A Guide to Domesticated Pet Foxes

A red fox cub running in the grass
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The tame Siberian pet fox (also referred to as the Russian domesticated red fox) is somewhat of a genetic freak to the wild fox world, but it is the first domesticated type of fox. The domesticated red fox is not the easiest pet to acquire, but for some people, the effort and price tag may be worth it.

History of the Russian Domesticated Red Fox

The only kind of domesticated pet fox is the tame Siberian fox (Russian domesticated red fox) from a breeding farm in Novosibirsk, Russia. The foxes were originally used for a study on domestication, the role of stress in evolution, and to make other discoveries by Prof. D. K. Belyaev, the Laboratory of Evolutionary Genetics of Animals, and the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Russia. During the past several decades of the study which started in 1959, the foxes were selectively bred by choosing the tamest foxes to breed. Over time colors of the foxes changed, some of their ears started to flop, tails changed in plumage and posturing, and the foxes became like domesticated dogs. Studies have shown that these foxes now have different genes from wild foxes making them domesticated animals. The Russian study continues today and kits are available as pets. Money from the sales of the foxes is used to fund the study.

About the Domesticated Pet Fox

The scientific journals Current Biology and Behavior Genetics have published articles stating the obvious genetic differences between these tame pet foxes and wild foxes which in turn makes them be considered domesticated.

The tame Siberian fox, also known as Belyaev's Experiment, the Silver fox, and the Russian red fox, is a color mutation of the red fox (although some are still red) and is, therefore, a large fox. Fully grown, they can weigh up to 22 lbs., and stand up to 20 inches high at the shoulder. Vixens are smaller than the males. Compared to a dog of the same height, they weigh significantly less since their bones are much lighter.

They can jump over 6 feet in the air, dig and swim well. Outdoor enclosures must have fences that go a few feet underground and be fully enclosed to house a pet fox.


8 Things to Know Before Adopting a Pet Fox

What Do They Eat?

In the wild, red foxes are omnivores. They are known to eat small rodents, birds, raccoons, insects, opossums, reptiles, and plant material including fruit. In captivity, a quality grain-free dog food with fruits and vegetables mixed in is typically acceptable.

Grain-free dog food brands such as Blue Buffalo Wilderness, Halo, or California Natural are examples of quality fox diets (just read the ingredients and find food with no grain). Feed your fox according to the package directions for the body weight of your fox, then adjust accordingly if your fox is losing or gaining too much weight. Fruits and vegetables should account for a small portion of the total diet. Usually, 1/4 cup a day is appropriate. Some red fox breeders also recommend raw meat, vegetable and supplement diet instead of a formulated dog food.

Where Do You Get a Domesticated Pet Fox?

If you live in the USA, Sibfox used to be your contact before 2012. They were a company in Las Vegas that worked with the Russian farm but ran into issues importing the foxes and are no longer a legitimate source. Currently, if you are interested in receiving information about purchasing a domesticated fox pup, you should contact the institute directly at trut@bionet.nsc.ru or shpak67@mail.ru.

The tame Siberian pet fox comes with a hefty price tag, though, so be prepared to fork over several thousands of dollars to acquire your new pet (reportedly about $7,000).

illustration of foxes as pets, care sheet
Illustration: Wenjia Tang. © The Spruce, 2018