knee. He accepted everything thankfully: bread, beans, rice, fish, meat, even raw bananas, or oil nuts; but he could crush only the smallest bones with his teeth. If one of us paid him attention or spoke to him kindly he would look into our eyes with a greatly pleased and affectionate expression, like a Dog, but very seldom wagged his tail. The human voice produced an impression on him such as I have seen exhibited only by the Gorilla; it literally seemed to fascinate him” (196-197).

This animal is no longer called “the striped wolf.” (I am not sure if it is still referred to by this name in German.) Canis adustus is now called the side-striped jackal, and although it appears to have been an intermediate between the wolf and jackal in terms of its morphology. All of the genetic evidence that has been compiled suggests that this jackal is a close relative of the black-backed jackal, and like its black-backed relative is more distantly related to the wolf and dog species than the dhole and African wild dog, which have traditionally been regarded as belonging to genera distinct from Canis.

The discussion of the tame one is quite interesting. Some accounts of dog and fox hybrids talk about large gray or reddish fox-like dogs with white tipped tails.  Most of these accounts are from Britain, and I think that these so-called fox-dogs or doxes are actually escaped side-striped jackals that different people involved in colonial service may have brought back as either menagerie curiosities or unusual pets.

Dogs and red foxes cannot hybridize, but I imagine that a cross between certain dogs and the red fox would look something like a side-striped jackal. The side-striped jackal always has a white-tipped tail, as do virtually all red foxes.

Side-striped jackal pup.

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From The Dog in Health and Disease (1859). Stonehenge uses some correspondence between a Mr. Tomlin, who makes the claim about this hybrid. The image is supposedly of a creature that is 3/4 dog and one quarter fox that was derived from the original supposed F1 hybrid that wound up in the hands of Mr. Hewer of Reading.

Mr. Tomlin write of the supposed F1 crosses in an 1855 issue of  a publication called Bell’s Life:

I venture to forward you one respecting the fox and dog cross, and, although somewhat out of season, it may, perhaps, prove interesting to the sportsman and the naturalist. In 1853 various accounts appeared in ‘Bell’s Life in London’ of the fox and dog cross, the fact being established by a gentleman of Kent, who then possessed a vulpo-canine bitch which had produce by a dog (vide ‘ Bell’s Life,’ Dec. 1853 and Feb. 1854). This bitch (half fox, half dog), now in my possession, had produce in the month of February last by a terrier dog. The produce are two dog-whelps and three bitches, some of which were (to ease the dam) suckled by a cur bitch. Two of the litter prove in nature shy as a fox; three of them dog-like in appearance, colour, and perfectly quiet, and follow well at heel. Still, they have the real fox muzzle and ‘fox action,’ about which (to those who have well studied it in the hunting-field) there exists but little mistake. Many there are who doubt the existence of any such animal as that between fox and dog. I am, however, in perfect condition to prove (by the living articles themselves) that the fox is merely a separate species of the genus dog, and intercopulates With the bitch, producing not a hybrid or mule animal, but one which will propagate its species to the very end of the chapter (pg. 166).

Mr. Tomblin describes the supposed hybrid bitch giving birth to a litter with a terrier:

In 1855 you were good enough to describe in ‘Bell’s Life’ some history of a vulpo-canine bitch in my possession at Peterborough which had bred whelps, and as you are at this period of the year ‘for the fox and nothing but the fox,’ perhaps you can spare a niche in your ‘fancy columns’ for a subject that may not be considered out of season. The vulpo-canine vixen is now, like all the fox genus, in full coat, and a beautiful-looking animal, higher on the leg than our common foxes, with more frame and size, and looks like going a slapping pace, and carries that unmistakable odour which accompanies ‘the beast of stinking flight.’ She bred a litter of whelps in the spring of the years 1855 and 1856 (got by a * lion-tawny-’ coloured terrier dog), and goes ‘on heat’ only at one regular period. Her produce are endued more or less with the natural shyness and timidity of the vulpine species, and which it appears somewhat difficult to remove. The formation of their heads is faultless—long, and punishing—in fact, the appearance of these animals resembles terrier dogs, with the perfect head and countenance, back, body, and feet of the fox. The vulpo-canine bitch is now suckling four whelps (got by a good white terrier dog), and as their colours are likewise good — white ‘with black and pied ear-patches ‘ — it is likely to prove a better cross of its sort than the two former litters of whelps which the bitch reared, they being all of foxy, wild, dark-looking colours; and, as the terrier dog which got them was somewhat wicked and crafty in nature, I am now inclined to think that, ‘as like begets like,’ he was not altogether a suitable partner for the vulpo-canine bitch—an animal but one remove from the ‘veritable fox itself,’ as wild, too, as the wildest fox which ever broke away in a state of nature from any ‘ evergreen gorse covert,’ with a pack of hounds in pursuit, all eager for the fray (pg. 167).

Of course, this whole story is one giant flight of fancy. Red foxes can no more cross with dogs than they can with cats. There are plenty of domestic dogs that look like foxes. Virtually all of the smaller spitzes could be mistaken for a fox and could have easily “lined” a terrier.

But such an animal could be claimed to be part fox as a time-tested way of getting rid of a mongrel puppy. Many supposed “wolfdog” are just husky crosses that some unscrupulous person has claimed to be part wolf in order to get rid of them more quickly.

Of course, now that one of these supposed dog-fox hybrids has whelped a litter, Stonehenge is willing to thunder about how dogs and foxes are so similar. It is in this sort of intellectual milieu that Darwin postulated that some dogs were derived from foxes– as well as wolves and jackals.

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Side-striped jackal

Note the very bushy tail and the white tip.

Now consider this account of a  supposed dog-fox hybrid that was killed in Warwickshire, England, in 1906.

I think a really good case can be made that this animal was a side-stripe jackal pup, like this one. The head shape in the depiction of the “dog-fox” hybrid suggests that this is a side-striped jackal. The animal in question is said to be smaller than a fox, which suggests a juvenile animal.

Menageries of the day probably kept this species of jackal, which may have bred. Perhaps one of the pups escaped his parents’ cage and went wild in the forest.  For that time period, I doubt that a young jackal could have been captured in Africa and taken to England while it was of that size. Because of the length of its transport to England at that time, if it had been caught wild in Africa, it would have already grown considerably by the time it arrived (and escaped).

I should also note here that red foxes cannot hybridize with dogs or any member of the genus Canis. They have often been reported, but they have never been able to withstand scrutiny. However, it might be possible that dogs could produce hybrids with South American canids, some of which are called foxes but really aren’t.

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